Rugby World Cup Review – Ireland v Scotland and England v Tonga
The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is now in full flight and followers have even had their first look at the home nations over the course of the weekend, with mixed results. Scotland, England and Ireland were all in action on Sunday with Wales playing Georgia on Monday morning.
The competition began with an exciting win for host nation Japan on Friday night before an excited crowd who hoped the locals had enough about them to upset the odds and go far in this competition. Few would consider Japan one of the main players on the world rugby scene, but they do enjoy home advantage and are more than capable of using that to help level the scores a little.
The host nation hammered Russia 30-10 on Friday evening, live on ITV and that laid down a marker for the competition ahead. The challenges will become tougher and play continues, of course, but what Japan showed on Friday was this is a World Cup that will hold our attention, gripping both casual followers and rugby fanatics alike. The play was fast, entertaining and high scoring. If every match lives up to the opener, we will have plenty to write about in our reviews between now and crowding a champion.
Ireland Make Sorry Scots Pay for Mistakes
Ireland v Scotland was picked out as one of the best of the opening weekend matches and it too lived up to the hype. The bookies had Ireland picked as betting favourites to get off on the winning foot but there wasn’t too much between the rivals and many shrewd backers favoured Scotland, fancying them as a decent bet at good odds to spring an early surprise. This Scotland side is certainly good enough on their day to match most opponents and they play an attacking brand of rugby that wins the hearts of neutrals.
It was that attacking brand of rugby that cost them dear on Sunday morning however and early risers saw Ireland ease to an impressive 27-3 victory. The victors were eye-catching, but their opponents did them as many favours as they possibly could on the day. Scotland’s style relies on quick turnarounds, but the players must execute the plan to perfection. One error and it all quickly unravels. The sorry thing for Scotland fans on Sunday was the number of errors they made. Ireland picked up on these, usually in their own half, and had the speed to turn defence into attack, opening up a team who were then left out of position and low on numbers at the back.
Ireland won the match thanks to tries from Ryan, Best, Furlong and Conway. Sexton and Murray kicked two of the four conversations and there was also a penalty scored by Carty. Scotland offered next to nothing on the leader board that day. Their only points came from Laidlaw who kicked a fairly routine penalty to ensure his men didn’t suffer the humiliation of losing to nil. They got off the mark, but it didn’t ease the suffering of fans, either back home or those who had travelled.
Townsend Sent Back to the Drawing Board
Stuart Hogg spoke to the media in the aftermath of the game and said the team had talked at length during the build-up of not shooting themselves in the foot with silly mistakes, but that’s just what they did. The loss would have knocked the wind from their sails and to find themselves bottom of the group after one match will hurt players. They now need to give fans a response.
Scotland enjoys a bit of a break and that will allow them to go back to the drawing board and work through just what went wrong. They then face Samoa on Monday then Russia and Japan. Gregor Townsend says three wins is a must if his team are to have any chances of progressing. They could also do with a bonus point or two along the way.
England Have Too Much for Tonga
England opened their account with a run of the mill win over Tonga and this proved to be little more than an extension of their World Cup warm-up matches. Few expected Tonga to get close to causing an upset and, to be fair, they didn’t get close to causing an upset. The gulf in class between the nations was obvious very early on and England breezed into an early lead, never getting out of first gear to beat an opponent lacking pace and quality in vital parts of the field.
A 35-3 scoreline was a fair summary of how the match went. Tries were scored by Tuilagi – who helped himself to two – George and Cowan-Dickie. It may worry the England coaching staff, on a day that not a lot less could – that only three of four conversions were scored by Farrell, but that’s unlikely to keep too many up at night in Japan. Farrell was also responsible for three penalties on a day of supreme kicking. It didn’t make too much difference on Sunday by the book of Farrell and that accuracy will be key to victory as the challenges increase and the opponents improve. Takulua kicked a penalty to get Tonga off the mark and they didn’t deserve too much else after that.
Despite the easy win, former player Matt Dawson wasn’t too impressed and wrote in his review the match had more in common with the first game of a warm-up campaign than the opener of a World Cup. He may have a point but England got through the match unscathed, put a respectable score on the board and got the win. Not a lot more could have been asked of them. They are capable of much better, but there’s no point showing it at this stage.