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A World Cup of 'joy, promise and exhilaration'

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Lynn McConnell     31 Oct 2015     Getty Images

The 2015 version had been a World Cup of 'joy, promise and exhilaration', Wood said.

While South Africa's 1995 hosting of the event had its own historical context, England 2015 had been all about rugby.

His Ireland had continued in its failure to advance beyond the quarter-finals but there had been three stand-out factors this time for Wood: the quality of play of second-tier teams, the conservatism of the Six Nations teams and the re-emergence of a more skills-oriented game plan from the Southern Hemisphere.

"For those looking for rational perspective and not bandwagon revisionism, the winner list tells the story," he told herald.ie.

"Seven out of eight winners of the tournament have come from the Southern Hemisphere. These winners had the ability to play and change their game plans to win, the northern hemisphere seem to choose one approach and stick with it.

"The ability to chop and change is one of the defining markers of our two finalists. They have changed when needed, to do enough to win," he said.

While both New Zealand and Australia might win ugly at times, they were constantly striving to play a beautiful game.

"In times past we scorned this type of play, as some of the early Super 12 matches resembled touch rugby.

"But this is the real deal.

"This is a game that diehard purists warm to. Scrummaging has been brought back to its point of prominence, Dane Coles is one of the few hookers to cleanly strike the ball, and the maul has its place in this iteration," Wood said.

"But the beauty of these teams is the willingness and freedom with which they offload, safe in the knowledge that a player is running a positive line, a try-scoring line. Both these teams can arm wrestle but they don't always look to.

"Be it coincidence or otherwise, it also seems to be safer. Both finalists have nearly a full complement of players available for the weekend, with only a couple of players having gone home due to injury."

By comparison, Wood said, Ireland and Wales were like a scene from The Walking Dead. That was something for them to ponder in their future.