The All Blacks avenged their defeat in Australia last week by thrashing the Wallabies 36-0 at Eden Park, but still somehow lost their Number 1 ranking as Wales beat England at the Millennium Stadium.
Australia gave a fairly insipid account of themselves, and after Christian Leali’ifano missed two shots at goal when they were almost on top near the beginning, heads seemed to drop and they accepted what was coming.
In typical New Zealand fashion, they put together two quick scores to take the game away from them, and then pounced on errors to compound the Wallabies’ misery.
Dane Coles was yellow-carded for throwing Nic White out of the way by his neck, some distance from the ball and the breakdown, and although yellow was probably the right call, by the letter of the law it could have been a second red in as many weeks for New Zealand.
Wales the best team in the world
In another ‘friendly’ that never quite got going, Wales beat England 13-6 to even things up after losing at Twickenham, and they claimed the top spot in the World Rugby rankings. Warren Gatland can no longer claim underdog status ahead of every match they play, although I’m not convinced they really are the best team in the world.
They scored a controversial try, taking a quick penalty as Anthony Watson was leaving the field for the sin bin and Owen Farrell was still in discussion with the referee, but the home side deserved the victory, winning the contest at the breakdown and never allowing England to get going.
Dan Biggar was named Man of the Match, proving that he can fill Gareth Anscombe’s boots at the World Cup, whilst stalwarts Ken Owens and Alyn Wyn Jones impressed up front.
Without Tom Curry or Sam Underhill, England struggled to sustain any momentum, echoing the issues of several years before these two players surfaced. But they also seemed to be carrying the ball less, perhaps protecting Billy Vunipola a little, and instead kicked away a lot of ball to spend most of the afternoon defending. The white wall kept Wales at bay for the most part, and actually drove them backwards more often than not, which is encouraging for England fans.
Ruaridh McConnochie was made to wait for his first cap once again, withdrawn with an injury and replaced by the impressive Anthony Watson. Watson continues to put pressure on Elliot Daly’s position at full back, who had another mixed performance.
France thrashed Scotland 32-3
I didn’t see this game in Nice, and so can’t offer anything in the way of insight, but the result certainly raised an eyebrow. The scoreline suggests that England’s group rivals are getting their act together just in time, although I’d like to know how much was down to Scotland’s performance.
The enormous Alivereti Raka made his debut on the wing and scored within two minutes, and by playing Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou in the centres, there’s some concern that France are developing the subtlety to go with their huge physicality.
South Africa keep up momentum with win over Argentina
The Springboks backed up their Rugby Championship victory last week by claiming another win over the Pumas 24-18. There were lots of changes to the lineup, but Rassie Erasmus has his squad moving in the right direction, with depth in every position and plenty of optimism ahead of the World Cup.
Now that we’ve seen most of the big teams in action, here is how the World Cup is going to play out:
You can have a play with Superbru’s RWC knockout calculator here.
Let us know what you thought of the weekend’s rugby.