Australia 39-21 Fiji
This game sort of went as expected, with Fiji bringing ferocious aggression and dragging the Wallabies into a frantic, fast-paced broken game. It took Australia an hour to take control, keeping it a bit tighter and scoring twice through rolling mauls, before pulling clear nearer the end.
Wales will need to take the Fijians very seriously, and with a similar sort of effort from Fiji, they could well turn over the Welsh again.
France 23-21 Argentina
This was a great Test match, and the first really tricky match to predict. The French raced to a first-half lead and looked unstoppable, before losing control, making errors and allowing Argentina to close the gap.
In fact, the Pumas took the lead with 10 minutes to go, but a Camille Lopez dropped goal restored the 2-point advantage for France and they just about held on for a win – although a long-range penalty from Emiliano Boffelli could have snatched it for Argentina.
Both sides looked threatening with ball-in-hand, but they also both fell off a number of tackles and drifted in and out of the game at certain periods. Both will be very tough to beat for England.
New Zealand 23-13 South Africa
This fixture lived up to its billing, and was played at a very high intensity throughout. The Boks started strongly and put the All Blacks under sustained pressure, forcing several handling errors and it was unusual to see New Zealand looking slightly clueless in the face of such brutal defence.
But then after 20 minutes, they took control, scoring two quick tries through George Bridge and Scott Barrett, and going into the break with a 14-point lead, it was always looking like too much to ask for South Africa.
The Springboks fought valiantly, but it was never going to be enough. Cheslin Kolbe and Sevu Reece made notable contributions, whilst I enjoyed Beauden Barrett’s performance at full-back.
The officiating has been poor so far, but Jerome Garces had an off-game here, seemingly ignoring the offside line, missing a huge offside intervention from the Springboks, and he seemed particularly lenient on New Zealand at the breakdown.
What other talking points have there been so far? How have you enjoyed the opening matches?
Day 3 Preview
Italy v Namibia, 06.15
Sunday’s schedule starts with an easier pick, with the Azzurri expected to win this one comfortably. Namibia have been beaten twice by Russia in the last 12 months, and have only had a couple of warm-up games against the Kings in South Africa, whilst Italy will surely be better-prepared having played four international matches in the tournament build-up. There’s heavy rain forecast again, and whilst that might keep the score a little tighter, it could also expose inferior skill levels.
I’ve actually reined in my Superbru pick to Italy by 23 on the basis that Italy hardly ever thrash anyone, and I’ve got Namibia +31 on the handicap.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Edoardo Padovani, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Matteo Minozzi
Namibia: 15 Johan Tromp, 14 Chad Plato, 13 Justin Newman, 12 Darryl De La Harpe, 11 JC Greyling, 10 Cliven Loubser, 9 Damian Stevens, 8 Janco Venter, 7 Wian Conradie, 6 Rohan Kitshoff, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi (c), 4 PJ Van Lill, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Andre Rademeyer
Replacements: 16 Louis van der Westhuizen, 17 AJ De Klerk, 18 Nelius Theron, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Max Katjijeko, 21 Eugene Jantjies, 22 Helarius Axasman Kisting, 23 Lesley Klim
Italy by 23
Ireland v Scotland
It wasn’t long ago that Ireland were being talked up as potential world champions, but now many people doubt that they’ll make it to their first ever semi-final. They haven’t become a bad side overnight though, and they are clear favourites for this match and subsequently to win the group. They have had the best of recent meetings between the teams – even in an underwhelming Six Nations campaign, Ireland still won at Murrayfield, and on neutral ground I think they’ll win fairly comfortably this weekend.
They have a couple of notable injury absentees in the form of Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney, but even without these experienced players, they should be able to exert enough control to win the game.
I have Ireland by 16 on Superbru and I’ve bet on Ireland -8.
Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Chris Farrell
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Darcy Graham
England v Tonga
It’s a strong England team for this one as expected, and it should be a fairly straightforward England win, but since our experience in 2015, there shouldn’t be any complacency amongst fans! Nevertheless, there’s power and pace everywhere in the team, and the main objective will be a bonus point win and for everyone to make it through unscathed.
It’s likely to be a physical encounter, and there might be an edge to it with some players of Pacific Island decent featuring in the England side. But if England stick to their gameplan, using big ball-carriers to deliver front-foot ball to George Ford and Owen Farrell, we should see the wide men like Jonny May and Anthony Watson running free.
It struck me that not long ago we were crying out for Elliot Daly to be given a chance at full-back when Eddie Jones was vehemently sticking to Mike Brown, and now that Daly is the incumbent in the 15 jersey, we want to see Anthony Watson there. Daly could well be tested today, and there should be some counter-attacking opportunities, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.
I’ve picked England by 48 on Superbru, which could be a little on the long side, but if England get their attack going, it really ought to be a long day for Tonga. I’m doubling down by betting on England -44.
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jonathan Joseph
Tonga: 15 David Halaifonua, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Cooper Vuna, 11 Viliami Lolohea, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Zane Kapeli, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Sosefo Sakalia, 1 Siegfried ‘Fisiihoi
Replacements: 16 Siua Maile, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Dan Faleafa, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 James Faiva, 23 Nafi Tu’itavake
Let us know your predictions for tomorrow.