While bearing the official Rugby World Cup 2011 logo on the box and emblazoned across menus, in tandem with the iconic "World in Union" tune, in reality only around half of the international teams taking part in the quadrennial tournament are officially represented in the game. Australia and New Zealand, the world's top two sides, the latter of which is also this year's host nation, are present--but not in any authorised capacity. There are no Tri-Nations, Six Nations, or Sevens World Series tournaments to be found, and where developer HB Studios' Rugby '08 allowed you to relive more than two dozen classic World Cup scenarios, in its place is now a forgettable goal-kicking mode.
Regardless of which of the handful of game modes you decide to take on, you'll fall victim to the inconsistent artificial intelligence. At the easiest settings, you can run straight through gaping holes left in the opposition's defensive line, run parallel to the other team without them taking the initiative to tackle, and watch as they forget what they were doing and give up chases early. The AI scales in difficulty as the tournament progresses, and teams do summon some enthusiasm on the way to the grand final, but expect a mostly unimpeded run for the silverware. At the easy and medium difficulty settings, rivals don't put up much of a fight, but cranking it up to hard provides significantly more challenge. At this highest setting, opposition players rush and lunge at you from a distance like over-caffeinated super cats as you attempt to clear from the ruck, and smother you before you can offload the ball after winning a line-out. Even when grossly outnumbered, the AI never attempts to hold you up in goal as you crash over the line. Fullbacks can be danced around with a late change in direction, and, once you've broken through, the opposition team follows you around like a pack of stray dogs chasing cars made out of steak.
Rugby World Cup 2011 feels like a game rushed out the door to cash in on the popularity of its real-world namesake event. Broken AI and a limited number of single-player modes make this an irritating and short-lived affair with little replay value. While some fun can be had in local and online multiplayer, there are concerns about its long-term community support and the potential for finding competition. This is poor game that is hard to justify to even the most ardent of rugby fans who are willing to overlook its numerous flaws.