The first weekend of the Rugby World Cup is behind us and if there is one takeaway for Aussie fans it’s that this a beauty of a time slot.
If you are the type of person who can sit down and watch three games of rugby back-to-back-to-back, Saturday was a proper treat. The Wallabies looked shaky, then pulled through.
Both Argentina and France looked like they deserve to finish second in that pool of death with England. New Zealand and South Africa have now been banished to either side of the draw, ready to meet in the final on the second of November should the stars align.
Sunday was a hungover version of the Saturday blockbuster, a real who’s who of teams that are going to get annihilated by South Africa and New Zealand.
Italy beat Namibia and nabbed a likely non-influential bonus point. Scotland and Ireland faced off to decide who will play the All Blacks and who the 'Boks. Ireland got up easily and gets South Africa. What a treat.
The men with Tartan shoulders looked like they already know their fate. England smashed Tonga and looked like the best team in their pool with France and Argentina but still not completely themselves. Wales is the only true contender yet to play, but let’s assume they have already beaten Georgia even if hasn’t happened yet. Sorry Georgia.
With all this in mind, who is best is in the best position after their first game?
- New Zealand
Beat South Africa 23-13
The Kiwis look they have forgotten all about that strange night in Perth a month ago and are back to their world-beating ways. Beauden Barrett is the best fly-half in the world and he’s playing full-back, so he’s the best full-back in the world. Filling in the gaps they should blow through the rest of their pool games then play Scotland in the quarters. The combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Lienert-Brown looked like the kind of centres you can build a world cup squad around; straight running bad boys.
- South Africa
Lost to New Zealand 13-23
They may have lost to the Kiwis, but the Springboks look in good nick. Cheslin Kolbe seems to be made of rubber, he bounced and wheeled down the wing, pushing and shoving his way into the collective conscience of rugby fans world wide. The backline looked clinical and without the sloppy flaws that were seen in almost every other game over the weekend. The pack is… well, the Springbok pack: big.
Beat Scotland 27-3
Ireland for all the scepticism floating around, looked like they deserved that nice watered-down pool. Johnny Sexton got to have a nice early sit down. They capitalised on Scottish mistakes and never looked out of control.
Beat Tonga 35-3
England is the third-best team in the world, but they’ve got a tougher pool than Ireland (they still have to play Argentina and France). Plus, they didn’t look all that flash against a Tongan side lost to New Zealand 92-0 last week. The ball went to ground but the key players looked to be focused. Owen Farrell was his usual shrewd self; safe hands, even safer boot. They secured the bonus point late in the pool where bonus points could matter.
Beat Fiji 39-21
The Fiji game was a bit spooky for a few minutes, but people who have watched the current iteration of the Wallabies could have predicted that. Fiji is by far the best Pacific Island nation in this tournament and they came out of the gates in full flight. One thing that is in the Wallabies’ favour is that they are a team that has to game plan and make changes for every matchup. They made the change and switched Kerevi and O’Connor which allowed for more playmaking ion the second half when the Fijians started to slow. The goal-kicking will need to improve against the top-tier teams (which is unlikely to happen). Look to see Genia move into the starting line-up ahead of the Wales match next Sunday.
Wales is probably a better side then the Wallabies, but they still have to play Fiji so they get the lower rank. Plus, Australia is a proven bogey team for the men in red.
Beat Argentina 23-21
France is an enigma. Unpredictable and strange. The type of team to get up by 17 points at halftime then go scoreless for half an hour and win the game off a drop-kick. That said, they have set themselves up nicely, and won’t have to play England until October 12th in their final pool match in what should be a showdown for the top spot in Pool C.
Lost to France 21-23
Argentina’s chances looked to have sailed slightly left of the posts with Emiliano Boffelli’s wayward penalty kick. Or maybe they were lost when they were down by 17 points at halftime. Either way, they have to beat England handily and hope that France does the same. If they are to build on something from this game, it will be the lineout, which looked clean. They scored both their tries off rolling mauls from the set piece, one of which was a 15-metre beauty.