sexta-feira, novembro 01, 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019: Wrap-up (Prior to the Final)


Japan vs. Russia (30-10) - WATCHED


Japan looked great ball in hand, the offload for the first try was sublime. Comically bad at gathering the high ball and pretty poor at tactical kicking. Shaky start by Japan, there. I guess nerves in front of the massive home crowd got to them, but they are going to have to be much, much better for the rest of their games. Also, they need to spend the entire week practicing how to catch high balls, because Ireland will absolutely take them apart like that. Hard to imagine Japan troubling a tier 1 nation; indeed I think Samoa would have put five or six tries through them today. But they may have been nervous. Some lovely back of the hand offloading as well. Good game.


AB vs. SA (23-13) - WATCHED



I thought South Africa were quite poor. The box kicking from de Klerk was off the mark all day. Tactics were wrong, and very 1 dimensional. With 3 giants in the pack, surely you kick the ball into touch more often and contest the opponents line-out? That they did or didn't recieve a yellow card made little difference. They still conceded 14 points in the following 10-12 minute period. Willie le Roux just has to be dropped to the bench. Poor decision making, and useless under the high ball. His tackling looks like he is playing scared ... almost touch rugby. To not play Frans Steyn at FB is a joke. Miles better than WIllie le Roux! Perhaps the Boks have to move Kolbe into outside center once in a while, and get him more into the game. They have a twinkle toes there, who will create line breaks and openings. Hopefully they won't see Jerome Garces against. He had a stinker of a performance (for both sides), with idiotic decisions, scrum infringements, no understanding of the offside rule, and general inconsistency. Just hard (for both teams) to play to the rules, if they are not applied correctly/consistently. The ABs weren't at the races on the first 20 minutes – numerous passes going into empty space rather than to a team-mate, and a complete lack of cohesion. They came away from that spell only 3 points down because while the SAs were great in defence they were bereft of ideas in attack. Mo'unga's tackle on Colbe may not have been a match-winner, but it was a match-saver. But Barrett was magnificent, and the ABs had a brilliant spell when they scored their two tries. No doubt the ABs deserved to win, and they may well improve as the tournament goes on, but I suspect Hansen was feeling jumpy in the first and final quarters of the game – not that he'd ever let it show. I don't see SA being enough of a threat, ball in hand, except through Colbe, to make the final; they didn't look as if they had much ore to give. But that was to be expected. Because the Boks used the rush defense, which is not sustainable long term. Its a great way to suppress another team, and a fantastic tactic assuming that rugby games are 30 minutes long. The AB's won because games are 80.


Italia vs. Namibia (47-22) - NOT WATCHED


Couldn't watch the game. Still recovering from last night's all-nighter to see the opening games from Friday to 

Saturday...


Aus vs. Fiji (39-21) - WATCHED


This game played out almost exactly how I would have predicted beforehand, but was nonetheless exciting for it. Fiji fantastic in spells but ultimately without the discipline and nous of Australia. There were times in the first half where Fiji, as they can, looked terrifyingly unplayable. They unfortunately could do nothing second half and Australia came back into the game really impressively. Pocock and Hooper were immense. Seeing Fiji and the other Pacific island nations  being competitive is what I most look forward to in a rugby World Cup. The commentary in this game on ITV was appalling. Not even a comment at the time about the clear no arms tackle by Hodge and apparently Fiji and Australia were “probably one of the best in the world” at any particular skill set they might happen to execute at that time. Brian Moore, Eddie Butler and Jonathan Davies, all is forgiven. Fiji gave it a good go, but they were never going to win with such a weak scrum and being unable to stop the rolling maul. They also gave it all in the first half then ran out of steam. Kinda how I expected it to go. Australia have been mighty lucky here though. I spotted that Hodge jumping shoulder tackle live, and I am amazed it was missed and we did not go to the TMO. It was also with Fiji on a dangerous attack. A red is not too much for that. With Australia down to 14, I do not think they would have won so convincingly.


France vs. Argentina (23-21) - WATCHED



Argentina could have won the game, in the last minute, if they had converted a penalty! Argentina did not play in the first half!


