Japan have earned top-tier status, Scotland fail to show up in historic loss, and the upcoming quarter-finals set to be a mouth-watering prospect are our talking points in this week’s what we learned from the fourth Rugby World Cup weekend.
Japan Have Earned Top-Tier Status
Japan’s earth-shattering displays at the Rugby World Cup has quite rightly attracted the attention of the whole rugby world, and then some. Theirs has undoubtedly been the story of the tournament thus far, with Jamie Joseph’s side’s guts and gumption capturing the hearts and minds of all who’ve followed their progress over the last few months.
Their monumental 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday powered them to seventh on the World Rugby rankings, their highest-ever position since its inception. That result – coupled with their 19-12 victory over Ireland two weeks ago – earned them inaugural wins over the two Celtic nations. This weekend’s quarter-final will be another first for the reigning Pacific Nations Cup champions, with their meeting against the Springboks set to be one of the standouts of the last eight. Considering the perfect blend of passion and composure the Brave Blossoms have struck so far, all indications are that the Boks will be up for a proper battle in Tokyo.
Scotland Fail to Show up in Historic Loss
Take nothing away from Japan – they played like absolute trojans on Sunday, putting in arguably one of the best performances ever seen at a World Cup. However, many questions must still be asked of Gregor Townsend’s Scottish side, one that boasted some of the game’s pre-eminent players and yet still failed to turn up on the biggest stage of all. Stuart Hogg simply could not get into the game from fullback, while halfback pairing Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw couldn’t spark anything with the poor ball they were given by their forwards. Townsend’s decision to leave skipper Stuart McInally on the bench should also be subject to debate, with the hooker making a big impression when he was introduced late on. Tackle machines Jonny Gray and Jamie Ritchie were the standouts for the Brave Hearts, but even they couldn’t do enough to prevent their team from slumping to just their second-ever pool-stage exit.
Upcoming Quarter-Finals Set to Be Mouth-Watering Prospect
With the pool stage now done and dusted, all attention now falls on this weekend’s last eight as the road to the Final heats up. England take on Australia first up – a side against whom they have come out triumphant in all six of their previous meetings. Naturally anything can happen in finals footy, but you’d be hard-pressed to look past the men in white securing another win over the Wallabies. On a side note, look out for the verbal battle between Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika in the coming days – it’s sure to be just as entertaining as the rugby itself! The All Blacks then tackle Ireland, the latter looking to reach a first-ever semi-final. Pound for pound, this fixture will arguably have the most quality on show, though you’d expect New Zealand to progress to what would be their seventh quarter-final.
On Sunday, Wales should thwart the attentions of the predictably unpredictable French, while South Africa will have plenty to do when they face the host nation. Don’t be surprised if the only people supporting the Boks this weekend are literal South Africans, with the whole rugby world set to cheer on Japan as they continue their global ascent. Still though, the Boks should have too much in their arsenal… but then, that’s just what we thought four years ago in Brighton.
Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets