With Argentina taking the All Blacks all the way on Sunday evening, it is fair to say that the 2015 World Cup has most definitely lived up to the high expectations. Fittingly, Japan will take the plaudits for their remarkable win against a shell-shocked Springbok outfit on this first weekend.
The Wallabies, Namibia and Scotland are the only teams still kicking their heels as the drama unfolds. Australia would have taken useful note of Wales and England`s performances before they go into battle on Wednesday.
It would be easy to say that England fluffed their opening lines against Fiji but Billy Vunipola`s try in the last minute might just be crucial for the proposed three favorites of the group. Fiji came into this tournament in good form and as long as they can take the momentum from the England game, they will definitely give the Wallabies and Wales a tussle. A bonus point is by no means a guarantee for either side nor is a loss to the Pacific Islanders acceptable should their other performances slip (look no further than South Africa!).
Australia would have noted England`s continued struggles in the pack, a worrying weakness that can be exploited by a Ledesma tutored Wallaby front five. That said, England still managed a four-try bonus win without playing well.
A thrilling opening ceremony – culminating in Prince Harry, a big rugby fan, delivering an inspiring opening speech – set the stage perfectly for England to blast out of the blocks and make a statement. England did not exactly fluff their lines but there is much work to do for the hosts if they are to progress from the group.
The Welsh continue to be belittled by injuries and they had their problems dealing with a spirited Uruguayan team who never gave up, even as they suffered altitude sickness, following a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. On paper, Wales should have put at least another 10 points on the South Americans. How important will that be come the final make up of the group?
Without doubt the talk of the opening weekend was the jaw-dropping performance of the Japanese in toppling the once mighty Springboks. Heyneke Meyer and his cohorts were under enough pressure going into the tournament; an ageing squad reliant on veterans who have struggled to match the ever-demanding pace of the international game. Never in their wildest dreams though did they expect to be ambushed by Eddie Jones and his team of heroic Blossoms. Japan deserved it as well; they were the better team and beat South Africa at their own game. The first try via a perfectly executed rolling maul, a particularly bitter pill for the much-vaunted Springbok pack to swallow.
The impact Japan’s win, a supposed minnow stamping their identity against the more renowned nations, could be huge. The Wallabies will now know that they can underestimate no one and Fiji remains a tricky fixture for them on Wednesday. Australia should take great heart from the fact that only France has looked impressive out of the serious challengers so far. Early days, but the Wallabies have a great opportunity to deliver a quality performance and put immediate pressure on Wales and England.
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