Ireland vs Scotland (27-3) - WATCHED


Three good things I saw from Ireland:
1) they pulverised the Scottish forwards, bringing back some of the confidence they lost earlier this year
2) They didn’t concede a try to a team that ripped England to shreds in their most recent 6N game
3) Game management in the last 20mins was superb - even with all the changes.

Not convinced it’s enough to keep the Boks awake at night, but it’s a shiteload better than where we were about a month ago.

Ireland were absolutely outstanding in that game. It is rugby union rather than rugby league where the best forward pack tends to win the game. Ireland destroyed Scotland in the tight 5 and the game was over after 20 minutes. It is not unlucky for Scotland that they don’t have a decent pack. It is a key part of the game and to turn up at a RWC without one leaves you staring at defeats like the one today against the top team in the completion. Everyone seems to think that Scotland just fling the ball about, but there was a stat today showing that Scotland kicked more than anyone else in the first round of games, closely followed by NZ. It's not this crazy free-styling all out attack that pundits claim, it's just played wider because, and here is the fundamental problem, we can't make yards up  front. So all this talk of changing the game plan, it's a load of rubbish. The Scots have no option but to play to the strengths of Russell and Hogg, as they haven't got any massive ball-carrying forwards to bring into the team.  Maybe due to the threats or Russell and Hogg Ireland just pinpointed them for blitzing. Hogg in particular received the ball and man at the same time on a few occasions. So while I agree Scotland will get nowhere trying to play a muscle game they probably need to go all out on a 'shit or bust' strategy and add more attacking threats to the back line (like starting Price and Graham). Compared with the three matches on Saturday morning; Scotland's performance was utterly poor, and they should ashamed for how they played; and yes that is harsh.

England vs Tonga (35-3) - WATCHED


Simplistically, bonus point - move on. But its highly unlikely that Jones will be so simple. 4 years ago, bonus point Fiji - move on. England were good in parts but were worryingly ill disciplined and Youngs looked like he had jet lag. The basics were shite too. There is a lot to work on. That performance had the hallmarks of the lackadaisical Lancaster early showings 4 years ago. Penalty count and handling errors were at an unacceptable level. Plus point, Youngs' kicking was a lot more accurate than recent games. But his work around the base was poor. When Vunipola got smashed in the first half, the ball was available and should have been played immediately - Young dithered, they smashed the ruck, Young panicked and shovelled on shit. A few plays later, down their end, Youngs dither, the ball squirts out, instead of playing the ball he throws his arms out like a footballer. 9 is a vital position. If you look at what Murray did today at 9 and Youngs and there is a massive gulf in class. He plays like he has no competition for his place. Oh...In the end, Tonga could not match England's superior fitness, but there is still a load of room for improvement. Tonga came to show that they were not pushovers and they really made England work hard for that fourth try for the bonus point. Ford-Farrell kicking game worked well today in terms of exploiting space. Not sure you'd employ the same strategy against, say, France, later in the pool stage, since they will diffuse the bombs and launch effective counters. It was not particularly the kind of show of force that would strike the fear of god into potential quarter final  opponents. Hopefully, England have enough reserve in the tank to overcome the other group opponents without any problems.

NB: After the opening weekend, I've seen nothing to challenge the pre-competition betting. Anyone of the 5 from the Northern Hemisphere can realistically go far in the RWC2019, based on three good matches starting in the Quarters. The group matches aren't much more than run-outs with only a couple of QF berths to be decided. Still, loving watching it all.

Wales vs. Georgia (43-14) - WATCHED


Great first half. Worrying they couldn’t score when Georgia were down to 14 players and that they drew the second half.  They’ll need to be a bit sharper all round against Australia if they want to top their pool.  One of Wales weaknesses at the last World Cup was an inability to make it count against a team who were down to 14 men (13 for a bit). Slightly disappointing that they seem to still struggle.


