Rugby World Cup 2023 Recap – Weekend 2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The 2nd week didn’t disappoint in any way, shape or form! It was great to see yet another week of consistent and quality performances by the Tier 2 teams, or as they are now called the “performance nations”. 

France vs Uruguay

The positive France can take from that game is that they won. The rest of the credit needs to go to Uruguay. They left everything on the field; not just loads of passion, but they also played quality rugby for 80 minutes. 

The only major mistake they made was the exit kick that hit one of their own players and allowed France to score a lucky second try. Up until that point they were down by 13-12 with about 10 minutes to go. The 27-12 final score flattered France way too much. 

Andrés Vilaseca pitched up to the post-match press conference still in his Uruguayan kit, covered in blood and grass stains. His speech rang true and displayed a sense of pride for their team and nation. Something that struck me was when Vilasace mentioned how all the journalists now suddenly wanted to talk to him, but there were only 2 at their team announcement.

It is time that all teams in rugby get treated with the same level of respect. Tier 1 and 2 are irrelevant labels; what matters is that every single team at the World Cup has earned their spot. The smaller teams still represent their countries, and many of them with intense passion and pride, and they should be given a professional level of respect and praise, especially if they played well. Full stop.

New Zealand vs. Namibia

The game was one-sided from the start and Namibia was only competitive in phases. You could see though that during these times it was a far better side than they have been in past years and they are definitely evolving as a national team. 

The scoreline was a fair reflection of how the All Blacks started gaining back some of their composure and positive play. 

I have to highlight the play of Damian McKenzie and how he was able to turn their backline into more of an offensive threat again. Something that has been sorely missing for their last few games.

Samoa vs. Chile

Samoa opened their World Cup campaign with a solid victory over a resilient Chile. Chile had moments in open play where they threatened and they deserved their try. If they scored one or two more, no one would have considered it lucky

Samoa however showed their class and were able to put together a good victory. They were able to build through phases and score some brilliant tries but did struggle with the number of handling errors in the game. 

This is always strange to see from any islander side as they are normally exceptional ball handlers. Hopefully, this could be ascribed to first-game jitters and we hope to see them improve as the tournament continues. They remain well-positioned to make it to the quarter-finals.

Wales vs. Portugal

Portugal stayed in the contest for the majority of the match and the score just got away from them in the last quarter. 

It was evident that many of the Portuguese players have started playing at a higher level and there are some top-class players in their ranks. 

What I don’t like is that we never see a Portuguese game on this side of the world, and I was taken aback by the strides they are making as a team! 

Wales can be happy with moments of their game but it was a step back in many respects compared to the Fiji game. At this stage, the Welsh may very well find themselves in a position where they exit the World Cup at the quarter-final stage. 

Ireland vs. Tonga

Tonga is packed with potential but not yet executing their play at that same. The players are superior athletes with exceptional skill levels, but they were clearly outclassed and not used to playing against the likes of Ireland, which is a shame. 

They lack a sense of structure, even when playing weaker teams. Unfortunately, these shortcomings are amplified at World Cup level, and their shortcomings are exposed, which makes it difficult to play competitive rugby.  

Tonga were VERY exciting to watch at times but the excitement got interrupted by silly mistakes and the stubborn Irish defense. 

Ireland was the epitome of professionalism. They have a disciplined scrum and lineout that runs like clockwork. Their defense is effective and they reset in seconds. They don’t overcommit at rucks, on defense or offense, and they work especially hard without the ball. 

A team that works hard without the ball to get back in position to defend or to attack often gets the desired results. 

They do all of this with two key things that set them apart from all other teams in the tournament: 

  1. They almost never get penalty cards, no matter the color; their discipline remains impeccable.
  2. Only the captain addresses the referee; all other players remain silent. Absolute class!

Ireland, no doubt, deserves their spot at the top of the world rankings.

Things that Stood out this Weekend

The focus in terms of cards is to try and force dangerous head contact out of the game. It is the right idea but some streamlining is still required. I would love to see the stats in a few month’s time on the number of concussions and other head injuries and if this has had a positive impact. Hopefully, it did

The times of only having 8 or so top teams in the world are coming to an end. This number is quickly shifting toward the 16 mark, which is wonderful for the game globally. I hope to see a situation by the 2027 and 2031 World Cups where a #3 time loses a game to a #19 team. 

Ireland are a class act. In absolutely every aspect of the game, they are a class act. Watching an Ireland game is a joy, especially for the hard work they do that never gets onto a highlight reel. 

Our two biggest winners from the weekend: Fiji & Uruguay

Uruguay showed that it is time for the historically smaller teams to be respected in all facets. They played with passion, pushed France all the way, and were in it until the last 10 minutes. Then you talk about their captain Andrés Vilaseca’s post-match interviews. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch it. 

Fiji was the biggest winner this weekend. They beat Australia for the first time in 69 years and were worth every single point they got. It was very hard fought but the most dangerous thing that came from this is the belief that is now taking root in this team. They have a good chance of getting out of the pool stages, and I for one won’t be shocked to see them reach their first semi-final.