Week 3 delivered some amazing rugby and some heartbreak results. Thankfully this has created a range of nuances that are now unfolding and many new permutations and possibilities are coming into play.
The France vs. Namibia and England vs. Chile games went the way they were likely going to go. The biggest upset from these games was the injury to Dupont resulting in a panicked rush to get him to recover sufficiently to play in the quarter-finals.
Those two games were a festival of tries and secured France and England’s places in the quarter-finals respectively. England have been battling form for a while but have taken a positive step in each of their World Cup games so far. Not sure if they will be able to reach that peak needed to progress right until the end though.
Let’s look at the other games…
Italy vs. Uruguay was another clash where Uruguay showed their love and passion for the game. They were in it and leading against Italy for the first half and were definitely the dominant team. After halftime, Italy started like a team possessed scoring in quick succession and putting that game to bed.
The Argentina vs. Samoa game was a very tough clash where mistakes from the Samoan side let them down in a game where they had the opportunity to put Argentina out of quarterfinal contention
The Georgia vs. Portugal game was a replay of their European final game and Portugal came very close to actually getting revenge for their loss to Georgia in March. In the end the 18-18 was probably the appropriate result for these two passionate and exciting teams. More games at this level and against the competition they face will definitely benefit them and help them to keep improving.
Then we get to the other big games in this round…
South Africa vs. Ireland was a massive and brutal clash. It looked like test rugby at its best and Ireland came out on top! The South Africans were brutal in contact and dominated many facets of the game. But the Irish team took every chance they had and their superior technical abilities at crucial times resulted in them taking the victory. Despite the constant onslaught, this professional outfit weathered the storm, looked for opportunities, and took them. It was brilliant rugby to watch and congratulations to Ireland!
Scotland vs. Tonga set the stage for an exciting last two weeks for the whole of Pool B. The Scottish team was ruthless throughout much of the game and Finn Russell was pulling the strings masterfully once again. His finesse combined with the brute force of Duhan van Der Merwe gave Scotland a convincing victory. Tonga has all of the personnel to be a major force in world rugby but their lack of game time as a team and consistent top-level competition showed.
The Wales vs. Wallabies clash was just a clinical demolition of a struggling Wallabies side. They are in a world of hurt and ex-players like David Campese are calling for a complete overhaul of Wallaby rugby, while some players have asked for fewer teams in Super Rugby. We will do a longer video on that later. Wales are however growing in stature! They were subpar coming into the tournament but played like a team possessed against Fiji and now against Australia
That leads us to all of the interesting scenarios that can play out going forward!
Italy still has a chance to get into the quarter-finals but they have their two toughest matches in the next two weeks against New Zealand and France. Just picking up bonus point losses will not be enough. They need to cause an upset for the ages by beating one of these two teams!
Pool B will largely be decided this coming weekend with the South Africa vs. Tonga game. If South Africa beats Tonga, then Scotland’s chances become a mathematical but very tough challenge. Scotland would need to put up a massive score against Romania, which looks likely, but would also need to beat Ireland fairly convincingly, which might be a bit of a stretch.
In Pool C, Fiji would need to lose against one or both of Georgia and Portugal not to make it through to the quarter-finals and have the Wallabies slipping through. That is not something I would bet on.
In Pool D, things are VERY exciting with 2 teams on 5 points and 1 on 4 points, all with 2 games in hand. Samoa, Japan, and Argentina will be going all out in their last 2 games to fight for that 2nd place spot to qualify along with England for the quarter-finals. All of these teams have looked both promising and flawed so far, so predictions here will be near impossible.
The biggest winners on the weekend:
An honorable mention needs to go to Georgia and Portugal for a spectacular game of rugby! I hope they continue to grow as rugby nations and I hope to see a lot more rugby from both teams on bigger stages globally
England took another step in the right direction with another confidence-boosting win under the belt. They are improving at a steady pace and are now in the quarter-finals!
Wales were ruthless and absolutely crushed the Wallabies spirits with their 40-6 victory. Wales is definitely on the up and they are also safely into the quarter-finals.
The biggest winner for the weekend has to be Ireland. They were accurate when they needed to be and were an example of how you can take some of the sting out of the South African physical brutality.
The biggest losers on the weekend:
Tonga & Samoa, not because they don’t have the heart and don’t have the players but because they don’t have the support they need from World Rugby yet. There was an effort a year out to start helping the smaller nations and that is definitely a step in the right direction but this now needs to continue every year, not just during a World Cup year.
South Africa was brutal but flawed. They conceded penalties too often and didn’t have the patience of Ireland close to the line, resulting in a couple of try-scoring opportunities going begging. The kicking at poles was the biggest problem. It is just not acceptable at this level for a team to be kicking at under 80% success rate. The only 80% hit by the South African kickers on the day was that they missed 80% of their kicks. Let’s see if Pollard helps to remedy this against Tonga.
The biggest loser, no doubt, was Australia. They were crushed and only a shadow of the Wallaby teams from past years remain. It is a brand new squad and sending players with little to no test rugby experience to a World Cup was always going to be risky, and oh boy, this proved to be true in the most spectacular way. A difficult day and overall World Cup for Australia. Their efforts ended with them not reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in the history of the World Cup.