Russia vs. Samoa (9-34) - WATCHED



In the first half, Russia with two men up couldn't finish the game...6-5 at half-time! It could have been a bigger difference. Had Samoa properly been down to 13 they wouldn’t have scored that first try and the incident wouldn’t have occurred imo. Not often you see this phrase, but Russia scored a moral victory today, even if Samoa got the points. Russia again with lots of tackles missed. Only 3 days rest for the Russians before this game...In order to win the RWC, potent back lines are required to unlock good defences in the knockout stages. Running up huge scores against much inferior opposition does not get you any closer to the holy grail than just doing what is necessary to secure a win and a bonus point. None of these teams have it. The Northern Hemisphere teams default play is to kick for position. The ABs tend to kick for possession. Russia in the second half was slaughtered as they did in the second half against Japan...The Russian fullback Artemyev's head, could be used as some form of protective bunker. How he soldiered on after those hits, I’ll never know?! 

Love the fullback's mustache!: Go Vasily Artemyev! 

Samoa were garbage today. Scotland weren’t good, but they were playing a very clinical Ireland team. Russia were exhausted from not being given many days to rest, when already probably lacking in fitness.


Uruguai vs. Fiji (30-27) - WATCHED



24-17 at the end of the first half for Uruguay! This is a bigger shock than Japan beating the Springboks in RWC2015! I had a meeting at Pestana at 09:30 and at 08:00 (the game started at 6 06:15 and I ha a good it'd be a good game which it was). I was still at home watching the game...
Absolutely fantastic by Uruguay, huge commitment by the whole team and they had great self belief. They scrambled for every scrap and scrapped for every scramble, and really rattled the Fijians. Thoroughly deserved win in a very exciting contest. how a tiny country, with a population of just 3.4 million, could have won 15 Copa America, two World Cups, two Olympic titles (the smallest country to ever win Olympic gold in a team sport - and Uruguay did it not once, but twice), reached five World Cup semi-finals... and produced this never-ending conveyor belt of tough, talented, exceptional footballers. And Rugby! The spirit and romance of the game it's all there. If you want mauls, pick and go then watch Ireland, Aus, SA, NZ, etc., etc...Wonderful result and performance by Los Teros. A team with great passion and not insignificant rugby skills. The setting for this upset is also beautiful. The stadium was purpose-built for this tournament and is in tsunami-hit territory apparently. An altogether delightful event - unless you're Fijian! If Uruguay can beat Georgia they will have a chance of finishing 3rd in the pool and will automatically qualify for WC 2023. Absolutely LOVED that. Uruguay are a semi-amateur team, and I felt like they played like one...in the best possible way.  Just buzzing around everywhere - missing nearly 50 tackles but making up for it by literally throwing running bodies at everything that moved. Ruck technique a little suspect but effective in slowing the ball just through putting their heads into unsavoury places. Whenever they got the ball, just looking to have fun with it, throw it outside and have a run. And just playing with that pure heart that can only come from playing for the unadulterated love of the game and your country, rather than because its your job. Not gonna lie, I was tearing up at the Uruguayan captains speech at the end. Such emotion, and eloquence. And amidst all of it ending with a shout out to the city and all its been through. Pure class.



Italy vs Canada (48-7) - WATCHED



Portugal is ranked 21. Canada 22. What happened to the Wolfs? Back in late 80s/90s, Canadians were at least competitive and arguably one of the strongest Tier 2 nations. Not now.


England vs. USA (45-7) - WATCHED



Two rolling maul tries (my teacher at the British Council called them "push-over tries") in the first half for England (19-0). USA is crap...George Ford again at fly-half as in the first game. Bu this time, due to Farrell's absence (load management; Farrell was centre in the first game, but did all the conversions), he's the one doing the conversions. The props Joe Marler (tight) and Dan Cole (loose) were devastating in the dark arts of scrumming...Cole and Marler for me set the tone for this English win. Their dominance in the scrum just sapped the energy from the USA forwards and England could play on the front foot for virtually the whole of the game. I was watching the game on NBC and the American commentators (Alex Corbisiero and Dan Lyle) were laugh out funny as if USA had a chance in hell of winning this game, eve with an England's second team...More composure from England this time. They quickly identified that the conditions for passing rugby were not there and  relied on set piece to break through. Don't know what to make of the handling errors. Obviously, very greasy there but at the same a lot of the errors stem from poor passing. England need Ford/Farrell at 10/12 to function. But I suppose its pointless drawing any conclusions at this stage. Neither Tonga or the US were up to much. England looked disjointed but you have to take into account conditions, selections and the fact that they may be holding back. 

