Rugby World Cup debrief – Knockout football

Rugby World Cup debrief - Knockout football

It is goodbye to Australia, Ireland, France, and Japan at the Rugby World Cup. A fond farewell but, not on the terms that the teams imagined when they planned for knockout football.

Each of those four sides had hopes of continuing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC). They had hopes of performing well in the knockout stages. Yes, it will be disappointing to the men involved. Men like Rory Best (see main image) who gave their lives and souls to the jersey. Years of commitment and planning now all but gone.

Sadly now, only the memories will be left. Arigatou gozaimasu.

Of the teams now left to compete in the final two legs of knockout football though, they can all focus on their preparation. Immediately they will look at recovery, identifying positives and negatives from their quarterfinal knockout football wins, looking at the opposition and then, take the next several days to build-up to what could be a couple of the most important games in each of their careers.

This is our RWC debrief. Looking back, but as much forward, to what fans and supporters can expect from the next few games at a fantastic tournament, in the new rugby heartland of Japan.

Rugby World Cup debrief – Knockout football

ENGvAUS: This game was not for the soft at heart. Another bruising encounter, to match the classic 2016 Australian home series. Uncompromising, hard-nosed offence meeting a block wall-like defence. it was bone-rattling, and the first team to flinch were the Wallabies.

Jonny May was the beneficiary to start with, but his reward was built on English defence. The Aussie team could only collect points in penalties, which frustrated their efforts. But when Marika Koroibete broke away, the Wallabies fans thought it was a revival but… no avail. Kyle Sinckler first, Anthony Watson too but overall, it was the Owen Farrell show.

By the way he commands the group it is ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. Is he the vital pin that will end a drought of 16 years? That question will only be known in a week, but the captain is playing a considerable part in his team’s success.

NZLvIRE: If ever a game was lopsided, then this was an example. And the New Zealand All Blacks perform like this far too often [remember 2015 vs France, 62-13].

You might call this performance a ‘reply to all doubters’ and it was also a knife in the recent record for Ireland. Dropping from world beaters to a side who seemed uneasy with their position. They did make several intrusions into All Blacks territory early, but mistakes from Conor Murray ended several likely attacks. Just 14 points; and one of those was a penalty try. Not enough to thwart the superpower that is New Zealand.

Ireland suffer stage fright in Quarterfinal

On this stage, one team were comfortable. The other froze in the spotlight. It will also see a battle between the two heavyweights of world rugby, in one step down from the Cup final. And that match will be a tantilizing fixture for the next weekend of World Cup action.

WALvFRA: This was an encounter where the words ‘in the nick of time’ will be all too relative. France blasted out of the gates in this one, and led 12-0 early. It shocked the Welsh fans, yet the ability of Wales to reply was given a swift repost, when big Virimi Vikatawa scored. The halftime talk from Warren Gatland would have been charming, to say the least.

But reply they did. The game was balanced until a brain explosion from French player Sebastien Vahaamahina was given a red card following a strike with the elbow to Wainwright’s head in the 50th minute. Although it still took until late in the piece for Wales to confirm their semifinal spot, it was not plain sailing.

And the Welsh fans will breathe a sigh of relief, and going to the latter stages for just the third time in their history.

JAPvRSA: A case of the more formulated team, holding back an inventive and enthusiastic home side. The wily and chiseled Springboks were only able to create minimal attacking chances inside the Japanese 22, so their single try to Makazole Mapimpi was the only reward.

While Japan loaded up on many occasions, had the majority of possession, and seemed to benefit from a yellow card and several blood bin periods, handling errors and the counter-rucking of South Africa limited them to a solitary penalty.

While the crowd on hand were jubilant each time the Brave Blossoms touched the ball, it became obvious that the set moves were too easily smothered by a blanket of South African defence. Rassie Erasmus will take credit from their ability to soak up pressure, and then two further tries, on top of Handre Pollard’s three penalties, ended the brave run for the hosts in knockout football.

The Brave Blossoms had a spirited approach to the game, and rightly they are being praised for their first appearance in knockout football at a World Cup.

Outcome – final four teams decided 2019 RWC

So after 40+ matches, the final four are decided. And aside from the manner in how the Springboks won, it is a predictable group. Not to say that the next two games will not propel one side forward into a favourites place, when all the odds and commentators say it should be another team but now, performance counts for much only a week before the Cup final on November 2.

The winners stay one more week. Fans bid farewell to the losing players. Au Revoir to men like Louis Picamoles, Cheerio to David Pocock. The loss will count against some more than others. But that is knockout football. The best teams rise to the top.

At times, the pressure point grows and mistakes occur. It could be unchoreographed, or it could be a massive error in judgment – think Sebastien Vahaamahina. But others outcomes are simply based on where the more motivated team overwhelms the other, to reach the Grand Final.

What should fans expect next weekend? It is hard to predict. Any team who can hold back the All Blacks attack will end New Zealand’s unbeaten run of 18 RWC matches, is worthy of reaching a final.

If England do that, they might have one hand [literally] on the Webb Ellis Cup. On the other side, the most precise side there will likely then participate in the final game. Even harder to estimate so, it is a flip of the coin.

What fans should do is, get ready. Prepare just like the four teams will. Hydrate is our advice, but in all seriousness, the best advice is to ensure you have a comfortable place to enjoy the semifinals for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The rest is up to the teams.


“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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