Ireland and All Blacks Set the Tone

Jonathan Sexton

It was an explosive opening to the world’s greatest tournament this weekend. However, it has clarified absolutely nothing and it remains equally as tricky to pick a winner as it was before the tournament started.

The team that really set out their stall, though, was Ireland. They arrived in Japan with the tag of being the top ranked team, but due to a dip in form in 2019, very few people would have been brave enough to call them tournament winners.

I believe Sunday’s game against a lethargic Scotland side showcased their credentials. It could be argued that Scotland were never at the races, but that is to do the men in green a disservice. The Scots looked lively for the first few minutes and Ireland took the sting out of their tails with a brutal power game that resulted in quick fire tries to obliterate their opponents. From there, they controlled the pace of the game and played a tactically perfect 80 minutes. Their kick chase and defensive work were particularly excellent. In all likelihood, they will need to find more variety in attack to really challenge in the knockout stages as a more belligerent defence may stand up to their picks and drives.

In the other massive game of the weekend, New Zealand also showed exactly why they are favourites. Personally, I felt South Africa controlled vast swathes of that fixture, but the kiwis shifted through the gears with alarming swiftness as soon as they smelt blood. It is that killer instinct that makes them such a danger and impossible to keep up with when they really get going. If South Africa can find a bit of that ruthlessness themselves, it would be unsurprising to see those two sides contest the final at the same stadium in November.

Of the other contenders, England’s attack stuttered in a game which was difficult to gauge exactly where they stand in the grand scheme of things. Australia only really started to come to life towards the end of their fixture and Wales looked sharp in the first half but off the pace in the second. Meanwhile in the match of the weekend, Argentina and France showed exactly why they could, but probably won’t, be there as the tournament concludes.

Has the opening round of fixtures changed the way you view the tournament panning out?

What surprises, if any, can you see the tournament throwing up?

By Joe Large

20 thoughts on “Ireland and All Blacks Set the Tone

  1. Well isn’t it a bit clearer now? Early days yet, however, those previously questioning NZ’s challenge may now have to revise their opinions a tad. OTOH, with 3 whole points v Ireland, surely Scotland’s chances look bleaker than those of Boris being invited back to Buckingham Palace for din dins. SA still look competative despite their loss. Couldn’t maintain initial control v NZ, although regaining some after 1/2 time, they may need to revise tactic of kicking it away after falling behind. Still formidable. Could well land a final spot, especially if they can feed Kolby quick ball. Nothing flash with Ireland, but so far have done the job with effective rugby. Will their basic game plan be enough? Have those x3 losses been expunged yet? Sterner tests may tell. Pivotal game between Ozzies & Wales. Winner should gain confidence to progress. Both have looked good in parts, but haven’t displayed complete performances for 80. England? Among the bookies favs. Workman like, with plenty errors, but got result. Ought to go through ok. Yet to be seen if mistakes can be ironed out though. 1/4 finals won’t be the place to find out. The mix at this stage looks between the main 3 SH RC teams & Eng, Ire, Wales, although latter & Oz’s result will likely change that. At the moment though, NZ, SA, Eng & Ire will probably throw up the 2 finalists. Shocks? Between the latter 3 of the previous 4, I hope!

    1. Hi Ten Ton Donut! Any comment? Good match today. Thought the Brave Blossoms played fantastic rugby Not impressed with the other lot 😉

  2. Interesting TRD. Didn’t you prev state that this was the worst NZ side you’d seen? Change of tune? Based yr former opinion on what?

    1. Yep. Going into the world cup I felt they were not as good as any other World Cup NZ side I’ve seen. (2003 was the first world cup I watched). I based that on what I’ve seen over the last 12 months really, nothing other than my own opinion, pretty baseless but my opinion none the less. I did however still point out that they were the team to beat for everyone else.

      If you can draw much from 1 game I still don’t think I’m wrong. The All Blacks were very good but nothing on the 2015 vintage (IMO the best International side ever).

      1. Mmm. Ok TTD. Although, as previously mentioned, this side contains 5 fwds & 5 backs from 2015. Also, impossible to compare ‘The Invincibles’ or Lions of 71, 74, Oz 91, 99 sides for instance, with NZ’s 2015 team. Last 12 mths? You may take into account they were prior to the WC & in the past 2, NZ were knocked over in the RC before each them. If you’re considering Dublin, it was 1 game, away. If the last 2 RC’s, the 1st Saffa game contained 4 missed pens & 2 intercepts. These things happen. Ask Fiji. The last? The Saffas got the bouncey off the McBounce face.. but not in Japan! And as you state, it’s 1 game so far this time. I’m inclined to reserve judgement, but each to his own.