Argentina will be the first real test.

28.09.2019 - Arg vs. Tonga (28-12): WATCHED



Tonga can start packing. Football is easy to understand, its fans think knowing "the offside rule" is a feat of genius. Rugby is not as easy to pick up...


28.09.2019 - Japan vs. Ireland (19-12): WATCHED



What a game from Japan! What a game from the fly-half Tamura! Japan very sharp at the breakdown and their handling and running lines were just brilliant. The speed and accuracy of their handling and breakdown work was superb. Talk about getting fast ball! And with the defensive discipline made it almost a complete performance. On that form they would give most tier 1 sides a real run for their money. Is this a bigger upset than Japan beating SA? I think it is. Ireland, the No1 side heading in to the WC, would not have underestimated Japan so no surprise factor. Ireland didn't score a point after the 21st minute and were outplayed completely in the second half. Ireland seemed befuddled by the Japan tactic of kicking long to keep them pinned in their own 22, winning the turnover, then the Japan forwards hammering away at them in wave after wave of ferocious attacks. The Ireland defense appeared clueless most of the time. Japan played rugby, lots of rugby at great pace and with great skill and commitment. Hardly any box kicks. Ireland looked stolid and unimaginative and looked like a bunch of lumbering lunkheads...So sick of watching Ireland make two passes through the backs and then the back in possession running back into the ruck/forwards. Maybe it is borne of a realisation they are not capable of creating any danger in the backs other than maybe kick chase. Their handling and passing skills must be the lowest of a Tier 1 nation. Their forwards are generally good. Their backs are at best toothless.

28.09.2019 - RSA vs. Namibia (57-3): WATCHED


Namibia is crap. Namibia doesn't even have professional players. They play lower level rugby in South Africa. Stopped watching in the first half, not a lot of joy in a game like that. Enough said!


29.09.2019 - Georgia vs. Uruguay (33-7) - WATCHED


Gorgadze is back! Uruguay was dead tired...


29.09.2019 - Wales vs. Wallabies (29-25) - WATCHED



Biggar vs. Foley-without-the-moustache (To'omua made such a difference when he came on, can't believe he didn't start). Wales started with a Biggar's drop goal! The Wallabies need another goose-step man (Campese)...Technically the best game so far. Great game of rugby. One thing I would say is the amount of offsides in this world Cup that are going unpunished is ridiculous. Everytime the ball reaches the backs the opposition is on them almost before they've caught it. Its been happening in nearly every game. Not that this would affect the aussie team as I'm fairly sure their inside centre is  incapable of passing the ball. Wales went through 6-7 years where they lost to Aus by 1-5 points, usually in the last ten minutes. The last two matches have been a big break with what had come to seem the norm. Hooper should have had a yellow card for deliberately lining up Biggar with his shoulder and whilst Kerevi was a tad unlucky, you can't lead forcefully with your forearm. Great sportsmanship by him to shake Patchell's hand. Cheika wants to go back to 2015, select the same team and hope for the same results. Why on earth is he switching back to Foley after 3 years of mediocrity? MOM for me was Patchell (substituted Biggar with concussion); from his off-the-bootlaces first touch pick up, though the in-off 48m penalty and the drop goal under all sorts of pressure. I don't know if the pictures are the same all over the world, but from the images we get in NZ there is no way that a TV viewer can sensibly opine on whether Davies was offside before taking the interception. At 37:23, when Genia has his hands on the ball, the shot is a tight angle, with only the ruck and the Welsh 6&7 in the frame. At 37:24, the shot switches to a wide angle and Davies is a meter and a half in front of the rest of the Welsh line, running full tilt. Where he came from ie whether behind the last feet or not is simply unable to be determined. Early in the second half, he went for another intercept but shelled it. In that play, he clearly came from an onside position. He is and always has been freakishly good at anticipating these opportunities.

