South Africa set the standard in Rugby World Cup hosting in 1995. The Rainbow Nation was little more than a year on from the historic democratic elections which propelled Nelson Mandela and the ANC to power, and the celebrations were huge when Joel Stransky broke New Zealanders' hearts with an extra-time drop goal.
The 2003 tournament in Australia wasn't bad either, although it would have been far better had the NZRU not made a hash of the co-hosting rights, and been sidelined.
There's never been a really successful RWC tournament in the Northern Hemisphere. The main factor there is that matches have been spread around so much that there has been no continuity, and no central focus point.
There was surprise and disappointment when the 2011 tournament was awarded to New Zealand. But the IRB's decision has been fully vindicated by what we believe has been far and away the best RWC tournament yet. There are all sorts of reasons behind the success of the tournament, but we reckon it's primarily becuase the tournament has been played in one country, and that it has been played in a country with a strong rugby heritage.
New Zealanders embraced RWC2011; that 15,000 people would turn out in Palmerston North to watch rugby powerhouses Georgia play Romania would have been unthinakble a couple of months ago. But it happened; the city supported one side, and the surroubnding district supported the other, and a third of the crowd wore red or yellow buckets on their heads! That was just one of a number of remarkable scenes from RWC2011.
We have no doubt that RWC2011 has been the best tournament yet. New Zealand has lived and breathed rugby since early September. Visitors from overseas have come here in their thousands. And the All Blacks have emerged victorious, under immense pressure from the Stadium of Four Million and from themselves.
We hope that the IRB has noted that a small, passionate country can host an outstanding RWC tournament for them. RWC2011 should be the template for future events.