This past week was the last of the really frenetic part of the schedule for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan – primarily because there will be no more mid-week games. From next week on, it’s only weekend action for the knock-out matches.
But that’s from next week onwards. The busy schedule this past week began last Friday with Italy vs South Africa (see page four). That was followed on Saturday by three matches Australia vs Uruguay, England vs Argentina and Japan vs Samoa.
Unfortunately, the South American nations ended up on the losing side in the first two encounters. We didn’t watch either due to that being hair-washing day. In the unlikely event that you are actually interested in either match, you can find a match report on the Uruguay game here and one for the hugely disappointing Argentinian match here.
There was, however, some good news and one worthy winner on Saturday: Japan took another step towards the quarter-finals with a convincing win over Samoa (38-19). The home team also managed to snatch a bonus-point four minutes after the full-time hooter had sounded.
It now all comes down to the final match of the pool stages this Sunday when Scotland play Japan: the Europeans need a bonus point win but even then, four tries and a losing bonus point could still snatch that quarter-final place for the home team.
But it's a safe bet that Japan won’t be thinking like that. The plan will be to win the game and finish on top of the pool.
There were two matches last Sunday. In the first, New Zealand demolished Namibia (71-9) and the second saw France battle to victory over an extremely resilient Tonga (23-21).
Monday was a rest day but the action resumed on Tuesday with South Africa vs Canada with a hugely convenient lunchtime kick-off. It was a thrashing of note (66-7) and featured the best performance by a Springbok flyhalf this entire tournament. RJ Snyman also had a pretty decent day in the field.
Many of the match reports we found mentioned the fact that Canada was down to 14-men for much of the match due to a deserved red card. However, only a few pointed out that the score was already 40-0 at that point.
On Wednesday, three matches were scheduled before another rest day on Thursday. The first saw Argentina bounce back really hard against USA (47-17) as both teams bowed out of this year’s competition – USA have a dead rubber against Tonga on Sunday but it won’t affect the top two positions in the pool.
Thereafter, Scotland humiliated Russia (61-0) with a nine-try demolition job to secure the bonus point and keep alive hopes of a quarter-final spot. Japan awaits on Sunday but we’ve already looked at those permutations.
The final match saw more refereeing inconsistency – which is what we expect when Jérôme Garcès carries the whistle. Wales benefited from his erratic calls, and were very lucky to beat Fiji (29-17) in a match that quite possibly would have gone the other way should an impartial referee have been in charge.