Rugby Union

Rugby World Cup group stage highlights

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The 2015 edition of the Rugby World Cup has already been one of the most captivating of all time. Before the tournament started it was speculated to be the most open World Cup ever, and that has certainly been true thus far.

While the quarter final lineup holds few surprise candidates, there have been plenty of shocks along the way. Not only that but there have been a plethora of defining moments that has made this most inclusive of World Cups so special.

For the first time, a team received three yellow cards in one match. This is surprising given the number of matches and the stakes in play. The culprit was less surprising as Samoa are famed for ill-discipline. The craziest thing about this was that the feat was replicated within the week. Before Namibia racked up three tries against the Pumas, they recorded a rather less desirable hat-trick against Georgia.

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Speaking of Georgia, the Europeans have had an excellent few weeks, and continued their remarkable staistic of never having missed a conversion in a World Cup match. I rather hope that streak never ends.

They were also responsible for another record in fielding the youngest player to ever feature in World Cups at 18 years and 340 days. Vasil Lobzhanidze did his country proud from scrum half with energetic displays behind a dominant pack.

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Record breakers

And speaking of Namibia; they got their first ever World Cup point. In said match against Georgia, despite the sin-binning, and the absence of talisman Jacques Burger, they got within seven points, and nearly even pulled off the upset.

On the down side for them, Argentina reinforced their new attacking prowess by securing their highest ever score before halftime, with 36 against the African nation. The Pumas really have put together some of the best tries at this World Cup.

One man who has scored his fair share is South Africa's Bryan Habana who equalled the all-time record for World Cup tries with 15 to tie Jonah Lomu. This, and the fact that he has played every minute so far furthers the case for Bryan Habana to be considered in Dream Team terms.

Upsets

But it hasn't all been rosy for the Springboks, as Japan recorded the biggest shock in World Cup history against the two-time champs. It was maybe the biggest shock in rugby history as a whole. As of right now, the Brave Blossoms are unbeaten against the Springboks.

They also became the only team in World Cup history to win three games and fail to qualify in what will be a heartbreaking stat for everyone that isn't Scottish.

Another upset came with an amazing fact: Romania shocked Canada with the biggest comeback in the history of the World Cup to win from 15-0 behind.

But the Romanian's were not strangers to history: they also set the attendance record for the Rugby World Cup against Ireland at Wembley. 89,267 fans turned up to watch a tier two nation in the group stages to demonstrate the spirit in which the tournament has been recieved.

The hosts deserve plenty of praise for this fact, especially considering the worst ever finish by a host nation could have derailed the tournament before it really got going. After the toughest group in World Cup history that somehow contrived to have three of the top ten teams in the world, England was the unfortunate victims of the ranking system.

The competition has been so tightly contested, in fact, that only one team has been nilled thus far. That was the USA who, unfortunately, ran into a Springbok stampede.

Another hallmark of the group stages was the attacking endeavour of all teams involved. Running rugby has been the ethos in just about every match, and as a result, the viewers have been treated to a fast-paced showcase. Not everything has been in this vein of course, as one-half of Georgia versus Namibia lasted 68 minutes in real time.

Appearance milestones

Not many players, however, have outlasted Ma'a Nonu who became just the sixth centurion in All Black history. Four of the other five are in the squad to round out the most experienced All Black team ever.

In the quarterfinals, we should see Matt Giteau and Stephen Moore also cross that illustrious milestone.

In fact, we may see many milestones in the knockout stages: Will Habana make the try scoring record his own? Will Richie McCaw equal Jason Leonard's record for appearances by making the final? Will we see a first-time winner? Or the first three-time champions?

This World Cup has already made plenty of history, but in all honesty, the fun has only just begun.

Who will win the Rugby World Cup? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!

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Topics:
South Africa Rugby
France Rugby
New Zeland Rugby
Rugby Union
Wales Rugby
England Rugby
Ireland Rugby
Scotland Rugby
Australia Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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