#RWC2015 Down Low Four - This World Cup's Good...



Off The Top Of The Dome

Besides mine and probably your disregard for English rugby, it's pretty hard for us kiwis to truly comprehend how epic Wales' win over England was. This is why we all looked towards Wales with various videos of the Welsh going bonkers to really get a gauge as to what this victory meant for the Welsh. We can however understand the epic nature of this result in the context of a World Cup with England's campaign now teetering on the brink.

From a loosely educated point of view from the other side of the world, there was and has been for quite some time a rather confusing nature to English rugby. I'm not sure whether it is the pressure of hosting a World Cup, especially after the All Blacks hosted and won the last World Cup or if it's just the England way but all the noise from Stuart Lancaster and England rugby just smacks of over-thinking everything.

England must now face Australia and beat the Wallabies if they are to advance to the quarter-finals and when you compare the two teams they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Michael Cheika came in as coach in a huff and a puff and quickly instilled an inner confidence, an immense pride in the jersey and gave the players freedom to be themselves. None of that really oozes out of England where everyone looks timid, like they are all scared of just having fun.

The other major yarn from the weekend is the injury and subsequent retirement of South Africa's captain Jean de Villiers. This is obviously a bummer as de Villiers is a widely respected player and from what I've seen he's universally loved, but I believe this will be a blessing in disguise for the Springboks. 

Against Samoa, Damien de Allende played alongside de Villiers in the Springboks' midfield and the youngster was heavily involved. De Allende often used his light feet to skip past defenders and had no issues in carrying the ball into a waiting pack of Samoan forwards; he was one of the best players on the park. Jessie Kriel should replace de Villiers as the other midfield starter and this suddenly gives the 'Boks a dynamic midfield combination that love the physical battle but also have speed and footwork at their disposal. 

De Villiers was the skipper and there will be a bit of a leadership void left by his retirement, but the Springboks are in a perfect position to absorb the loss of their leader. Victor Matfield, well he's Victor Matfield and his greatness as a lock is matched by his ability as a leader, plus there's Schalk Burger who was also in great form against Samoa. 

I mean no disrespect to de Villiers when I say that the Springboks could be a better team without him.

One of the intriguing stories to keep an eye on is the battle between Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau. Both are the modern day code-hopping poster boys but they have also both enjoyed great starts to the World Cup. Williams has enjoyed two good performances while Folau didn't feature in the Wallabies' victory over Uruguay, so Williams has the edge here but just keep tabs on this funky little battle.

Game Yarns

New Zealand vs Namibia | 58-14

Nothing crazy to report here as the All Blacks got the win that they would have wanted. Anyone who enjoys watching the All Blacks will have to endure two more games where they are clearly better than their opponents and the games won't offer that much for the spectator, but coach Steve Hansen will just be happy to get through these games with the win and as few injuries as possible. 

The All Blacks will face Georgia on Saturday morning while Namibia now play Tonga on Wednesday morning. That'll be an interesting contest as Tonga will start as favourites but they did lose to Georgia and Namibia will be eyeing up another upset victory.

Argentina vs Georgia | 54-9

Same story here for the Argentinians as they gained some confidence with an impressive victory over Georgia. The most pleasing thing for Argentina must be how they were able to pull away from Georgia in the second half after a physical and gritty first half. There was a clinical side to Argentina who struck with three tries when Georgia's skipper Mamuka Gorgodze was sent to the sin-bin in the second half, which is thanks in large part to Nicolas Sanchez.

The first-five has looked like an exciting player throughout the Rugby Championship and in Argentina's first game against the All Blacks but he was at his best against a weaker opposition. Sanchez kicked his way to 15 points but also ran the ball effectively with a bunch of clean breaks and tackle busts. In fact, I'm liking the look of Argentina's backline as we all know that their forward pack will grind with the best of them but there's some fire-power in the backs as well.

Argentina now have a nice break before facing Tonga on Monday morning which will be a hugely important game for Argentina. Georgia now face the All Blacks.

Italy vs Canada | 23-18

There isn't much to say here besides pointing out that this was a low key highly entertaining battle between two interesting rugby nations. Many are making fun of Italy for seemingly going backwards as teams like Canada get better, which may be the case but I don't mind that as it gave me 80 minutes of rather exciting action. 