30-09-2019 - Scotland vs. Samoa (34-0) - NOT WATCHED



02-09-2019 - France vs. USA (33-9) - WATCHED



Ramos can't hold onto the ball, Huget and Medard are always likely to make stupid errors, and the only player of mention is Lopez, who was really good, and would have been far better still if he was allowed a more attacking role. The French tend to be a different team from week to week, sometimes its all about the scrum, others the backs! Their bench saved them, but even then it wasn't all that convincing. When they discover a consistent approach across the whole team they may be a force to be reckoned with - 2023 maybe?!And the collapsing scrums all the time?? I mean the rest of the team can get on with the game, the front rows will sort it out amongst themselves. For front rows the biggest issue in rugby at the moment is that too much rugby is taking up precious scrumming time!

NB: Any All Black who 'eased off' the opposition would not remain an All Black for much longer. Every AB player is competing against challengers for their places of equal talent, as much as against opponents. That is why they're so insanely good - and why no team, howsoever ranked, is immune from a fifty-point stuffing on their day. I speak as a 

Portuguese-that-Once-Upon-a-Time-Played-the-Game fan...

02-09-2019 - AB vs. Canada (63-0) - WATCHED



In rugby every team wants to play the ABs. Canada were outclassed but played with a lot of heart. I'm sure the Canadian players will have given it their very best shot and played to their potential. Knowing they were certain to lose it took some fortitude and collective will to face that expected defeat and yet give their all. And I would imagine having some of the ABs coming at you full tilt is far from a trivial thing. As with other things in life, it is also well-known that a thorough thrashing in Rugby builds fortitude and resilience...


03-10-2019 - Fiji vs. Georgia (45-10) - WATCHED



This whole "Georgia in the 6N" thing is such a tedious debate. Italy is much better. Today proved that Georgia are a long way from even being the best tier 2 nation.


03-09-2019 - Ireland vs. Russia (35-0) - WATCHED


Good game to illustrate that a divergent scoreline doesn't necessarily tell you everything about the quality of the play. The Russian defence held their ground, and held back Ireland. Ireland couldn't score a try for 60 minutes of the match. This was as poor a 35-0 win as I've seen. Russia knew how to defend against Ireland and how to steal the ball at the breakdown. The first 20 mins of the second half were abject.



Boks vs. Italy (49-3) - WATCHED



I think the uncontested rucks actually benefitted italy. No penalties from collapsing the scrum and south Africa had been pushing italy around at the scrum. That was a bruising defeat for the Italians. It was already tough luck losing two props to injury so early in the game. And then they conjure up a crass act of stupidity in the second half that led to the loss of a third prop, decimating them even further. To make matters worse for them, their final pool match will be against the formidable All Blacks. The Italians will be trying to forget this RWC as fast as they can. The Boks are a veritable lean, mean, brutally efficient machine. A juggernaut, if you will. Their imposing green wall of  defense is impenetrable. Their power runners are unstoppable. Their rolling maul is a thing of beauty. Cheslin Kolbe is a diminutive, harmless-looking, try-making beast. Did we just watch the team that will eventually hoist the Webb Ellis Cup?

05-10-2019 - Aus vs. Uruguay (45-10) - NOT WATCHED



05-10-2019 - England vs. Argentina (39-10) - WATCHED



I know that England is holding back. All Blacks in 2015 RWC in pool play were scratchy, but improved in the finals. Sometimes teams bring you to their level, not being disrespectful to Argentina. England are building, and I would not read too much into this game. Even against 14 men, England were lumbering and predictable at times. Maybe the fans lauding their "get it done any way you can" mentality should be more concerned at the lack of genuine flair and invention in their side. Vunipola seems off his game - heist making the yards he did- even though he isn't being that heavily 
targeted. Hope his ankle is OK. Farrell should have gone off after the hit- not just the kicking but his decision making was clearly affected- ye was hanging on to the ball a second longer than he would normally do and went into contact too often- this limited England's back play and made everything slow down unnecessarily. Was really looking forward to this game but it went downhill after that high tackle. Shame. At this level, if you're a coach, then you should be telling your players to aim much lower. I think it was a deliberate ploy to rattle Farrell, get him to lose his rag and maybe get binned himself. Not a ploy I applaud but if you are going to do it, don’t go head hunting. Because the result will always be a red. Sure, niggle Farrell, push him a bit post whistle etc, even ask him about the last book he read! But getting a red yourself, dumb behaviour.


