Off The Top Of The Dome
I honestly don't quite know whether these short turn-arounds are as big a deal as media are making them out to be, or whether to side with the coaches and players who roll out the 'we knew what was coming' type of line. Both Fiji and Japan played their second games of the World Cup and while Japan had the shorter gap between games, both teams served as our first example of playing two games in less than a week.
I'm happy to side with the coaches on this and they should have a bunch of different plans to counteract the lack of recover and preparation time. Eddie Jones made a point of not using it as an excuse for Japan's lacklustre performance against Scotland and I don't think any other coach is going to use it as an excuse either, so why should I? It also adds a funky dimension to the World Cup as we're going to see who the best coach is, especially with teams like Japan who clearly can't roll out two different teams like the All Blacks or Australia.
This morning's results also raised a thought and a question. Fiji are now 0-2 and while they have performed valiantly in both their losses, there seems to be little hope of quarter-final qualification now. They would have been targeting a win over either England or Australia to get their campaign off to a great start with the chance of beating Wales later on but now there's no reason to think that Fiji won't do anything better than finish fourth which is a bummer ... but 'tis why the World cup is great.
The question is about Scotland, who are in Pool B and looked pretty good against Japan. Scotland will have a huge focus for their game against Samoa, which I reckon will decide second place in Pool B.
In 2011 we saw teams not compete at lineout time and step back, thus stopping their opponent setting a maul. Australia started their game against Fiji with two scrums in which Stephen Moore didn't hook the ball for what seemed like yonks, which gave us two scrums which didn't go anywhere but offered a intense physical contest. It was clearly a ploy from Michael Cheika, but I'm not sure about the reasoning - maybe he was trying to send a message about the strength of the Wallabies scrum?
Whatever the case, each World Cup throws up something funky like this and Cheika is a likely candidate for more funkiness. I quite like the French though...
Scotland vs Japan | 45-10
Scotland will feel Japan's pain with the short turn-around as they face the USA on Sunday which will give us a far better look at what the Scots offer and whether they'll be a serious threat in Pool B. Against Japan the Scots were too good, as you might expect as they have been sitting around watching all the fun go down and there would have been plenty of nervous energy.
Mark Bennett looks to be a threat in Scotland's midfield as he made a few breaks and was a handful with the ball in hand. Captain Greg Laidlaw also looks like he's going to be highly influential for Scotland as he not only kicks goals, but he also had three try assists and is a typical live-wire halfback. I also liked the look of John Hardie and Ryan Wilson who did a great job up against Michael Leith and Michael Broadhurst from Japan as they got around the park well and ensured that Scotland maintained possession.
We see Scotland next on Sunday against the USA while Japan get a nice break before they face Samoa next weekend.
Australia vs Fiji | 28-13
As I said earlier, Fiji are now 0-2 thanks to a sharp performance from the Wallabies. This was always going to be a tricky game for the Australians, but Fiji were never really in the contest thanks to something that we have seen as a strength of this Australian team - the maul. The efficiency in the way the Wallabies set up for the maul and get David Pocock the ball at the back of the maul was far too good for Fiji who simply couldn't match it.
Now we wait and see who will take the non-contest route against the Wallabies maul because it is certainly one of their weapons.
If you're looking for a RWC MVP candidate, then Israel Folau is your man. There's a lot of fluff with the likes of Folau, Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Bugress from the media, but Folau (and the others) offer plenty of substance as well. Folau had the most running metres with 90 as well as a break, four tackle busts and an off-load which will rival SBW's off-loading ability. Most importantly for Australia, Folau is safe as houses under the high ball and opposition teams will need to adopt a better strategy than the Fijians.
We didn't really see anything too crazy from Australia but the solid nature of their forwards and a backline that is eager to throw it around will make them a tough team to match up against. Most importantly we got to see Will Genia and Bernard Foley get game time together as a combination as I see this as their number one combo here.
The other combination that has rugby fans giddy at their knees is Michael Hooper and Pocock teaming up together. Up against a bigger and more physical Fiji pack, Hooper and Pocock made 38 tackles together as well as 10 carries to go along with their impressive work at the breakdown.
Australia now face Uruguay on Monday morning while Fiji aren't in action until next Friday morning against Wales.
France vs Romania | 38-11
France, as expected dispatched themselves of a Romanian challenge but their win also gave French fans more reason to get excited. After losing talented winger Yoann Huget in their World Cup opener, Sofianne Guitoune scored a double to ease that pain while we also got our first look at the likes of Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin and Morgan Parra who all started.
Fofana was second to fullback Dulin in running metres with Dulin adding almost 100 metres to Fofana's 44 running metres. Dulin also had five tackle busts and try assists while Fofana also made a few tackle busts as well. This opens up a great discussion for France about who should start at fullback with Scott Spedding getting the start against Italy while Dulin impressed against Romania.
Also, don't sleep on their midfield stocks either with Fofana looking good alongside Gael Fickou who like Fofana, scored a try and broke three tackles. Mathieu Bastareaud started against Italy so he's also in the frame as well.
Romania face another top dog in Ireland on Monday morning while France will play Canada next Friday morning.