Always destined for greatness, days one, two and three in Japan were the magic number that brought nervy hosts, booming tackles and big implications. Here’s our hot takes after Sunday’s action.
Ireland are back
Plenty of questions have been asked of Ireland in 2019 but after a comprehensive 27-3 victory over main pool rivals Scotland, a fair amount of them have been answered.
Joe Schmidt will not be wandering around after this World Cup shouting “I coulda been a contender” – Ireland are contenders, for the World Cup trophy.
Yes the All Blacks didn’t show many weaknesses against the Springboks but on Sunday’s form the feeling is that Ireland could mix it with them as they did, more than did, in 2018.
On the game, Scotland were never really in it, with forward power the difference as James Ryan, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong all bashed their way over, Andrew Conway adding a touch of sparkle in the second half.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) September 22, 2019
Scotland prepare for All Blacks
Back to New Zealand, and of course there is much pool rugby still to be played but barring any upsets Gregor Townsend’s Scotland will likely face the All Blacks in the quarter-finals.
Improvements will be needed quickly, before facing Samoa on Monday 30th September.
Very little worked against Ireland, with Hamish Watson suffering an ominous-looking injury, Finn Russell’s attacks not coming off but most crucially that inability to deal with the tight-game.
The Scottish setup will of course be analysing pool opponents first but New Zealand – a team they’ve never beaten (two draws in 1964 and 1983) – will be at the back of the mind. Townsend’s men did come close at BT Murrayfield in 2017, going down 22-17, they must find that kind of performance once more.
Ruzza shines in Azzurri seventh heaven
Conor O’Shea’s Italy, largely formed by players from Benetton Rugby and Zebre, got their World Cup campaign off to a slightly stuttering but broadly impressive start – a 47-22 win over Namibia in Hanazono.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) September 22, 2019
Scores came via a penalty try, Tommaso Allan and Tito Tebaldi in the first half and Edoardo Padovani, Carlo Canna, Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi in the second.
They could have had more but for the odd final pass, but it’s job done with one eye on the hot-on-the-heels clash with Canada on Thursday.
A word on two forwards. Sergio Parisse deserves plenty of plaudits after featuring in his fifth World Cup – quite astoundingly the big man was doing the international business way back when Jonny Wilkinson kicked his never-forgotten drop goal.
Many of the plaudits in the Namibia game go to Benetton’s Federico Ruzza – the 25-year-old goes from strength to strength and produced offloads, hard yards and crunching hits in a wonderful performance.