05-10-2019 - Japan vs. Samoa (38-19) - WATCHED


Bloody hell Samoa! Bloody, bloody hell! Robert Louis Stevenson is a national hero in Samoa. Could you not have done the land of his birth a favour by booting the ball out instead of trying to win a scrum and running in a try from 80 bloody metres! They handed Japan the BP.Slightly scrappy game are times, but Japan are looking like solid contenders. Keeping the pressure on, and securing the  bonus point could prove vital in the group. Simply securing a losing bonus point could now qualify them from the group. Saying that, you have to fancy them to win the game against scotland.


06-10-2019 - All Blacks vs. Namibia (71-9) - NOT WATCHED



06-10-2019 - France vs. Tonga (23-21) - NOT WATCHED



08-10-2019 - RSA vs. Canada (66-7) - NOT WATCHED



09-10-2019 - Argentina vs. USA ( ) - NOT WATCHED



On attack USA got over the gain line with a charge from the massive Lasike, then get quick ball to the big forwards around the fringes. They then either drop the ball in the backs or deliver an aimless kick to the opposition strike runners. Defensively Argentina worked out the USA 'blitz' defence with inside passes and moving it wide quickly.

09-10-2019 - Scotland vs. Russia (61-10) - WATCHED


You can only beat what's in front of you, and in the past we've seen stodgy Scotland performances against supposed minnows. This was sharp and professional. A few handling errors and daft forward passes aside; Scotland did everything that was asked of them. Unfortunately Russia was shite. Poor Russia ran out of steam, too many big all-out previous games.



09-10-2019 - Wales vs. Fiji (29-17) - WATCHED



Lots of mistackles from Wales. With so many errors I don't believe they can be real contenders to the title.


11-10-2019 - Australia vs. Georgia (27-08) - NOT WATCHED



12-10-2019 - AB vs. Italy (Cancelled - Hagibis)


12-10-2019 - France vs. England (Cancelled - Hagibis)


It's not the World Cup anymore, it's the "what if" tournament. AB vs. Italy wouldn't change the outcome of the group rankings, because it's unlikely that Italy would have beaten New Zealand but we'll never know. And if France had beaten England, the quarter finals would look very different, but we'll never know. And of course Scotland and Japan tomorrow. Ireland could win the group or come second depending on the result of Japan vs Scotland. And of course Scotland could go home not knowing if they could have reached the quarter finals. So, I'm not as interested as I was. I hope the "What If" tournament keeps everyone as interested as a World Cup tournament would have done.

12-10-2019 - Ireland vs. Samoa (47-5) - NOT WATCHED


13-10-2019 - USA vs. Tonga (31-19) - NOT WATCHED


13-10-2019 - Wales vs. Uruguay (35-13) - WATCHED


As expected with 13 changes and 2 days prep time Wales were disjointed inaccurate and lethargic. Uruguay, however, were as they have been in the other games. Tenacious, opportunist and very nippy. Give them time and money and they could push to join the likes of Fiji and Georgia as a team the big boys really want to avoid.


13-10-2019 - Japan vs. Scotland (28-21) - WATCHED


Wow, what a game! Outstanding game; possibly the game of the tournament so far. Japan were excellent and Scotland upped their game magnificently to almost - so close at the end - almost match them. I was hoarse and knackered at the end of that game just by watching it - both sets of players looked out on their feet at the end. The growing calls for the Tier 1 nations to be reassessed will only grow after that performance. A coldly realistic look at the situation over the past 23 years will show only England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia deserve the honour of the title. The commentator on ITV got it spot on when he said it was just like watching the Barbarians. Can they beat the Saafas? Japan beat the Boks in 2015 in the exact same manner as the beat the Irish and the Scots. Quick heals from scrums - small fast aggressive backs that Kolbe Cheslin like out exhaust their much bigger opponents. Tier 1 rugby is all about big 15“ flanker type“ players and the Springboks, Ireland, and Scotland have been completely out maneuvered by a 1980 styled team lead by a coach “from that time“. Tier 1 rugby needs to revert to fast small backs who can play 80 minutes at the  expense of huge backs who after 50 minutes are exhausted. Can't wait for the quarter-finals!

