Our Aussie Correspondent takes a look at the Minnows in the Rugby Ocean.
Well, unlike some, I haven't missed a game yet (That's not
entirely true). Spain vs. Uruguay isn't being shown on Channel 7 and W. Samoa Vs. Japan is
delayed until this coming weekend, but apart from that it's a clean sweep. Apart from
that, all of them, most live. After all, this is the World Cup, it only comes around every
four years and I am damned well going to make the most of it, whatever the eventual
What I have taken away from the big underdog matches thus far, ignoring the score blowout that always seems to occur in the second half and usually only in the final quarter, is that these guys are in Wales to play the game. I had this preconceived notion that most of the preliminary games would be boring, reminiscent of NZ vs. Japan last time around. Most have been one-sided at the death, but the rugby from these underdogs has been, for the most part, adventurous and bold. I think that all of Namibia, Canada, Italy and the USA scored tries, usually more than one. Good work, especially to the amateur teams. I wouldn't really class Tonga as that much of an underdog team, except they were playing NZ. They may indeed be unlucky that they are in a pool with both NZ and England. (Just quietly NZ, you got a poor pool for runners up in the last comp.) Things could be interesting if Tonga were in France's pool. Even the Romanian side scored points and looked like scoring a try in two separate situations. Not content with lying down quietly, these teams threw the ball around and were hungry for points. Its still early days, but we may have some interesting games between these sides later on. Watch for USA/Romania and Italy/Tonga.
By contrast, some of the big guns looked like they were still having trouble with cobwebs and the like. Taine Randell and Jeff Wilson weren't too impressive and the All Blacks looked surprised that Tonga had decided to try to take it forward. But I take back all I have said recently about Lomu. Forget his turn and chase abilities, he undoubtedly deserves to be in the All Blacks. Australia looked clumsy in a more general way, although Kearns had some trouble with the line-outs (much as I love him, its true), dropping the ball far too much. Big points to the French for trying to run the ball as often as possible and keep the game flowing quickly. England looked pretty good I have to say. They didn't give Italy much of a look at the ball really. That could be a really big game next week. Ireland looked alright against their USA opposition, especially in defence, with USA pounding their line for long periods at times during the match without effect. I don't remember much of the Scotland/SA game (I was almost asleep), except the nauseating commentary and Scotland taking a goal when they should have gone on with it, seemingly announcing that they didn't want the match. Hmmm. May have to watch that one again, I'll admit it, I was virtually asleep.
The new All Black strip is fine by me by the way. Not as bad as I thought it would be at all. I confess I was worried, more for the game than from my fear it would make the All Blacks better (which was a factor though), but its really just media hype for Adidas and I guess that's alright. And doesn't the Wallaby strip look so much better without that downright ugly red Vodafone banner, a company of whom I am not a customer.
Well that's what I took out of the first weekend. I am eagerly awaiting next weekend's games! So when you are all debating with yourselves whether or not to stay up and watch those games, or to at least get up half way through the night to change tapes, remember this is the World Cup. It'll be four years before you have to do it again.