The pinnacle of world rugby has arrived in Japan, and no one is more excited than us girls here at UYWRUFC. While the matches are not at prime-time kick-off, they are breakfast and brunch time and we’ve made our schedules fit around the games. Rugby has been embraced by the host nation, Japan and the prospect of going somewhere new like Asia excites fans from all over the world. If anything, I think that the policy of taking the tournament to new territory to try and break new ground for the sport will be repeated again with the tournament maybe breaking ground in North and South America in the not so distant future.
With the first couple rounds of group games now finished, we’ve a better understanding of where each of the teams are at. New Zealand are still predicted to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on November 2nd, despite coming into the tournament with their perfect record slightly tarnished. Their performance against South Africa, while a little rough round the edges, still retained that same clinical brilliance the world has come to expect of the All Blacks. However, South Africa can’t be dismissed as potential World Cup winners, providing glimmers of excellence and fighting back through a Pieter-Steph du Toit try seven minutes after the half time break.
As for the home nations, Wales produced a standout game in the opening rounds against Georgia with Jonathan Williams scoring the first try off a Wales scrum inside the Georgian 22 after only 2 minutes. George North’s try in the last 5 minutes followed by Halfpenny’s conversion topped off a fine performance for Wales. However, the real test for Wales was the game against Australia. A nail bitting game to watch for all, Wales managed to just hold onto the win after Australia came back fighting after their poor first half performance against the men in red. England also performed well against Tonga and the USA, with standout performances from centre Manu Tuilagi and lock Maro Itoje. With Tuilagi’s two tries against Tonga, he has demonstrated his bludgeoning power from his first try at close range, but also his canny game intelligence running a superb supporting line for his second.
Ireland have been the most surprising of the home nations so far. Their ability to dispatch Scotland so convincingly had started to restore faith among fans after a disappointing 6 nations campaign and the worst defeat to England during the World Cup warm up games. However, their defeat to Japan in their second pool match begs the question of how Joe Schmidt is going to get his Ireland team back on its winning streak. Scotland on the other hand, currently look a very, very average side after their lacklustre performance against Ireland. With injuries for Hamish Watson and Ali Price now ruling them out of the World cup, Scotland will need to find a way to improve on their performance without two of their key players if they are even going to reach the quarter finals.
Over the next 6 weeks players to watch include All Blacks Richie Mo'unga. He may only have made five starts for the All Blacks, but his superb individual skills, great vision and better kicking stats than team-mate Beauden Barrett has made him a key player for Steve Hansen's All Black side. Don’t forget Henry Slade, at 26 he has emerged as England’s midfield butterfly, floating, fluttering and driving opponents crazy. A staunch tackler, the Exeter centre is both strong in defence and an attacking jewel, displaying the passing, offloading and kicking acumen that initially earned him acclaim as an U20 World Cup-winning stand-out. His dozen clean breaks in this year’s Six Nations was unsurpassed. Lastly, Asrgentina’s Emiliano Boffelli. A regular at full-back for the Puma’s, opponents will be wary of his ability with ball in hand, as well as his accuracy off the kicking tee from long distance.
This years World Cup has already given us many stand out moments in Rugby history and with just over 4 weeks left of the tournament we can expect many more to come. If you want to know how your favourite team can win the World Cup you can try predicting the winners on the official World Cup website, at https://www.rugbyworldcup.com/bracket. Hope you’re all enjoying watching the games and if you've been inspired by the Japan World Cup, come along to our Give it a Go sessions and see what Rugby is all about.