Rugby tragics the world over are putting their lives on hold over the next 6 weeks to live and breathe everything Rugby World Cup 2019. But for a moment, let suppose that you are a casual rugby fan, who has (god forbid) a life outside of rugby.
A life that cannot be dismissed to watch Namibia play Italy. How are you to keep abreast of the various developments across all four pools? Fear not, for I pledge to sacrifice my time to give you a condensed update each few days of how the games are unfolding across the tournament and make some comments on key clashes coming up in the coming days, so you need not feel embarrassed when asked around the water-cooler, “How bloody good were the Blacks on the weekend?!”
What a great start to the World Cup it has been! Japan and the Wallabies overcame early nerves to get the job done, France and Argentina gave us an instant classic, New Zealand and the Boks show warmed us up for what may be a wonderful Final rematch and Ireland and England showed why they are tipped to go deep this tournament. Here is a brief run-down of each match so far.
Japan 30 def Russia 10
With all the build-up to the first World Cup in Asia, it was little wonder that Japan were a little nervy as the match itself began. Russia to their credit played on this perfectly with a barrage of high balls which Japan failed to handle, allowing first blood to the bears. When Japan settled into the game, they perhaps became a bit too eager, throwing the ball from sideline to sideline with plenty of flair but neglecting to do the hard work up front beforehand. By the second half Japan had remembered how to play all the game and proved too much for the plucky Russians who never stopped trying, but were outclassed in the end. A pleasing start for the host nation.
Australia 39 def Fiji 21
Like Japan, but with less excuse, Australia also had a wobbly start as they were completely out muscled and out enthused by a Fiji team that sensed an opportunity to cause an early upset. The Flying Fijians targeted Hodge and Lealiifano with some bullocking runs, with a fair bit of success, managing to capitalise well and hold the Wallabies to take a slender lead into the break. The Wallabies greater fitness and set piece ability told in the second half as the Fijians were worn down and eventually broken as the Aussies sealed an important first win in a difficult group. Australia can be happy with how they built into the match, but wont want to start like that again, especially against Wales.
France 23 def Argentina 21
This match had it all. If you choose one match to watch from the opening few days, make it this one. The first match of the infamous “group of death” this result has the potential to define who makes it out of the group and who goes home early. A classic match of two halves, the mercurial French put on a show in the first half and were all over the Argentines. The forward muscle and backline flair was everything we expect from classic French rugby. Unfortunately for the French, so was the second half grade out as the Argentines showed some flair and muscle of their own. Right up to the final whistle, the game was in the balance with both teams having a chance to win it. France eventually taking the chocolates courtesy of what may become a staple of the tournament, a clutch drop goal.
New Zealand 23 def South Africa 13
South Africa were up for this. The Boks started this game with the type of intensity and playing a style of game I wish the Wallabies could show. They had the All Blacks all sorts of rattled, but fatally failed to capitalise on the scoreboard. Thus, almost inevitably, a scintillating 10minutes or so from the All Blacks broke the game apart and built them a lead that the Boks just couldn’t peg back. Two things became clear in this match, the Springboks are in for a big tournament and will fancy themselves against anyone and this All Black side looks just as ruthless and potent as previous versions, they are here to win it and it would not be wise to bet against them doing it.
Italy 47 def Namibia 22
In what has been a bit of a trend of these opening matches, the more favoured Italy struggled early against an enthusiastic Namibia who managed to grab an early lead. In a high scoring affair, Italy did manage to get their game going and simply outclassed the Namibians, but didn’t manage to shut them out as a few pieces of individual brilliance saw plenty of trys both ways. A bonus point win for the Italians sees them take an early lead in group B.
Ireland 27 def Scotland 3
Ireland were out to send a message in what was potentially a decisive game in group A. They simply overran the Scots with a relentless forwards based attack that saw the game all but done and dusted by the 25 minute mark. An emphatic win for the men in green over their closest (on rankings and geographically) rival in the group send a warning message to the rest of the competition that Ireland are here to play. Scotland will need to pick themselves up quickly to make a mark in the latter stages.
England 35 def Tonga 3
England didn’t have any trouble with nerves as they comfortably took care of a brave Tongan side in the last match on Sunday. While there was plenty to like in the English performance, they did leave a few points on the park and will want to sharpen up before their crunch matches. Both France and Argentina showed enough to suggest that if they put it together on the day they could really challenge this England side. Tonga showed some moments but in the end were no match for the well drilled England. Tonga too is a side that could cause an upset and drop one of the big three out the group of death.
So that was the first half dozen matches of the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Coming up in the next few days are Russia and Fiji backing up on short turn arounds to play Samoa and Uruguay respectively. Italy play Canada and England take on the USA. Not matches likely to decide the fate of the group, but certainly plenty of potential for entertainment. I can’t wait!