An interesting weekend of rugby but without any unexpected results.
The World Cup warm-up games are often misleading and not really a true reflection of the real strength and weaknesses of teams. There are a number of things that are quite clear from watching these games.
Springboks vs Wales – It was expected to be a one-sided game and it was. The Springbok team dominated Wales in all facets of the game. They were lucky with their two intercept tries and the penalty try should not have been awarded. Siya Kolisi had an impactful game and everyone was relieved to see him in good form and completing 40 minutes. For Wales, there are more questions than answers. They were bullied into submission and show a worrying lack of depth in their squad. Yes, it was a less experienced team but they were just not good enough to compete.
Ireland vs England – The 19-point margin that Ireland won the game with, takes some credit away from England’s much-improved display. A few things started to fall in place for them but they are still only halfway there at best. While their overall gameplay was much improved, their discipline wasn’t. Another week, another red card for a dangerous tackle. They now have two players who should be banned from competing at the World Cup. Ireland on the other hand was methodical, kept the scoreboard ticking and their win was never in doubt.
Georgia vs USA – Georgia came away with the expected win against the USA. The USA had a point to prove but Georgia wasn’t having any of it coming away with a solid win. Most of the smaller teams don’t have the luxury or budget to get in many warmup matches but I am glad they got this chance.
Italy vs Romania – Italy absolutely crushed Romania and continues to play exciting rugby. If anyone said 5 years ago that “Italy” and “exciting rugby” would be said in the same sentence, it would have been laughed at. Ange Capuozzo continues to dazzle with his skills and his two tries in the 57-7 demolition of Romania were telling.
France vs Fiji – This game delivered a great end to the weekend’s rugby. France was too good for Fiji but Fiji was in the game for most of the time. They were better than I expected and I think they have a realistic chance of going through to the knockout stages with Australia if they keep playing like this. The 34-17 scoreline slightly flattered France.
The teams that had the best weekend in my opinion were South Africa, France, Ireland, Italy, and Fiji, despite their loss.