Rugby World Cup lessons we learnt from the weekend

By Cornflake

It was an action packed weekend of rugby with many top sides putting in more final preparations for the Rugby World Cup. Two tournament hopefuls, Wales and Ireland went topped the list and we saw all the Island sides in action. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa all having runs. France and Scotland showed how dominant they can be against weaker opposition and we took a little look at some of the smaller sides as well.

Wales 17 – 22 Ireland

The Welsh week at the top of the World Rankings has abruptly come to an end after losing to a resurgent Irish side at Principality Stadium in Cardiff. The loss sees New Zealand take back top spot without lacing up a boot. Both sides depth was sorely tested which put us quickly to our first lesson. Injuries will happen at the Rugby World Cup and both these sides looked far from championship contenders. The lack of depth will be a concern to Wales who have already lost some key names in the build up to the tournament and are starting to look slim in some areas. But let’s be honest, which top side wouldn’t drop off without a few key names? Ireland will be ecstatic to have picked up a win, especially with the thumping from England fresh is the memory and this close to the World Cup. Confidence will be a key ingredient to a successful brew in Japan. Ireland’s defensive ability was once again strong for most of the match and they proved they can be very dangerous off their opponents errors. It’s hard to learn too much from a game like this, Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland will need the top form from his best players very quickly and hopefully we will see those type of players for both sides this weekend when they meet again. This time Ireland will be at home and would it be foolish to back them to do it again?

Fiji 29 – 19 Tonga

It’s a pretty simple lesson from our second game of the weekend. Fiji will be dangerous and light this Rugby World Cup up! The backline talent this side laid out against Tonga is scary. Niki Goneva, Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova to name just a few. I think this is one of the best Fijian squads we have seen for quite some time. This side has the ability to tear any teams defences to pieces but the big downside they have, is defence. At least we know one thing, they will be entertaining and if they catch their opponents off their best, they will trouble anyone. Tonga told much the same story. Big ball playing forwards like Sam Louisi and Steve Mafi complement some exciting backs who are charging up in the shadows of Fiji. Defence is what will let both these sides down, but let’s enjoy them for their attacking brilliance!

France 47 – 19 Italy

France is dangerous. It’s hardly a lesson because we see it time and time again, but this french side at times look pretty impressive. The real lesson here is how they will control the discipline. When you score seven tries and thump a Six Nations rival by 28 points, things look good. But they were only 19-7 up at the break and had two players sent to the bin. If they can control that, they will be a handful. As with 15 men back on the field the match blew out. France underwent a number of changes in the buildup to this match and seem to have a good amount of depth of regular international players. The big question mark for Jacques Brunel is what will be the right combination later this month? As for Italy, they will have their time in the sun. Playing both Canada and Namibia, we will see how good they can look. Overall it looks like another cycle where the Italians just can’t reach that next level.

New Zealand Heartland XV 19 – 36 Samoa

It’s easy to give a lot of credit to this Heartland XV for the performance they put in against Samoa in the weekend. They were gutsy, determined and tenacious and brought out a fairly polished display from the Samoans, who benefited from a much deeper continuity than their rushed together opponents. Samoa puts together a fairly settled and familiar squad with plenty of experience. Our lesson from this match is to keep a keen eye on the core of this Samoan squad. Guys like Tim Nanai-Williams, Ahsee Tuala, Alapati Leiua, Rey Lee-Lo, captain Jack Lam, Kane Leaupepe, Michael Alaalatoa, Paul Alo-Emile and Tusi Pisi will be critical to this sides performances. Too much quality to pass up from Samoa.

Finn Russell is a key cog to the Scotland machine.

Georgia 10 – 44 Scotland

Scotland’s build up to the Rugby World Cup has not been brilliant for confidence. Anything away from home has been tough for them to handle. We did learn this weekend however, that Scotland is not losing any ground to the tier below, well and truly thumping Georgia! Finn Russell showed yet again just how important he is to Scotland with a commanding display. Scotland really ripped in right from the first whistle and never looked back, which is nothing short of what they were required to do. If anything, for me, this is a bad sign for Georgia. A side that has grown quite rapidly over the last decade, would have liked to put a bit of a marker in the sand with a solid performance against the Scots to show they are pushing towards those heights, especially as the home side. Scotland did what they had to here, but still have a long way to go.

Namibia 28 – 22 Southern Kings

Ah, Namibia. I threw this one in here because there is a lesson to be learn. Namibia wont trouble many this World Cup. Sitting in a pool alongside New Zealand and South Africa, the positives will be the chance to test yourself at that level. Lets give this a little bit of a good story to it, they will play Canada. The recent downward turn of Canadian rugby will be closely monitored by Namibia and they will fancy targeting that match. The Kings are nothing special at club level, let alone internationally, but Namibia got the win, so credit to them. Let’s hope they rise for Canada!

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