Almanac Rugby – Rugby World Cup 2015: Run The Cutter – RWC 2015 Week 1

Brighton’s rugby union club Brighton FC (Yes FC) currently reside in London South 1 (the sixth tier of English rugby) so it’s fair to say the seaside venue’s selection as a Rugby World Cup venue didn’t have the impact of a Kingsholm or Twickenham but the city has broken out as ‘the venue’ to open the 2015 Rugby World Cup playing host to Japan’s stunning 34-32 win over South Africa.

The following day it saw Samoa’s gutsy 25-16 win over the USA. Lead by Chiefs player Michael Leitch the men in red and white weren’t phased when South African re-gained the lead late in contest and turned down the chance to take a penalty goal, which would have earned them a draw in the group B contest. Eddie Jones, who is set to coach the Stormers Super Rugby side next year, says there is more improvement in this side. Improvement or not, Japan seem to be everyone’s second favourite team now.




Throughout the World Cup in England, and Wales, our wrap will touch on each team, with the order showing their current position, and will appear every few days as an update on their progress. But in the case of this first wrap it’s also a look at their hopes of four sides yet to play a game


Group A

Wales – Wales had a convincing win in Cardiff over Uruguay however the eight tries to none (54-9) triumph was more concerning for coach Warren Gatland as they picked up three injuries. Given Wales already lost the likes of Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb prior to the tournament but scoring a bonus-point victory is good start

England – Mike Brown helped propel England to their late rush for a bonus point when they scored two tries towards the end of the 35-11 triumph. Really good bench impact, including from Sam Burgess who despite reading one play wrong was slick. However for the NRL fans checking out the former Souths forward’s progress don’t expect to see him start against Wales. Brad Barritt is still Stuart Lancaster’s preferred option at centre to start.

Australia – Yet to play. There is also yet to be a derogatory text message sent by any players to team staff so that’s a plus for Michael Cheika’s side.

Fiji – As well as falling away late against England the Fijians have lost Dominiko Waqaniburotu after his tackle on Jonny May in the tournament opener. The ninth ranked side in the world have had nearly three months together ahead of this tournament but they will need to not fall away late in the game when they play Australia.

Uruguay – Los Teros’ halves combination Agustin Ormaechea and Felipe Berchesi will need to guide their team better in the balance of their pool games. The duo, who both play club rugby in France, are two of only four professional players in the squad and given the side has been beaten twice by Fiji in May their ‘wins’ this tournament will be trying to stay in contention up until half-time.


Group B

Samoa – After beating the USA they now play the out-of-form South Africans! Manu Samoa pushed a few passes that didn’t find their mark but still won in Brighton by nine points. I would if they will keep up the same style. Japan kept in touch taking their penalties against South Africa and Tusi Pisi can do the same in Birmingham.

Japan – The Brave Blossoms, as discussed, helped produce the shock of the tournament beating Heyneke Meyer’s outfit. Not just the late try but staying with South Africa in the ebb and flow of the game was a sign of how far they have progressed.

South Africa – Because hindsight is always great it’s worth noting South Africa have now lost four times in 2015. They lost once to each of the other sides in The Rugby Championship so maybe Japan shouldn’t have been outsiders by as much. The last time South Africa lost a pool game at a Rugby World Cup was also at a sea-side town without (at the time) a top flight rugby side, Perth in 2003 against England. How will they rebound and which players will get the chop? Their hugely experience side had near 900 caps on the weekend but are they past it?

Scotland – Yet to play but need to start well when they do against Japan. They have run sides like England close in recent times but Kiwi Vern Cotter will need his team to be at their best to chase a quarter final spot in what is now a very open group.

USA – Lost in the second game played in Brighton. Got ripped apart by Sonny-Bill Williams’ cousin Tim Nanai-Williams (it was a good day for the family) but also gave up taking kickable penalties. A game they needed to win but lost. They will battle to finish third now. The game was also notable for a World Cup return for Hayden Smith. He represented the Eagles in 2011 and  in between has played the NFL and won a cup title with Saracens.


Group C

New Zealand – Future Sir Richie McCaw was somehow sanctioned by the peasant referee as the All Blacks won on Sunday. The game was played not far from the Tower of London so referee Wayne Barnes is lucky Richie didn’t use his pending lordly powers to call in a favour from the Queen. Richie did have a sit down as did back Conrad Smith but it was one of the other Smith’s, Aaron, and SBW late on that provided the cohesion to see New Zealand home.

Georgia – Georgia could now make the quarter finals after their win in Gloucester over Tonga and their halfback 18 year-old Vasil Lobzhanidze plays club rugby in Tribilisi. It is the stuff of fairytales (at least Georgian rugby ones.) If nothing else the rest of the tournament, even if Georgia only beat Namibia, will be a great shop window for the Georgian backs. It’s normally the forwards well known for playing overseas but the backs could play their part in at least one more win. The top second-tier European side are also making a good case for inclusion in the Six Nations.

Tonga – They lost to Georgia and it looks like 2011 all over again. In that tournament Tonga were beaten in their first two games (one of them was Canada) before going on to beat France but ultimately their defeat to the North American side earlier in the tournament cost them a spot in the quarters and France went on to play in the final. Tonga were chasing a draw late on and muffed a line-out thrown losing possession and the game. It was the story of the game for Mana Otai’s side who were also out-scrummed by Georgia.

Namibia – Open their tournament against the reigning champs New Zealand after some teams have played two games (work that out) In 2011 their ‘best’ result was a 24-point defat at the hands of Fiji

Argentina – They ran New Zealand close until the title-holders kicked clear in London. Makes Friday’s game against Georgia in Gloucester crucial if they want to entertain hopes of finishing second in the group.


Group D

Ireland – Connor Murray and Jonny Sexton have put in the 9 and 10 virtuoso performance of the tournament so far as they romped home over Canada 50-7. Like Wales and England got a bonus point which is important. Unlike Wales don’t have huge injury concerns.

France – Like New Zealand one of two ‘top’ sides not get a bonus point in their opening win but at least they aren’t South Africa. France have lost winger Yoann Huget to injury but at least it’s not Wales-level injury and coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made 13 changes to their starting side for game two. France should navigate to the knockout phase if they hold their form but till be hoping for no more big injuries or suspensions.

Romania – Haven’t played yet. Beaten by Georgia by 16 points in their last World Cup game in 2011, which now doesn’t look like horrible form but they lost to Tonga by five points before this tournament.

Italy – Their lack of recent progress in the six nations was shown up again. After a good 2013 tournament they have won only one game in two years in the Northern Hemisphere showpiece. This result will see them trying to grab third spot and an automatic spot for the 2019 Cup in Japan.

Canada – Kieran Crowley, who has guided Canada since 2008, has his work cut out for him. Yes Ireland are group favourites but when you conceded three tries in the final 16 minutes and your one try comes from an intercept it’s a sign the side has many flaws, including fitness late in games. The Canucks desperately need Ospreys flanker Tyler Ardron back for the game against Italy.



This article first appeared on Hamish’s blog; From The Sideline of Sport. Read the full article via THIS LINK.


Leave a Comment