England v Uruguay
Uruguay showed the spirit that saw them making 48-hour journeys to qualify for this World Cup against Russia. They, along with the other perceived 2nd Tier Nations, have considerably improved. They flew into every tackle with great velocity and physicality, whilst maintaining reasonable shape in defence. Uruguay took the early lead with a penalty but England were then able to secure that elusive try with a driving maul, after failing with many attempts.
England finished their tournament with a flurry of tries against the industrious Uruguayan team. Nick Easter and Jack Nowell benefitted from the variety of opportunities that presented themselves and as the team attacked from all areas of the pitch. Nick, benefiting from the muscular effect of the forwards with forward drives and Jack, continuous endeavour in the wide channels.
Jacques Burger retirement
Any RWC has its watershed moments with players recognizing the time is right. Jacques Burger has been the epitome of a player that only knows one way. He gives his all. He respects everyone he plays against, yet shows no respect for himself. He commits himself whole-heartedly to every tackle, breakdown or clear out and has helped promote rugby in his native Namibia, giving hope and belief in all those around him.
Similarly, Tony Woodcock epitomises the rock that has been behind the phenomenal New Zealand team. In 118 caps, he has again challenged and driven on the expectations of props around the world.
Wales v Australia
Australia entered the tournament with a reputation for their attacking play. On Saturday their pack continued to show their improvement at scrum time, as well as some incredible resolve in defence. The encounter was full blooded, with both teams desperate to progress as Pool winners. The collisions mounted and every breakdown was fully competed for - well, when you have four open sides on the pitch, this is to be expected! Gareth Davies had another good game - he applied pressure at the base of scrum and continued to be nuisance to the Australian kickers.
The period between 60 and 70 minutes was decisive. Wales turned down 3 points to reduce the 6-point deficit. Wales’ pressure resulted in Australia losing Will Genia and Dean Mumm for 10 mins to the sin bin. It challenged Australia but they more than stepped up to the plate without conceding a point - a herculean effort from all. David Pocock and Scott Fardy continue to form a potent combination, with McMahon showing why is was the Wallabies Rookie of the Year in 2015 and how they continue to be blessed in the backrow department.
Ireland win against France
What a hard fought victory this was! Sean O’Brien produced a colossal performance and quite rightly was given Man of the Match. It seemed every time France worked in to a position to challenge the Irish lead, O’Brien would come up with an all-important turnover. Ireland will be counting the cost this morning, as they assess injuries to key players, Paul O’Connell and Jonny Sexton. They have the personnel that can seamlessly fit in to replace them but will want to see these players’ leadership qualities back fit and healthy in the squad.
Quarter Final - Can France do it again?
Quarter Final 2 sees New Zealand and France play out a rerun of the RWC 2011 Final. Can France pull off the same shock again? Part of me says we have not seen the best of them this tournament and they are due a big performance. The nerves will certainly be in the NZ camp if France can hold parity with 20 minutes to go.
Each quarterfinal sees a Northern versus Southern hemisphere match up. I sincerely hope our Northern cousins are well represented in the Semi Finals.