  3. It is clear that the standard of refereeing leaves much to be desired. A number of All Blacks and certainly one South African player should have been carded. Kieran Read calling the referee ‘gutless’ for failing to sin bin or red card Makazole Mapimpi was totally uncalled for taken his head high tackle on Du Toit from a line out and Moody’s obstructive play and scrum collapse (elbow on ground)into account.
    The Boks didn’t deserve to win but the low standard of refereeing by all officials indeed warranted stronger action by World rugby and not just a rap on the knuckles

    1. Well, it works (or rather it may not) both ways Frans. Sometimes people cherry pick issues to suit their views. The Keiran Read one you pt out for instance; in fact the offside Saffa deliberately obstructed AB 1/2, Smith, in the act of passing right to a 2/3 overlap preventing a cert (pen) try. Under rules, it was also yellow. Hence Read’s comment was nr spot on.

      1. That is not the point Don P.If you are guilty of an offence yourself it is better to shut up and leave it to the officials irrespective of how poor you think their decision is.

          1. Keep a stiff upper IOW? Maybe the ref will learn from his mistake/s too.. late? Disagree. What about getting it right? Justice? If you’re right you should have the courage to stick to yr principles. Surely it’s a skippers’s duty to query inappropriate decisions.
            Personally, I’d go further. If there was a clear ref howler which altered the result, I’d retro change it. If cards can be retro, as another principle, why not mistaken decisions? Accountability should matter.

  4. England to win the WC? What do the rest of the world think (well, Warburton, Horgan, Lynagh & Hamilton anyway)?

    Are they arrogant under performers, or contenders. Warburton states no & yes respectively. They are Horgan’s favourites. Diplomatic Lynagh reckons they probably have been perceived as not ‘good winners’, rubbing oppo noses in it, but they are contenders. Hamilton; they may be brash, but they can win it.

    10-12-13 axis? Various combos offered of Ford, Farrell, Tui, Slade. ML goes for 1st 3.

    Back 3? 2 7’s & BV, but Wilson 6 for ML & Lawes 6 for JH.

    Player least afford to lose? BV or Tui (Warburton). BV, as best in world, states Hogan. MV for Lynagh. Irreplaceable Farrell for Hamilton & also as OF is best decision maker under pressure!? Mmm. Thinking v SA in SA, those shoulder changes, kicking to defeat v Wales?

    Weakest link? Warburton; discipline, but Farrell will sort. Horgan; psychologically, physically. Can drop off, failing to recover. ML; pressure.. & experienced Brown, Care, Robbo all gone! Hamilton; discipline. Sinckler. Whooping, hollering Itoje. Farrell’s tackling. Inviting trouble. In tight knockout tie, mo of madness =..?

    Best, worst exp v England? Warburton; 2013 & 2015. Hogan 2006 & 200& courtesy of Danny Cip master-class. ML; 19991 WC & prior Sydney win causing Carling’s view to play it wide in that final. Hamilton; 2010 draw, 2014 loss when accused in a pub later of being effing English by a Jock fan!

    So there you have it folks. Definitely contenders, maybe.. if they can only keep their discipline, pick the right team.. & play the right game? Just like the rest of the world.

  5. Unless, particularly errors, are queried Frans, nothing changes. If enough accumulated pressure is brought to bear, some of these refs might better concentrate on their performances. The guy reffing the NZ, SA game for instance, ignored far too many errors too be let off the hook. If one such lost yr team a 1/4 final game, should the ref be left annacountable? Not likely. Being put in the stocks may be an option. Seriously, they need to be more consultative, collaborative & accountable. Game’s too important to have slack adjudicators on the loose, particularly in a WC.

    1. Don P
      I am a strong believer in the ‘clean hands doctrine’.
      Certainly the TMO must be empowered to point out critical errors in judgement to the referee in charge,so that remedial action takes place on the field.
      The TMO is the right person because he has the supporting staff and a number of cameras and screens at his disposal.I am not suggesting that the game should be refereed by the TMO but that he with all the technology available is in the best position to deal with foul play left unattended by the referee.
      Perhaps each captain should be allowed two referals to the TMO should no action by the referees and the TMO be taken.

  6. Unsure quite what you mean Frans. ‘Clean Hands’ is a US legal term? Are you suggesting a TMO has clean hands because he is neutral? Presume you’re not implying Read had ‘dirty hands’? Refs can take advice or not from TMO’s I think. Believe TMO’s ought to be empowered to intervene & correct, or over rule, refs because they have access to technology as you state. Suppose refs might have last say if they review incidents via replays. In any event, ref, TMO got it wrong in Read’s case methinks.

  7. Don P
    It is a term well known in British law. In simple terms don’t approach in this case the referee for relief if you yourself are guilty of an offence (wrongdoing).Read complained to referee about
    Makazole Mapimpi and conveniently forgot
    that he took du Toit out of play when the latter
    was about to place his scrumhalf under tremendous pressure and so ensured a good front foot ball.

    1. Frans. OIOW, do 2 wrongs make a right? Surely each incident is separate & should be dealt with accordingly. ‘Clean hands’ or no ‘clean hands’.

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