So the first rest day has arrived at RWC 2019. There has only been one shock. The defeat of Fiji by Uruguay. This shows completely why all my predictions should…

So the first rest day has arrived at RWC 2019. There has only been one shock. The defeat of Fiji by Uruguay. This shows completely why all my predictions should be ignored. Fiji, may still qualify As they still have to play Wales and Georgia, but it will be difficult. Two victories may not be enough as they would require bonus point (BP) wins and hope that Wales don’t get losing BPs.
What did it for Fiji, I feel was the short turn around from their first game on Saturday. Unlike the major nations, they do not have the strength in depth to play two different teams in such a short period of time. It is very similar to the experience of Japan last time out in 2015. They had a superb victory over South Africa in Brighton, and then five days later faced Scotland, losing comfortably 45-10. I do feel that this is an issue for the competition. I fully understand the need to get the group stages finished in four weekends (especially with the growing power of the club game in England and France), but it is the lower seeds that tend to get the short turnaround and they are the teams less equipped for it. Though England have had that this week, but they had an easier game as the follow-up. If they could extend the competition by one week, it would remove this disparity as all matches could be played Friday to Monday and each team get a free weekend. Scotland, who benefitted to the short turn around in 2015 (though they did have a short turnaround after the Japan, as they played USA four days later), may have this issue before the last match. They play Russia on the Wednesday, then Japan, in what is potentially a winner takes all game, on the following Sunday. They will only have a five day rest compared to the hosts have eight days. The only positive is that Scotland should (and I use that word very loosely) win with a BP with their second string, as Russia are the weakest team in the competition. After their performance on Sunday against Ireland, this may not be as straightforward.
Scotland, to me did not seem to have an obvious game plan against their 6 Nations rivals. They appeared to go through phases and then get impatient and make an error! Not that they deserved anything from the game, but I felt that the referee made two major errors, which contributed to the Irish getting a try bonus point. I thought that Wayne Barnes had a solid game, but his decision not to refer the second Irish try to the TMO was an error. From the TV view, it appeared that the Scottish defender had downward pressure at least at the same time, thus making it a 22 dropout. It also looked like it had been lost by the attacker. But these are the breaks that sometimes go for you. As for the bonus point try, I feel that the Scottish defender was barged in the air when collecting the ball. The Irishman had gone up fairly, but when he realised he was not going to win it, he turned his shoulder into the catcher, thus forcing a knock-on! Considering World Rugby have been going on about punishing dangerous playing in the air and the tackle, it was a surprise not to see this examined. This brings me to the no arm tackle!! The first red card happened in the last game before the day off. It was as clear a red card that you will see, but it was ironic that the challenge was on Owen Farrell, who has almost made this type of tackle his MO, and so far has escaped punishment. Hopefully for him and England, he will recover from it, but more importantly learn that this style of tackle will result in serious repercussions.
The fact that this was the first red card, suggests that the new tackle law interpretation has prevented dangerous tackles. However, some of the tackles by the Samoans have been borderline (I’m being generous), and the tackle by Australian winger Reece Hodge on Fiji’s Peceli Yato, deserved a red card. He has subsequently had a three match ban, but that is no consolation to Fiji, as rather than playing against 14 men, they lost a key player, and Hodge subsequently scored his teams second try. It has been said, and I tend to agree with it, that had the tackle been the other way, the referee, would have at least reviewed it and would have sent the player off. Having coached in New Zealand, where my players were mostly from South Sea origin, they do get the short edge of the wedge when high tackles are assessed.
So having started with Fiji, I’ve finished with Fiji. It has been a very good opening block of fixtures, with lots of good attacking rugby and a sprinkling of controversy. Here’s to the next three weekends of group rugby.

Leave a Reply