We saw enough drama for a month’s worth of rugby, although hardly enhanced by an imaginative but unsuccessful attempt to change the singing of the National Anthems. Great for the kids to be on a World stage, but let the supporters sing!
For a neutral, the stunning win by Wales over the Flying Fijians stole the show. I often talk about rugby needing to go ‘back to the future’ and Dan Biggar certainly delivered. He handed out a good old fashioned rollocking (you don’t see that much now) to George North for playing around in his own 22 as halftime loomed and offered a traditional gutsy performance to win Player of the match. Some achievement as I thought North and Tompkins were outstanding in their midfield clash with two equally world class opponents Radradra and Nayacalevu. Your heart had to bleed for Fiji as they just failed to overhaul Wales but make no mistake the men in red were impressive – Rowlands was off the charts good- and Australia will be worried. Fiji can still make it out of the pool.
No 10’s have had a great time of it so far, after the opening match with Jalibert and Mo’unga starring.
In Marseille, a quite remarkable performance unfolded and apparently an eight-year project by George Ford to perfect his drop goal technique! He could not have predicted the 3rd minute red card (Sorry Tom, eminently avoidable) but from that moment England’s strategy was prescribed. We can talk about Argentina’s implosion but make no mistake England caused it. The statistic that they did not threaten the Argentinian try line at any stage matters little right now. Confidence and belief are back – England will still be scrapping because they have no try-scoring pedigree, and you cannot just do it on the day- except against Japan and Chile and probably Samoa too. What is clear is that the Q-Finals on this side of the draw will be compelling viewing and I so hope Fiji is a part of them – anyone got tickets for Marseille?
The odd one out in the no 10’s honours table was Scotland’s Finn Russell who found himself surrounded by Springbok defenders cutting off his flow of passes and intricate kicking. It stifled Scotland who have no other real leaders in the back line. Hardly a tough decision for Rassie Erasmus and Scotland should surely have had an answer. Scotland v Ireland now assumes a status of its own and Kenny Logan will be delivering the match ball into Le Stade de France on behalf of MyName5Doddie Foundation. Unless he puts a magic spell on the ball, it will not be for Scotland this year and they will rue the Cup draw all that time ago. Still a fine side but not the best of all time as John Jeffrey opined (1990/91 squad take a bow, JJ was part of that!)
So, after Round 1 what more do we know? England and Wales in better shape, Fiji can still do it and this Sunday’s key clash with the Aussies will be the match of the weekend and a humdinger, watch out Eddie. France and South Africa have justified their pole positions and Ireland are unhappy with 80 points against Romania. All they care about is the 23rd v the Springboks – don’t miss that one!!!