Amid debates about the importance of winning warm-up games or even the Rugby Championship there was plenty of entertaining rugby played, and some useful indicators of form ahead of the global showpiece.
Conway shines as Ireland step on
It was ‘job done’ for Ireland at the weekend as they got their World Cup warm-ups off to a steady start with a five-try, 29-10 victory over Conor O’Shea’s Italy in Dublin.
It was a good run out for both sides and the Azzurri were fluent in the first half, flanker Maxime Mbanda crossing for the game’s first try on 12 minutes before Joey Carbery responded.
Mbanda’s Zebre teammate Carlo Canna got his side’s second but from there on in Ireland took over the scoreboard, with Dave Kearney, Andrew Conway, Jordi Murphy and Kieran Marmion in the tries.
There is injury concern over Carbery’s potential ankle injury but the major plus was the form of Conway, the flying wing looking in fine shape to battle with Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale for a spot in the starting XV and was particularly influential under the high ball.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) August 10, 2019
Welsh run ends in London
The meeting between England and Wales at Twickenham was like a playfight at times, with the teams not at full throttle for the duration but with occasional displays of strength and a bit of rumble-tumble.
Eddie Jones’ side prevailed 33-19 to end Wales’ 14-match winning run with tries for Billy Vunipola, Joe Cokanasiga and Luke Cowan-Dickie – Gareth Davies, George North and Wyn Jones responding.
Bearing in mind this looked to be Wales’ first team against an unfamiliar England there were questions asked if Warren Gatland’s men were too tired from camps in Cardiff and Switzerland, the Welsh looking breathless in breaks of play and off their usual intensity. Considering the team will be looking to peak more than a month from now, that will not be a huge concern for Gatland.
Hopefully Gareth Anscombe and Tom Curry’s injuries aren’t too serious, while Gatland will be pleased with Gareth Davies’ try, Jonathan Davies’ continued excellence and a great display from North – his try made of both initiative and a high work-rate.
Red card sparks All Blacks defeat
There was plenty of drama in the southern hemisphere where both the Springboks and Japan picked up silverware, but perhaps most attention was directed to Perth where Australia beat the All Blacks.
The Wallabies played a good first half and were leading 13-12 when Scott Barrett saw red for a dangerous tackle, Australia going on to record their highest-ever score against the All Blacks, 47-26.
Former Ulster fly-half Christian Lealiifano kicked 13 points in another little wobble ahead of the World Cup for New Zealand – no such thing for South Africa as they claimed a first Rugby Championship since 2009 with a 46-13 win in Argentina.
Japan once again played some fantastic rugby in their 34-20 victory over the USA that sealed the Pacific Nations Cup, but we end in the Mitre 10 Cup with a former Connacht player.
Looking forward to my mitre 10 debut tomorrow vs Taranaki! pic.twitter.com/cImoP7aftq
— Conán O Donnell (@ConanODonnell) August 9, 2019
Conan O’Donnell featured alongside Sonny Bill Williams for Counties Manukau, losing out 34-29 to Taranaki.
The 23-year-old prop from Sligo made five appearances for the Sunwolves in Super Rugby earlier in the summer, and began his Mitre 10 Cup life with a try in defeat.