Quarter-Finals:

19-10-2019 - England vs. Wallabies (40-16) - WATCHED


Who's the idiot who decided the Wobblies shouldn't clear the ball from their 22? It's not just possession by England; it's field position, and the the last try sums it up, the Wallabies trying too much from within their own 22. Idiotic. Can't remember a worse Australian team. Woeful game management, loads of silly mistakes and some of the worst decision making i have seen at this level. How many times did they have to do that short restart before they realised it gave England the ball near the half way line every single? They were actually the better team in the opening 15 but found  themselves well down purely on silliness. For the Wallabies, there are a lot of players who simply are not up to international standard any more. No Campeses, no Lynaghs. I really fear for the game in Australia. A shame to see a player like Koroibete to go out: the pace, power and the angles of his runs were incredible. What's the basic problem with Australia? No-one plays Union in Australia anymore...Sinckler’s try summed it up for me. Set up, set up, set up, a small error in defense, two tacklers with three runners, and a stand off half who picked the right one. This is precision rugby at its best. And as no doubt many here will say, excellent tactical choices from Jones. Farrell was brilliant, but the win was nothing to do with him being preferred over Ford. It was the tactical package that won it, of which the player choice is a part but far from the whole. The England defence was tight as a drum and Owen Farrel rediscovering his kicking boots, which somehow became errant during the pool matches, was the best thing to happen since the beginning of time.

19-10-2019 - AB vs. Ireland (46-14) - WATCHED


NZ played fantastic rugby but Ireland were awful, most of it simple/basic stuff. Kicking away possession, not finding touch, no support for attacking player who then gets stripped or a penalty for holding on, centres coming too close to the passer and running into a gaggle of defenders, inane/pointless box kicks that again give away the ball, awful defending, think the Ireland winger was 15m out of position at one point. There were far too many errors by the Irish to even get a sniff. Owens did make a few too many errors that favoured NZ, not that that would change the result but they don't need a leg up! Their try under the posts in 2nd half was from an obvious forward pass, far too often NZ getting away with casual obstruction, there were at least two in the 2nd half that should have been blown when NZ players simply moved into the way of the tacklers and Owens utterly ignored it. Also NZ player clearly off his feet and Owens did nothing despite it being so obvious which resulted in pressure off NZ from an Irish attack. England will be a hugely different prospect but can't see NZ losing and on that performance can't see past them to lift the RUWC trophy.


20-10-2019 - Wales vs. France (20-19) - WATCHED


How did France find a way to lose this one? Apart from Vahaamahina's textbook brain freeze moment, they missed an easy penalty, a conversion, a drop goal and should have scored more points at the end of the 1st half! It's a real shame because they were totally dominant. Nevertheless, congratulations to Wales who scraped the win, which ultimately is the only thing that counts in a World Cup knockout rugby match. And they also managed to lose possession from 2 attacking scrims now on the Wales 5m line. If I was a French rugby supporter I would be apoplectic right now. Dreadful performance from Wales. Utterly devoid of ideas, second best at the contact and witless in game management. France once again find a way to not win though.

The Boks will win against Wales easily.

20-10-2019 - Springboks vs. Japan (26-3) - WATCHED


A great game. Unfortunately for Japan they just couldn't score in the first half, except for the penalty. The second half South Africa just turned the screw against a tiring opponent. Thank you Japan for playing rugby with such joy. It was fun while it lasted. South Africa held their players up in the tackle at every opportunity and went to the maul every chance they got. Japan simple weren't allowed to play their slick passing gaming. i'd add that Japan tired alot in the 2nd half, understandable as it must be punishing trying to play at the tempo they managed in the 1st half. Japan wasn’t recycling the ball anywhere near as quick in the second half allowing SA a lot of turnovers in the breakdown. The big difference, for me, in this game compared to the JAP v SCO game was that Japan couldn't convert their 1st half pressure into points because of the SA defence before they tired in the 2nd half. The Saffas' physicality was brutal.

