The opening weekend of the Rugby World Cup delivered all the fireworks you expect from a global tournament. The action will return on Wednesday after two days off and ANTOINETTE MULLER has picked seven talking points from the past weekend.
The first round of the Rugby World Cup is done and dusted. A few teams haven’t even played yet while a few others have already learned some painful lessons. Yes, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is anti-logic and Bok fans will be thanking their lucky stars that he will not be having to polish the Zimmer frames to get his players on the field with a turnaround as quick as Japan’s, but they are not the only teams to be playing at this World Cup.
Some of the teams many thought would be whipping boys have actually put on a decent show while the commentary has left much to be desired. Two rest days so early in the tournament show that maybe the organisers are anti-logic, too, because the scheduling looks completely cockeyed. We’ve picked seven lessons from the matches from the weekend gone by.
New Zealand will squeeze the life out of any team, even if they start slowly
There are two ways to look at New Zealand’s victory against Argentina. Those who see the glass as half full will say it showed that they can be tested and broken down. It showed that maybe when it comes to competitions like this they aren’t as tough as everyone thought they were. Those who see the glass as half empty will say New Zealand’s win underscores the fact they are indeed as strong as everyone thought they are. Players sent to the sin bin twice and after a shaky start, New Zealand ran Argentina ragged. They are fitter, tougher, smarter and some will say dirtier than any of the other teams on show.
But the All Blacks aren’t actually universally loved
Despite what people will try to get you to believe, the All Blacks aren’t exactly loved. And no, it’s not because of jealousy. When Richie McCaw was yellow carded against Argentina, the crowd gave him a right earful as boos ran out from around the stadium. McCaw said afterwards that he shrugged it off and that it was a “silly mistake”, but the All Blacks seem to be one of those “love to hate teams”. There is no doubt that they are an incredible side with a rugby dynasty many envy, but they certainly aren’t universally loved.
There is no danger in England actually going on to win the thing
Speaking of teams who aren’t universally loved, very few people have love for England. There’s an old saying that goes: anyone but England – when it comes to England playing in sports tournaments they invented. Before the start of the tournament, a few dared to whisper that the Roses might have a chance, but after their stuttering performance over the weekend, those who feared an English triumph might be a bit more at ease.
The schedule isn’t exactly fair on some of the teams
After Japan’s spectacular victory over South Africa, they have to play again on Wednesday. While a few other teams have a whole week to rest up, Japan will have had just three days to gear up for a completely refreshed Scotland. They then have a long gap of nine days before their next match, which doesn’t make the most sense. We don’t want to slag off World Rugby for having so many teams in the tournament (take note, International Cricket Council), but when you have five teams in a group it means somebody’s going to suffer and it’s almost always going to the be the little guys. Surely there is a better way to schedule these things? Here’s an idea: instead of four groups of five, why not have five groups of four? See how easy that was?
Ireland could give a few teams a run for their money
The pundits reckon Ireland’s 50-7 thumping of Canada flattered them as they looked uncomfortable when being forced to rely on improvisation. Ireland’s run towards the end of the Six Nations ended with somewhat of an anti-climax, but they should do better in the pressure cooker rounds when they can stick to a drilled approach.
Commentators still don’t take concussions seriously
It might have been nothing more than a throwaway comment, but during one of the weekend matches a commentator uttered the following words: He’s just going off for a concussion test, nothing serious. The problem is that concussion is serious. Far too often these days concussion is treated by commentators as a light issue and such comments, often made when talking for the sake of talking, only underscores the fact that they do not treat the issue nearly half as seriously as they should.
The US have a long way to go
Once upon a time, they were World Champions and they have invested thousands into their Sevens programme, but the USA still has a long way to go when it comes to XV man rugby. There’s no doubt that the sport is developing and will benefit massively from a pro-league (as Japan clearly has). But for now, the USA is nowhere near the top. DM
Photo: New Zealand players perform the Haka dance before the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool C match between New Zealand and Argentina at Wembley in London, Britain, 20 September 2015. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA.