Well, it certainly has been one heck of a roller-coaster ride so far!
The pool stage of the RWC2015 has been sensational, and has been full of drama and controversy. The 40 matches have been a delight to experience, with the Tier 2 performances promising to be the tournament’s greatest legacy. Rewind back to week 1, where the rugby world axis was irrevocably reversed by the Brave Blossoms of Japan, as the mighty Springbox were left dismayed, confounded, and broken. But it was more than just a fluke defeat, it was a statement: That to underestimate these emerging rugby nations was arrogant folly, with Japan’s performance inspiring other nations such as Georgia and Namibia to reach beyond what was ever expected of them against the sport’s superpowers. England 2015 is promising to be one of the most contested tournaments of all time, but Japan’s failure to reach the knock-out stage, despite their winning of three group matches, is a real disappointment.
We are, instead, left with eight “usual suspects” (although England is conspicuously absent), with New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all progressing to the Quarter Finals this coming weekend.
Final pool standings
The only pool that has not ended up with the predicable top-two teams, is Pool A. The affectionately named “Group of Death” saw doomed hosts, England, exiting the tournament early, with Australia and Wales each securing a Quarter Final opportunity. Pool B, after a shaky start, came to some form of equilibrium, as South Africa and Scotland progress, with Pool C seeing both New Zealand and Argentina progress comfortably. Pool D was also fairly predicable, with only the final game between France and Ireland causing any real difficulty in the final placement of the teams.Many state that is critical that a Northern Hemisphere team lift the trophy on Halloween, but with the injuries, retirements and suspensions hitting these sides particularly hard, the prospect of Europe etching its way onto the Webb Ellis cup is increasingly unlikely.
But hey! This has been THE tournament for upsets, and may let that trend continue into the weekend. indeed, there must be some apprehension within the All Black camp, as they face (or at least hope to avoid) a genuine groundhog day moment on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium. It was in 2007, you will recall, that the tournament favourites were dishonourably discharged from the competition at the hands of the French masters back in 2007. It must, therefore, have come as a relief to find that Allez les bleus will on Saturday be Allez les rouge, and Nigel Owens is stepping into the shoes of Stuart Barnes!
Quarter Final Schedule
The weekend will be quiet as compared to the chaos of the past month’s scheduling, but the stakes are that much higher. It is at the knock-out stages where a different sort of rugby is usually played, and this is where the pressure really does separate the great teams and those that are just super awesome teams!
Saturday – #RSAvWAL – 4pm Twickenham
Saturday – #NZLvFRA – 8pm Millennium Stadium
Sunday – #IREvARG – 1pm Millennium Stadium
Sunday – #AUSvSCO – 4pm Twickenham
For those of us not fortunate enough to have tickets to the games, tune in to ITV for another Whopping Weekend of rugby!