Italy 48-7 Canada
Canada were easily second-best in this fixture, making Italy look like a clinical attacking team. Jake Polledri was impressive for Conor O’Shea’s side, in a formidable back row partnership alongside Braam Steyn showing that life after Sergio Parisse might not be so bad after all.
I think it’s difficult to read too much into the performance of either side, but South Africa will clearly need to take the Azzurri seriously as they can’t afford any further slip-ups. It feels a stretch to say that Italy could trouble the All Blacks, and that probably means they won’t trouble the Springboks either, but 3rd place should be guaranteed.
England 45-7 USA
This was another one-sided affair, with England so dominant in the set-piece that they rarely had to emerge from second gear. Which is handy, because whenever they did, there were usually more handling errors and mistakes that might just prove more costly against stronger opposition.
Piers Francis had a reasonable first-half with several notable carries from inside centre, but he could well be cited for a hit to the head early on. His tackle was needlessly high, and with anything above the waist now being looked at with increased scrutiny, England shouldn’t be risking tackling above waist height.
Indeed this game saw the first red card of the tournament, with John Quill sent off for a high tackle on Owen Farrell. In light of Reece Hodge’s ban, and some other dubious challenges, I suspect we’re going to see several more red cards over the coming weeks, and it’s the sort of thing that can turn a game.
England’s defence was again outstanding, keeping the USA to nil until the final play of the match, and you don’t need a dazzling attacking game to take you deep into the World Cup. To be real contenders, England will need to cut out the errors and find more sharpness in their attack, but England played what was in front of them, dominated up front and won the match at a canter.
This is the end of England’s warm-up, with Argentina and then France to come in the final group stages, and whilst there is some optimism, there is certainly room for improvement.
What did you think of the match? Who stood out for you? What did you make of Tom Curry at 6 and Lewis Ludlam at 7? And how about Elliot Daly at full-back?