The Rugby World Cup continued this past week with many exciting matchups. The group stage is nearly over, as each team in every pool has played in at least three contests. Since each group has been fairly balanced, there have been few major upsets. However, the ones that have happened have been some great games. The United States and Canada have been doing quite poorly throughout the tournament, even though they are both tier two teams, so it makes sense that they aren’t serious contenders.
One of the biggest upsets of the tournament came on this past Saturday, Sept. 28, when Japan shocked Ireland 19-12. This match bumped Ireland down from No. 2 to No. 4 in the tournament, while additionally boosting Japan up from No. 9 to No. 8. This was a significant win for Japan and a huge blow to the dominant Irish squad. Because of this loss, Ireland was set as the second–best in their pool and it looks like that is where they are going to stay. Luckily for Ireland, they will have a chance to redeem themselves and potentially face off against Japan for a second round. The matchup was one of the best so far in this tournament and saw the level of play, both offensively and defensively, that you would expect in this tournament.
The contest between two highly touted teams, Australia and Wales, delivered on the anticipation surrounding the match. Australia was ranked sixth heading into the game and Wales was ranked fourth. Wales took the early lead in the game and dominated the pitch the entire first half. Possession changed in the second half when Australia found it’s rhythm. After a few impressive offensive possessions, the Australian squad scored 25 points. However, Wales wouldn’t allow the Australians to take the lead, leading another drive down the field to make the score 29-25 before the final whistle blew. Though Wales was favored heading into the contest, the close competition was felt throughout.
Another great contest between a tier-one squad and tier two squad was France vs. Tonga on Sunday, Oct. 6. This was one of the rare times in this tournament that teams of different tiers matched up so well. However, France still took home the victory with a two-point differential. The first half of the match saw complete French domination, as they landed try after try. Heading into the second half, Tonga flipped the script, similar to Australia against Wales on Friday, shutting down France’s offense while also charging forward themselves, working to cut down the French lead. The Tonga squad managed to muster 21 points in the last 41 minutes but they fell just short to France, 23-21. This victory pushes France into the next portion of the tournament: the knockout stages.
For the week of Oct. 7, multiple exciting matchups are in store. USA will face Argentina on Wednesday, Oct. 9, while New Zealand and Italy will face off in a heavily anticipated contest on Saturday, Oct. 12. France and England will also face off on Oct. 12 in a historically heated rivalry. After this week, teams will be moving into the quarterfinals. With the best teams moving forward and no huge upsets, other than Japan and Ireland, the quarterfinals will promise to be intense. It will also be exciting to see how far Japan can go, and if this is their year.