Semis:


My prediction (I'll check this on the 2nd of November after the final):

All Blacks Champions. Boks Runners up. England 3rd. Wales 4th. Except the Boks might just win.


26-10-2019 - England vs. AB (19-7) - WATCHED


This shows once and for all the AB's game is not what it used to be. Have you seen how the AB play rugby nowadays? Their entire platform is based on breakdown shithousery! To say England's forwards were flawless and their defense brilliant sound like a hark back to the days England played dour, unimaginative rugby, but that would be the most incredible disservice to this brilliant English side. That was then, this is now. Yes they did win it with flawless forward play and brilliant defense but it was never leaden or boring but fast and engrossing. England played not just rugby to win, but  rugby to entertain and they did it brilliantly. Yes they won it in their fast and mobile forwards not their creative backline, but that's because this is where this contest would always be won...their backs can wait. Keep entertaining England (forwards or backs); it's what rugby is all about! Also have to give massive credit to Eddie Jones and the forwards coach for England's lineout today. The AB were obviously targeting it by starting with three locks but, apart from the try of course, it was rock solid. England must have gone through about 20 different variations on England's own throw and only got picked off twice. Fantastic stuff. That was an absolute collectors item. First time I’ve ever seen England out muscle the ABs and beat them for fitness. Still it was credit to them that I couldn’t relax until the last 5 minutes. Lawes plus Itoje and Underhill plus Curry is like playing with two 6s and two 7s and that showed at the  breakdown. When the AB broke England were able to kill the move before a try when any normal side would have been broken. ABs are at their most dangerous in broken play after oppo mistakes and England just gave them so little to play with.  Ford, Farrell and Manu were huge in defense. ABs thought Manu was a weakness out wide, he actually pulled off two fantastic tackles on the wing after drifting from his own man who he had covered. Mako and Billy both huge and Jamie George was immense. 



NB: England's players Joe Marler and Billy Vunipola strayed into the All Blacks' territory at the start of the haka and simply ignored the officials' pleas to get back on their side of halfway. It perhaps signified that the men in white wouldn't play by the normal rules at Yokohama Stadium.

27-10-2019 - Boks vs. Wales (19-16) - WATCHED


Wales, why on earth did you join in with South Africa's boring approach to the game? Kick, kick, kick it back to them. I've been enjoying the games up until now. Hope England use pace and skilful handling to win on Saturday. I honestly don’t think we will ever see a worse World Cup semi final. Wales stunk out the six nations and won a GS on the back of boring anti rugby. But this WC they have been worse. What an appalling game from both teams! Awful game of rugby, so bad I went for a walk second half... why waste a glorious morning watching that...? The kind of game to watch on teletext for those old enough... I’ve said throughout they are boring, negative and unimaginative and would get found out. They are flattered in the extreme in reaching a semi-final. But the Saffers are not much better in that respect...For more than ten years now everybody knows that to beat the Boks you have to run at them wide - is Gatland that stupid? A game that reminded me just why I stopped watching for a decade in the 80s. Kick kick kick. WTF!

01-11-2019 - AB vs Wales (40-17) - WATCHED


The game was very much as I expected. Gatland gave clearance for some untested players to have a go and get a bit of experience against the very best and in fairness they did reasonably well. England have shown how to beat the ABs and I think a full strength Wales at the Principality could get over the line against them and with their defense back in tact, which has gone badly missing at times during this rwc, but it was pure moonshine that was going to happen today for a Welsh b team, full of injuries playing loose, full of kids on a six day turnaround. They were always going to come off second best against a fired up NZ.

Sum-up:


Games Watched        = 35 (includes the final tomorrow) - 80%
Games Not Watched = 9                                                   - 20%
Games Cancelled      = 3
Games Total             = 47 (due to the 3 games cancelled, 44 games considered for statistics purposes) 

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