Rugby Union

Review of Rugby World Cup: Round Three

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Round 3 of the Rugby World Cup saw many teams punching above their and a couple falling far short of their high standards.

This round saw many decisive matches as the end of the group stages loomed.

Here is a review of all the matches this week.


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Tonga v Namibia

Unsurprisingly given the spirit in which the tournament has been played so far, this was another highly entertaining spectacle. The game saw plenty of tries, mostly for Tonga who just did everything with a little more accuracy than the Namibians. In the set piece they had a real advantage and it appeared that in their long rest since their loss to Georgia they have managed to regain the fluidity they have had for much of 2015.

Namibia will have only one more realistic chance to post their first World Cup win, while Tonga will be a stern test for the top sides they have left to play in New Zealand and Argentina.

Wales v Fiji

Another game to contribute to the most pulsating group in World Cup history. Wales needed the win to reinforce their heroics at Twickenham, and despite an energetic start, they did themselves few favours throughout.

They did not close out the game when they should have and ended up playing the Fijian style for much of the contest. Shaun Edwards will be disappointed with their defensive line that allowed Fiji time on the ball to generate plenty of clean breaks.

Nakarawa continued his scintillating offloading game, and Botia was devastating in both defence and attack. From Wales' point of view, their back row went well as individuals, but they conceded far too many turnovers as a collective to be content with their performance.

The battle up front between some of the best fetchers in World rugby will be immense when they go up against the Aussies in what will be a Pool decider.

France v Canada

I just love this World Cup. Every time you start to think you know how a match is going it gets turned on its head. This time it was Canada who didn't read the first half script. An inspired Michalak alongside a hungry Wesley Fofana caused chaos in the Canadian ranks, and with the scrum going backwards it looked like Canada could have been in for a long night.

But with the crowd rising with them they stung back with two tries; one from the ever impressive DTH Van De Merwe.

France were noticeably rattled for an extended period in the middle of the game, but their power told and eventually cruised to a comfortable score line in a less entertaining second half.

Michalak really put his name forward yet again for a starting place, unlike debutant Grosso who, despite scoring, almost looked like he hadn't played rugby before.

New Zealand v Georgia

Well this one was a surprise. If that wasn't a record for All Black handling errors it would have been close. Good performances in the black shirt were few and far between with the replacements faring only slightly better.

Julian Savea's hat trick wasn't enough to dissuade Man of the Match going to the Georgian captain who, despite not playing the full match, epitomised his team's urgency and work rate. They stayed up in New Zealand's faces until the final whistle. It was a shame they squandered good positions to get a second on the scoreboard, but their equalising touchdown in the early stages of the match was greeted with one of the tournament's loudest ovations.

Their final will be against Namibia as both teams seek to clinch a precious win, whilst New Zealand will have to rebuild significantly to genuinely stand a chance in the knockout stages. One rather feels they will though.

Samoa v Japan

Japan continued to wow at the World Cup. Nothing they did will have been surprising to anyone who has watched their previous matches. They do everything with numbers, intensity, speed and accuracy. The speed of the phases with Tanaka at Scrum Half makes them a handful for any team, and they seem to have a structured play ready beyond ten phases which shows an elite level of organisation and coaching.

They even bettered Samoa on the gainline which would have been an area the islanders might have expected supremacy. The second half saw them rally slightly, but everyone's second favourite team was well in control by then.

South Africa v Scotland

For the first time in a while, South Africa did what they do well. They had their big men run hard lines and simply battered down the door of the Scottish defence. With Fourie Du Preez running the show behind a monstrous pack, he had the luxury of picking the runners and unleashing them when he saw fit.

Scotland did not threaten as they might have done with key players Finn Russell and Mark Bennett out of action, but it may have made little difference given the South African control. An improved second half performance, and 14 point swing with an intercept try wasn't enough to challenge the Springboks come the final whistle. The rest of the world will know that they are far from out of contention in this tournament with the likes of De Jager and Etzebeth on the prowl.

England v Australia

Objectively speaking, it was always very difficult to see England beating Australia on paper. That won't have made the shock any less visceral for the hosts' fans. Never before have England failed to make the knockout stages. Never has a host nation failed to get out of the group. There will be lamentation in abundance in the coming weeks and months, but here I shall keep it brief.

England lost the game in the areas one would expect. There was little intensity at the breakdown, and the Australian fetchers had a field day. There was no quick ball from the base. The scrum was second best both before and after the substitutions. And the execution of pressured skills was worse by a margin.

And with those factors, England are out of the World Cup.

Argentina v Tonga

The Pumas continued their run of hugely entertaining matches and the action rarely lulled in the game with Tonga. The game saw some incredible tries from both sides and plenty of punch-counter punch from two teams playing with intent. Argentina showed their class in their finishing, and kept the score board ticking over better than the Tongans.

Argentina will rue the fact they have already played New Zealand, as on form they might fancy their chances against the champions to top the group.

Ireland v Italy

In my preview article I predicted that Italy would be a tougher prospect than in the Six Nations due to the nature of the tournament not having the inhibiting pressure of the wooden spoon. But I was still surprised how close this one went.

The Italians didn't let up their rampant defence all game, and only a lack of accuracy and poor finishing cost them.

After the first try Ireland looked like they might kick on; the running lines were excellent and the timing of the backline on point. But they didn't protect their own ball at the breakdown well enough and with the Italian pressure the passes didn't all stick. The high balls were utilised all game but not as many were claimed cleanly by the Irish chase as Joe Schmidt will have hoped. To beat France they will need to be much more clinical.

There is only one more round to decide the final standings in the group stages. Some pools are predictable, others are not. In one week's time, however, the quarterfinals will be set. 

Rugby Union
Wales Rugby
England Rugby
Ireland Rugby
Scotland Rugby
Australia Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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