So, we’re at day 3 of this year’s RWC. What a first 2 (and a half) days we’ve had… So far, there have been no major upsets, with wins for New Zealand, France, Scotland, England, Australia, and Fiji. I reckon we’ll have Ireland and South Africa joining those names today meaning all the favourites have won their opening round of fixtures (assuming that Ireland and Australia do the business today).
It’s hard so far to pick out a star performer in terms of the teams. Although England won yesterday, I was actually more impressed with Argentina, and had they not thrown away 21 odd points from missed penalties they would have won that game. New Zealand had a big win, but Tonga weren’t exactly tough opposition on the night, and the All Blacks really should have taken more advantage and put in a bigger score. Australia really thumped Italy, and I’ve not watched the highlights yet, but Quade Cooper can really turn on the magic at 10, and I’d imagine he had a big hand in that. I’ve actually been most impressed by Fiji of all the match winners so far. They had a great game against Namibia and put up a good score with some great running rugby, as you’d expect from any Fijian side.
In some ways, I’ve been more impressed with the defeated sides. Argentina, as I said, looked good against England, and similarly impressive in defeat were Japan against a slightly nervous looking France. I remember Japan being New Zealand’s whipping boys in 1995 (going down 145-17). It’s still the biggest rugby scoreline I’ve ever seen, and it’s a real testament to how much they’ve come on that it was only late in the game that France really put them under and wrapped up the result. Romania also put in a big shift against Scotland. They’ve got some big fatties in their pack, and they are possibly one of the dirtiest sides I’ve ever seen. I was certainly glad I wasn’t at the bottom of a lot of those rucks yesterday, and that’s only from watching the highlights. To run Scotland to within 10 points was a great result for them, and I think that, in all honesty, Scotland will struggle to qualify from that group with games against England and Argentina still to come, along with a game against Georgia, who are unbeaten in their last 8 games and could be a bit of a surprise package.
In terms of teams who haven’t played yet, Georgia and Samoa are the 2 I’m looking forward to seeing most over the next few days. It’ll be interesting to see how those teams get on, and I’m expecting them to put in some great performances in the group stage at the very least. The next round of fixtures will tell us a lot about who we should expect to see in the 1/4 finals, but for what it’s worth, here are my predictions:
Pool A: Tonga beat Canada by 15-20 points, New Zealand come out strong and put 50+ points on Japan.
Pool B: Scotland beat Georgia in a close game by just a few points, Argentina beat Romania by 10-20 points.
Pool C: USA squeeze past Russia by 5 or 10 points, Australia squeeze out Ireland in a close run match decided by a couple of points.
Pool D: South Africa beat Wales in a close run match this morning, Samoa beat Namibia by 20+ points, and South Africa defeat Fiji by 20 odd points.