The Rugby World Cup is only one weekend old, but already there have been shock results, brilliant performances and some scintillating play.
With the tournament set to really kick into gear from September 23 on wards, now is the time to review what has happened so far and preview what is to come.
Hosts England kicked off proceedings on September 18 with a hard-fought victory over a tough Fiji side, and that encounter should stand them in good stead for the tougher Pool A assignments against Australia and Wales to come. The Welsh kicked off their own campaign with a regulation 54-9 win over Uruguay.
Tournament favourites New Zealand, who can be backed from 2.10 with some bookmakers, overcame what is set to be their toughest examination in Pool C with a 26-16 victory over Argentina. With matches against Georgia, Tonga and Namibia to come, the All Blacks should stroll through to the knockout phase and justify their position as pre-tournament favourites.
Shocks to the system
Saturday September 19 served up not one but two brilliant giant-killings which really brought the tournament to life. Early in the day, Georgia recorded only their third ever World Cup win with a tight 17-10 win over Tonga to spark wild celebrations amongst the players and the traveling Georgian contingent in the crowd.
And then, in perhaps the greatest shock in the tournament’s 20-year history, Japan defeated one of the favourites for the crown, South Africa, 34-32 in a pulsating clash that was decided by a last minute try from Karne Hesketh.
Elsewhere, there were rudimentary wins for France, Ireland and Samoa over Italy, Canada and the USA respectively.
Things are hotting up
And as attention turns to this week’s action, with Australia kicking off their campaign against Fiji and Scotland tackling a buoyant Japanese side. And then on September 24, New Zealand could run up a cricket score against Namibia, whilst the highlight of the weekend’s matches is sure to be England against Wales.
All of the excitement has had an interesting impact upon the bookmakers’ odds. South Africa have lengthened to as long as 11.00 – they should still waltz through Pool B despite defeat to Japan, so there’s value to be had there – whilst Ireland have shortened to 10.00 after their dominant 50-7 win over Canada.
By: Craig Simpkin