The Rugby World Cup in Japan is underway, and a few elite teams have looked seriously impressive in the early stages of the tournament.
After enjoying the first round of fixtures, Last Word on Rugby has looked closely at the results, and found a shortlist of top performers. An agreement has been reached, and these are the best looking teams so far.
Best looking teams so far at Rugby World Cup in Japan
The All Blacks cemented their status as tournament favourites with a hard-fought win over a tough Springboks side at the weekend. South Africa are the second-favorites to win the tournament, according to highly rated sportsbooks like Bovada, but they were ultimately no match for a powerful, disciplined, exciting New Zealand team.
The opening clash of Pool B was a clinical display from Steve Hansen’s men.
Two quick tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett in the first half handed them what proved to be an unassailable lead. They took their opportunities and scored, and the All Blacks were able to hold on for a 23-13 victory after a spirited Springboks rally.
Beauden Barrett was the best player on the pitch and he could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this tournament. The five-minute blitz that put the game beyond South Africa was a reminder of just how disciplined and clinical this All Blacks team is.
They also showed great courage to hold on for the victory in the face of intense pressure from a monstrous South Africa pack. These teams are expected to progress to the latter stages of the tournament, and they could well meet in the World Cup final. Based on this evidence, New Zealand would be clear favourites to secure victory once more.
Ireland delivered a ruthless performance to sweep Scotland aside in their World Cup opener. It showed just why they have stormed to the top of the world rankings. James Ryan and Rory Best scored in their very first two foray’s into their opponents’ 22, and Tadhg Furlong added a third before half-time.
Andrew Conway crossed to ensure a bonus point in the second half, and Ireland closed out a convincing victory with excellent game management. They won every physical battle against a decent Scotland team, seized the breakdowns and displayed a great deal of confidence throughout proceedings. Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg admitted that his team were battered, despite optimal preparations.
They simply could not live with Ireland’s power, precision and panache.
Scotland’s performance was embarrassing but take nothing away for Ireland. The Irish Rugby team were positive and ambitious, and their performance bodes well for their chances in the rest of the tournament. They should walk this group, and that would set up a quarter-final showdown with whoever finishes second in Pool B.
After losing to New Zealand in their opener, that looks ‘all but certain’ to be South Africa – unless they fail in their pool game against hosts Japan. If history goes the Scots way, then they will line up against the Springboks in knockout rugby.
What a game that would be, and Ireland should go into it without fear.
Warren Gatland’s side also earned a bonus point as they surged to a six-try rout over Georgia in their opener. Their first-half performance was crisp and fluent.
Jonathan Davies settled any early nerves with a bulldozing score between the posts, and Wales were comfortable from that point on. They did not appear to miss the departed attack coach Rob Howley, as they ripped through Georgia at will.
Justin Tipuric, Josh Adams and Liam Williams wrapped up the bonus point in a near-perfect 40 minutes.
The second half was an altogether scrappier affair, but Gatland should not be unduly concerned, as victory was wrapped up by that point. This is the oldest Welsh team at a World Cup and their experience could be crucial. They now head into a high-stakes game against Australia and that will surely determine the winner of Pool D.
If they clinch victory, Wales could avoid England in the quarter-final and lock in a comfortable clash with France or Argentina. By the semi-finals, anything can happen, and Wales might feel as though they can win a maiden Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan continues, with round two matches across all Pools.
Follow the action on Last Word on Sports with reports, analysis and views on the pinnacle event for World Rugby, and the first World Cup outside of a Tier One country.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images