In the grander scheme of this decade’s history, someone observed that 9/11 happened to a generation whose concept of tragedy was their football team losing on Saturday. It is perhaps fortunate for Australian rugby fans and all New Zealanders that the weekend’s upsets occurred in a post-9/11 world; a little perspective can be maintained.

It is, after all, a game. If there was certainty about the outcome, it would indeed become a little boring — though I don’t think the average Kiwi quite sees it that way.

So much then for destiny, the world order and all the scripts that had been written for this Rugby World Cup. That Fiji gave South Africa a fright overnight and Argentina only defeated Scotland by six points only, adding to the uncertainty. But as the Times correspondent writes, there are only so many shocks the system can absorb in one weekend.

The quarter finals confirm that at the top level of any sport, most of the game is played in the head. England and France proved mentally stronger than Australia and New Zealand – or perhaps in the Wallabies’ case, we proved to be mentally weaker.

There’s no shortage of vitriolic analysis of what went wrong with the Wallabies. Greg Growden summarises it well enough, but for a real bashing try one of the blog sites where the Pommy fans deservedly let fly about our arrogance and stupidity. We deserved to lose.

The All Blacks didn’t. They were the better side playing the better rugby (as they have for the past decade) and there is absolutely no way a team can win a test match being on the wrong side of a 178 to 36 tackle count – but France did. Incredible.

What happens next? Is anyone game to make predictions any more? South Africa should have Argentina’s measure, but these are not normal times. France v England in France … just go with your prejudices. It will be won by the team that can mentally recover fastest from such momentous victories. You’ve just climbed Everest, now do it again next weekend.

The only certainty is that for the first time in six tournaments, neither Australia or New Zealand will contest the final.

And as for Australian rugby’s future, a great Wallaby performance in the World Cup results in a junior rugby recruitment surge, so we’ve just lost a few thousand young souls to lesser pastimes. All our known weaknesses have again been exposed – little depth, no front row, too much reliance on a few old workhorses and expensive show ponies.

So let’s have another crack at it in 2011.