I think we will recognise the coming together of the Springbok and Tongan squads in prayer as a great moment of RWC 2023. As to the match itself, Tonga showed their true capabilities and were remarkably unlucky not be leading at halftime against a fully loaded Springbok team.It was good to see a match of such intensity.
Especially as we are in something of a lull it seems during this extended tournament. I have rather switched off and fully admit being wowed by the Ryder Cup in Italy, Roman passion aplenty mixed with a Gaelic twist and an irresistible touch of Scandinavia to see off the Americans.
In Stade de France this weekend, however, winner takes all between Scotland and Ireland (ish) will be enhanced by the presence of Kenny Logan who is carrying the match ball to Paris from Scotland on behalf of Doddie Weir and MNDF. Perhaps he will sprinkle stardust on it for the Scots because they will need their flying boots and an imperious Russell fully engaged. Ireland are for me the marginal World Cup favourites and know their line up even now.
Not so elsewhere – how can a Tier One Nation in good form lose by 96 points to an admittedly irresistible Kiwi side. But will they now pick fliers like McKenzie in the KO rounds?
South Africa looked a different team with Esterhuizen and Moodie in the middle, what a young talent he is. It would install them as near favourites if selected because the midfield is their Achilles heel.
As for England, midfield is their constant issue and we have head in hands waiting for the 10-12 axis of Ford and Farrell to resume when we all know it shouldn’t be good enough at the highest level. Will Arundell and Smith be given their head? Why not, England is on a shot to nothing and cannot win a World Cup unless they unleash pace and skill.
Finally, will it be the Man in the Iron Mask who comes through and defies the regulations and medics. DuPont is that much of an Icon and without him the French may not have that genius, not to mention the much missed N’Tamack. Almost there for the big QuarterFInal weekend and please note I have not mentioned Fiji – they deserve a column on their own as will Wales if they go on like this!