Australia can get better – they have to
The Wallabies eventually played well enough to beat Fiji but their start was poor. They got better once the subs came on, especially Will Genia and Matt Toomua and some are already calling for them to start. Maybe they were good BECAUSE they came on to finish the game. And wouldn’t have the same impact if they had started.
Can they win the World Cup? On the evidence of this performance, and those of New Zealand and South Africa later in the day: no chance.
Fiji need to get even fitter and be more patient
Fitness was always going to be an issue but having a man sent to the sin bin proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It meant the other 14 had to work extra hard for 10 minutes, and Australia took that opportunity to pile on 14 points.
Before that though, Fiji did have opportunities to stretch the lead and pile on more points. But they pushed passes unnecessarily and too often went for the fancy pass and the physical option when there really was no need to. Everyone knows how skillful and tough they are and they don’t need to keep proving it every chance they get.
They need, I would go so far as to say, to play the way they play 7s. Not so much in terms of the tactics etc of 7s but in the cool, insouciant manner in which they play it. A style that shows they have all the skills and technique and the power and speed, but they show only what they need to at the right times.
If the Fiji 15s players could somehow channel their inner Waisale Serevi, they would be all the much better for it.
France were France again
For 40 minutes.we all thought that the good French were back: sublime, exciting, unorthodox rugby. And a healthy and deserved 20-3 lead.
Then came the reversal, and Argentina did what they do best. Tough forward play, strong set pieces, and suddenly it was 20-18. But France’s Lopez struck with a late and quite brilliant drop goal after his team had gone behind 21-20 and again France had the lead, 23-21.
But there was one more twist in the tale, with Fickou giving away a needless penalty and Emiliano Boffelli’s kick sailed just wide of the posts, though it did look like it was good on first viewing.
Sadly, the Pumas are likely to be out now, unless they win the rest of the games, including against England, Will Argentina be able to beat Edide Jones’s men? It is possible, as long as they turn up for both halves.
As for France, well, what can we say? Safe to say they’re not going to be boring.
Look’s like there is no stopping NZ
A surprising number of experts predicted before the tournament started that South Africa would win the World Cup, based on the fact coach Rassie Erasmus had made a substantial difference since he took over a year ago, and the fact the Springboks had essentially “shared” their recent battles with the All Blacks (one win each, similar margins etc).
But that was clearly based also on wishful thinking, going by what we saw last night. South Africa were tough and came up fast in defence, but even with all their possession they did very little. There was no cutting edge and little creativity. It’s a team where the total is less than the sum of the parts.
New Zealand watchers have been saying all along that the All Blacks have not been showing their best, and that seemed to be the case last night. Whatever you can throw at them they will absorb, but when they get the chance they strike back at full speed and from all points of the compass. In last night’s case, all the damage was done in just five minutes.
The All Blacks seem to specialise, too, in suddenly unleashing on the world little-known wingers at the last minute, the latest two being George Bridge and especially Sevu Reece. Suddenly Reiko Ioane is yesterday’s story.
The two centres, Ryan Crotty and Anton Leinart-Brown, also seem to have found new legs, and showed a sharpness that had previously seemed to have been lost. Even Sonny Bill Williams looked to have found some new tricks.
And all this without Brodie Retallick. New Zealand’s best forward is some weeks away from returning from injury. But from the way Scott Barrett took his try, and played in general, Steve Hansen will face a nice problem.