I am clearly adding the stunning Japanese win over Ireland on Saturday to the list of major World Cup surprises I featured last week! In fact this would be to diminish a pacey and eye-catching performance which the Irish were quick to acknowledge. Honesty has always been a top quality in their post match analysis over the years. It proves that ‘phase rugby’ gets you nowhere near a World Cup podium finish – and how many centres in the world could have delivered the pinpoint under pressure transfer from Matsushima to win the game for Japan. Someone sign up that player. The pace and angles of attack team wise were of the highest order, so good to watch. Scotland will need their A+ game when the time comes. As for Ireland, there is no real historical pressure so I would pick the pace merchants with energy like Larmour and Conway and challenge the pack to regain some of the intensity of the last 12 months. Nothing to lose and their response will be fascinating.
Meanwhile, Wales dug deep to get their win against the Wallabies in a quite breathless encounter and I am not sure that anyone else would have won that game apart from the All Blacks. The Aussies were that good – if they can recover mentally I have them as a potential semifinal team. The way that Alun Wyn-Jones is galvanising his men is a World Cup story in the making, a nation will start to expect and I was very impressed with the performance of the bench. Their overall defensive commitment was something to behold, it felt like Shaun Edwards was out there himself.
The furore over high tackles won’t go away. Reece Hodge a clear red, sorry Sir Clive. Samoan hits we shall see but horrible to watch. The mindless hit on Farrell was an easy decision. Patchell went in too high on Kerevi and was asking for trouble so should have been spoken to – Hooper was right, terrible tackling technique by Patchell. Bottom line is that you have to change behaviour in the tackle, it’s that simple. Coaches can complain and be embarrassed but need to understand that they do not suffer the longterm damage that their players will. I find myself agreeing again with Pichot, although WR is late to the cause because of previous reticence but don’t stop now!
By the way, statistics apparently show that tackling low creates more injuries. So what. That is the game of physical contact and good tackling technique has to be coached but that comes back to whether you want to play rugby or not. Creating possible long term neurological damage through intentional or reckless hits to the head will never be acceptable.
On a high note, the tears of joy from Japan and Uruguay’s wonderful wins and the general competitiveness of the less resourced rugby nations tell us a story of hope and further development which has to be meaningfully assisted.
Any more surprises in store? I hope so!