Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rugby World Cup Notes

All of last weekend’s big pool games at the Rugby World Cup went as I expected. Tonga weren’t strong or disciplined enough to do for England, going down 36-20.

Local interest note – Tonga scrum half Sione Tu’ipulotu (pictured) turned out a couple of times at centre for Ebbw Vale a few seasons ago when he was on the books of the N**port Dragons.

Scotland just about clung on against Italy 18-16, who gave away enough penalties to lose the game.

Argentina looked like a force to reckon with in comprehensively beating Ireland 30-15. Their half backs (Pichot and Hernandez) looked as good as any in the RWC, and the pack (especially number 8 Longo) were awesome and will be a match for anyone.

And as for Wales, well Fiji deserved their 38-34 win in one of the best international rugby matches I have ever seen. Neither team seemed very interested in “keeping it in the pack” and as a result a see-saw game saw nine tries and thousands of Welsh broken hearts.

The Fijian centre pairing of Rabeni and Bai tore through Hook and Shanklin at will, and Wales were regularly turned over at ruck and maul. The Welsh back row were completely out-played – I’m not really surprised that Martin Williams has announced his retirement from international rugby. I expect a few others to follow suit in the next few weeks – Charvis? Alfie?

Gareth Jenkins got sacked the next day. The Western Mail clamoured for Jenkins when Ruddock was appointed as coach and then jumped for joy when he finally got his chance. But it didn’t take long for Jenkins’ true coaching colours to show through and the Western Mail must have pulled a muscle jumping off the bandwagon that it had ridden for several years.

So next weekend it’s the quarter-finals:

Saturday 2pm – Australia v England
Saturday 8pm – New Zealand v France
Sunday 2pm – South Africa v Fiji
Sunday 8pm – Argentina v Scotland

My picks (for what they’re worth): the four top seeds and an all-southern hemisphere last four – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.

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