Rugby Union

Rugby World Cup Round Two Review

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Round two saw the biggest clash of the World Cup so far, some teams making their debut, and others coping with a very short turn-around. Here is how every game panned out:

Japan V Scotland

This was one of the most enjoyable matches to watch of the tournament so far. Both teams have clearly come with the ambition to play open, running rugby, and they both acquitted themselves well. Japan looked much stronger than the score line suggests and were well in it with an hour gone.

They continued with their offloading approach and with numerous runners coming from depth it is hard to stop. Their accuracy in attack was once again top notch. However, they lost the outstanding Amanaki Mafi to injury the inevitable fatigue seemed to catch up with them.

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Credit must go to the Scottish backs who each looked extremely impressive throughout. Man of the Match could have gone to either half back, and both centres looked a handful when carrying.

Australia V Fiji

Both sides struggled to really get going to an extent. The deciding factor was the combination of Hooper and Pocock who might be enough to win a World Cup on their own. 38 tackles between them is an astonishing statistic. Two tries to Pocock earned the man of the match award, but the accolade could have gone to either.

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Fiji held out almost the entire second half without conceding to do England and Wales a favour, and Nakarawa had one of the standout performances of the championship. Nandolo of course still looks like a headache for coaches and would-be-tacklers.

France V Romania

Again, a big side struggled to find their form in the face off eager challengers treating the match like their final. Romania had the upper hand in the early going, especially in the scrum with Lazar controlling Antonio all night long.

France managed to string just enough continuity together to get tries in pairs and take the game away, but this was further reinforcement that the presence of "minnows" in a World Cup group is a thing of the past.

France have a depth of squad that perhaps only the All Blacks can match, but the combinations haven't clicked in any significant way thus far to suggest them as clear threats to the top prize.

New Zealand V Namibia

There were a few surprises here. New Zealand racked up the highest total of the tournament at that stage, the biggest margin of victory, and the quickest bonus point so far. Not too shabby.

What was shabby, and alarming for Steve Hansen, was the way they took their foot off the pedal. Most All Black sides do not let up. In some ways, this was opposite to their performance against Argentina in that they were more clinical in the red zone but less impressive in general play.

As expected there were multiple moments of brilliance. Notably Sonny-Bill Williams' offloads, and the footwork of Milner-Skudder; but neither of those are things we haven't seen before.

It was great to see Namibia get a score; rugby is unlikely to see scores into the 100's in World Cups again it seems.

Argentina V Georgia

The first half was filled with lengthy portions of attritional rugby that was largely for the purists' benefit. Georgia started to raise the tempo and string some phases together and went into half time fully involved with the match.

The heightened tempo suited the Argentinians better after the break and quickly put the game beyond reach with, some silky smooth set plays. The final score may not have truly reflected Georgia's involvement, but the bigger nations will now be aware come the knockout stages the Pumas can score tries.

Italy V Canada

On paper, you might not have expected this match to produce some of the best tries of the tournament, but that was what we were served. DTH Van Der Merwe's early score, in particular, will make most highlight packages.

Both sides, know for their physicality traded blows from one to 15 and in the end only Italy's big game experience proved the difference.

They will be hoping for a swift return to fitness for their talisman Parisse if they hope to stand a chance against group favourites Ireland.

South Africa V Samoa

As expected, South Africa bounced back with a vengeance. It may have taken longer than they would have wanted to hit top gear, but beating Samoa by 40 is no mean feat. They dominated possession and territory, and while Samoa showed flashes of why they should never be taken lightly; there was only ever one winner in this affair.

The worst news for the resurgent Boks is the injury to Jean De Villiers. It was only after his leg injury last year that South Africa somewhat capitulated, and losing his experience from a youthful backline due to a fractured jaw will be another massive blow to their chances.

England V Wales

The most memorable thing to come out of this match was the result. With the home advantage and Welsh injury crisis, English fans may have been excused for being more confident than usual in this fixture.

And for most of the match it was justified. England looked composed and in total control. The new backline inclusions largely vindicated their selection, none more so than Owen Farrell. He moved the team around nicely, kicked impeccably, and defended with a furious vigour. The most effective backline move included strong dummy lines from both centres to hold the defence and give the real danger men space out wide, which was duly exploited for Jonny May's try.

Barritt, however, made the most crucially poor decision to allow Wales' break for their late comeback try. He jumped out of the line unnecessarily to cause an overlap with disastrous results.

The decision to kick the corner when three points down in the 77th minute will be discussed at length in the days and weeks to come, as will the new slew of injuries for Warren Gatland to work with. Credit must go to Wales for their tenacity and outstanding defence of the final maul. Dan Biggar's goal kicking rightly earned him Man of The Match.

Australia V Uruguay

We didn't learn too much from this game except that Quade Cooper surely won't start any important games during this tournament. He can make as many double miss passes and clean breaks as he likes; with his kicking stats he is a distant second choice.

This was probably the most lop-sided performance of the tournament so far and the scoreboard reflected it. Australia kept their finger on the pulse of this game throughout, seemingly scoring when they wanted and resting when they decided.

Scotland V USA

For 40 minutes it looked as though Pool B could have another upset on its hands. Scotland were creating plenty of chances, but squandered them in equal part due to rabid American defence, and lack of accuracy. It wasn't long after the break, however, when the Scots reaped reward for their endeavour.

From then on it was largely one-sided. The whole match was a free-flowing, attacking game continuing the trend of this World Cup that sees every team looking to play attractive rugby.

Once Scotland managed to click they did show why they are realistic threats to South Africa. Finn Russell put together another accomplished performance and they will hope his knock late on is not long-term.

The centres and back three give Scotland a very balanced attack that will pose a young South African back line problems.

Ireland V Romania

The lower tier nations continued to prove their worth at this World Cup by keeping Ireland's bonus point at bay until the hour mark. Spirited defence and a try of their own wasn't enough to topple the Irish who flexed their squad's strength in depth.

The back three in particular looked sharp and there is genuine competition for places ahead of the big Pool game against the French.

The second round of Rugby World Cup provided a minor shock and also did more to prove right those who say this is the most competitive tournament in history.

Heading into round three the top sides will know not to look beyond any opposition. Still some of the big clashes await, and the group standings look as unpredictable as ever.

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Topics:
South Africa Rugby
France Rugby
Rugby Union
Wales Rugby
Owen Farrell
England Rugby
Ireland Rugby
Scotland Rugby
Australia Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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