Japan – Rugby World Cup Legends
They may not win this competition. They still have work to advance out of their pool but their sensational upset win over South Africa has kicked the competition into action. It should give the minnow teams encouragement to take on their more illustrious opponents with renewed confidence. Michael Leitch, what a player. Japan’s all action rugby game tired out the physically more domineering South African team. Their decision to go for the win when other teams (Northern Hemisphere) would have gone safe and go for a draw has to be applauded. South African’s management post game was “shame”, but in all honesty, this result will do so much for the development of the sport throughout Asia. Japan Rugby World Cup will be more the spectacle and this victory will focus the nation’s eyes on the oval ball. Eddie Jones will be a wanted by a couple of Super 15 or European clubs once this tournament is concluded. Japan, thank you. September 19th will live long in the memory. Great scenes in Cardiff, Brighton and around the globe apart from South Africa with that last minute try. The upset of upsets?
Ireland – Rugby World Cup Chances
A professional performance against a hard working Canadian side. 50-7 was an accurate reflection of how the game went. Ireland dominated for long periods and that period when Jamie Cudmore was sin binned was very impressive. Ireland put Canada to the sword and their four tries were already in the bag by half, showed England how to kill games off. The pluses were a solid set piece. Sexton’s game management was excellent particularly in that first half, kicked for touch when required to put pressure on Canada. The pack worked extremely hard throughout and the try for O’Brien was a great team effort. The negatives if any are knit picking. Payne will be disappointed with his part in the Canadian try, the kick was never on but Payne will improve as the tournament progresses. Luke Fitzgerald’s attacking threat was obvious early doors, busy in midfield and his runs stretched Canada throughout. Ian Henderson, what a player. Devin Toner has to produce this weekend against Romania, a nice problem for Schmidt to have in the weeks to come. Cian Healy’s cameo was superb to see and will be required for France for at least sixty minutes. Encouraging signs, the majority of the squad have game time and the rest will feel engaged with the tournament this weekend with quality minutes. Let us hope that there are further impressive performances for Ireland against Romania to throw up selection posers to Ireland management.
Rugby World Cup – Other Thoughts
Argentina – hats off to them. They went toe to toe with New Zealand today. They may have lost but they have won many fans with a performance full of creativity and aggression. The Argentinian pack were excellent for sixty minutes today, the breakdown was superb so much so that McCaw was sinned bin for persistent breakdown infringments. 16-12 and the shock was on but how awesome were New Zealand in the last thirty minutes? Offload heaven, gain line yards and with Dan Carter orchestrating the back line plays with a pack who were now starting to dominate, it was only a matter of time when tries would be scored. The New Zealand tries were well worked, stretched Argentina to breaking point. Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Savea – when you nullify one, another players looms large. Only a choke act similar to eight years ago will prevent New Zealand losing this title. South Africa are still in the equation despite the loss yesterday, they are the only team capable of beating New Zealand in the pack battle.
France and Italy was a dour affair. Huget’s tournament exit is disappointing but Fickou is a quality addition. The only weak point is that Fickou is a twelve and now playing in the back three. Italy were extremely poor. Their pack was destroyed in the set piece. Their scrum was annihilated and when referees start to ping you consistently, reputations are formed. Good news for Ireland in two weeks. Sergio Parisse’s absence was massive, the leader of the team was missed in the breakdown and ball running. Italy have massive issues from scrum half. Masi has probably played his last game as a professional (achilles), no game management from ten and Luke McLean continues to do little at full back when attacking the line (or lack of). Pool C suddenly looks straight forward. Ireland and France to advance from the group. Italy are going backwards. Ireland should beat Italy with a bit to spare in two weeks. Parisse will need to perform a super human effort to even allow Italy to compete with Ireland.
English Premier League
Arsenal produce their annual self destructive performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Costa’s action were thug like but Gabriel’s reaction was embarrassing, needless red card and it cost Arsenal the game. I am sorry to say it but Arsenal look well short of mounting any serious title challenge. No leadership in the middle of the park when the pressure is applied, very soft belly to the team and their surrender so quickly will only raise further question marks over Wenger at the club. Chelsea got the result but the lure of negative publicity is not far away. How long will Costa get away with his antics? Mourinho tries to deflect the ridicule but there are still big problems with the team. Drogba is a miss in terms of dressing room leadership. City loss to West Ham who when you look at their losses must be kicking themselves that they are not top of the league. West Ham’s appointment of Slaven Bilic was mixed but his organizational skills have being highlighted with stunning away victories at Arsenal, Liverpool and now Manchester City who without Kompany and Silva look a pale shadow of themselves. Payet looks like the signing of the season so far. His play making ability is superb. West Ham will be a top eight side this season and any fears of a relegation battle ahead of their move to the Olympic Stadium next season have being allayed. What chances Brendon Rodgers be sacked by Liverpool this week? A dismal 1-1 draw to Norwich at Anfield must be adding further pressure to the Liverpool manager. No realistic league title challenge, several summer players are failing to deliver and the fact that several summer buys last season be farmed out only highlights FSG’s concerns on Rodger’s ability. United beat Southampton 3-2 but the win was built off David De Gea and Anthony Martial. De Gea’s save on Fonte was world class. Martial’s pace and power gave Van Djik and Fonte nightmares today. Memphis – raw diamond who needs plenty of work. Super Son Day at White Hart Lane.
I am delighted USA won today. The controversial European decision to penalize USA this morning was disgusting and goes against everything golf stands for. America’s Alison Lee missed a putt on 17 and picked her ball up under the assumption Europe had conceded it – Pettersen’s partner Charley Hull was already walking to the last tee – but the Norwegian claimed she had not and Europe were awarded the hole, going on to win the match 2 up. It was a shambolic situation. USA were my winners from then on. Europe were trounced in the singles format. Justice with a capital J. Spirit of the game lol.