Unfortunately the game means little, but Canada showed that they are a team on the rise and the work of winger DTH van der Merwe almost gave Canada an upset win. Van der Merwe's a livewire while first-five Nathan Hirayama and no.8 Tyler Ardorn were also impressive in a losing effort.

South Africa vs Samoa | 46-6

Oh Samoa. I don't know whether to be happy that the Springboks ramped it up a gear after that loss to Japan or whether to be gutted that Samoa looked to be reasonably mediocre. South Africa controlled the game expertly, enjoying 72 percent of the territory and 61 percent possession, which when combined with Samoa missing 41 tackles (vs 11 from South Africa) paints a gloomy picture for Samoa.

Come to think of it, a physical contest against Samoa was probably the perfect game to awaken the beast as South Africa battered Samoa into submission. This is an ominous sign in my eyes because this performance was led by lock Eben Etzebeth who was always willing to carry the footy with his 13 runs more than any Samoan player. I believe this was South Africa's best forward pack with Duane Vermeulen packing down with Schalk Burger and Francois Louw at the back of the scrum. 

Both Willie le Roux and Handre Pollard both showed that they should start every game from here on in. 

I'm not sure what to make of Samoa and I'm not even sure if they can make it through to the quarter-finals. They now have two huge games against Japan and Scotland, both of which Samoa could win but they looked very flat against the Springboks and there was a iffy vibe from the Samoans as they couldn't sustain any sort of pressure.

England vs Wales | 25-28

There isn't much more that needs to be said about this one really besides the Welsh suffering yet another injury blow. Scott Williams is the latest Wales player to fall victim to injury after the midfielder injured his knee in the win, but this could provide us with the rather exciting prospect of seeing Jamie Roberts and George North in the Welsh midfield.

Scott Williams was joined by Liam Williams and Hallam Amos in the injury ward which puts a massive dent in Wales' backline. Whether they shape up for an important clash against Fiji on Friday will be interesting. Toby Faletau showed that he's a no.8 to keep an eye on after a barnstorming game which saw him run for 54 metres off 13 carries. Faletau's opposite Billy Vunipola was even more impressive with 83 metres off 12 carries. 

Australia vs Uruguay | 65-3

I refuse to dive into any great depths with this game as Australia clearly gave their squad a bit of a rotation. We all knew that this was coming so there's no real surprise; maybe the way they won given they rolled out their 'B' side was a surprise.

The Wallabies have been impressive in their first two games, but they must now gear up for England and then the Welsh a week later. That's when we'll know what this Wallabies side can do.

Scotland vs USA | 39-16

Despite being down at half-time, Scotland rallied late to grab the win over USA which puts the Scots at the top of Pool B. There's a real chance for Scotland to qualify for the quarter's and their second half performance here should fill their fans with plenty of confidence.

The Americans once again conceded more penalties than their opponent and missed 22 tackles to Scotland's 12 which is never going to put you in a good position. Stuart Hogg was highly influential for Scotland with the fullback lively running the footy and he's got a hefty boot on him as well. If you're looking for an American player to love, then look no further than Samu Manoa who has put together two beastly performances so far. In their first game against Samoa, Manoa ran for 33 metres off 13 carries and he backed that up with 33 metres off 16 carries - the next best forward for USA ran for 11 metres.

Both Scotland and USA now face South Africa, which will give us a good look at what Scotland can do. Scotland are now perfectly positioned to qualify for the quarter-finals but they need to finish off their pool games with a few wins to seal it.

Ireland vs Romania | 44-10

Pay attention to Ireland who are trying to slide in under the radar but we won't let them. Ireland dismantled Romania thanks to an exciting performance from fullback Simon Zebo who had a strong hand in three tries and ran for over 100 metres. Zebo was once a sprinter, which is a handy string to your bow as a fullback and his speed saw him bust six tackles in a dominant performance.

This came without Jonathan Sexton and veteran back Rob Kearney came off the bench only to suffer a minor injury. Pool D looks to be all about Ireland vs France in over a week's time and until then we'll have to settle with Ireland facing Italy on Monday morning which Ireland should win but it could be a little banana skin for them. Romania face Canada next Wednesday which will be an interesting game as they will be trying to get up over Canada and up off the bottom of their pool.

Bits And Pieces