This article appeared on the Rugby Blog – feel free to read it there
So there you go, the opening weekend of the Rugby World Cup. It crackled, it fizzed, it kinda meandered slowly and then came to a complete standstill while lots of people looked at replays. Here’s the good, the bad and the downright unusual of the first 48 hours.
There is nothing like twitching with delight when your brethren drops a clanger. And Friday night showed it doesn’t matter who you are, if your brother cocks up, you should enjoy it. Harry Wales looked decidedly nervous opening up the competition with a rousing speech; his voice certainly belied his feelings and at one point, on the word ‘cup’, his voice slipped into a noticeably higher tone. At that exact moment, the producer cut to Prince William high up in the Twickers royal box, who, on hearing the gaffe, turned with a look of unmistakable delight on his face and searched for others around him to confirm what H had done. Of course, all but one inside HQ instantaneously forgave dear old Harry for the slip. The future king is still leaving falsetto voicemails.
Peyper picks a procrastination
A wonderful referee as standard, Jaco Peyper took control of England Fiji and decided he couldn’t do it alone. He turned to the TMO for a combined twenty minutes to replay every try-scoring moment. It took all the sting out of the game and if anyone new had been tuning in, they can only have been perplexed by all the standing around. Social media exploded in a hashtagged outrage, whilst Peyper contemplated quantum mechanics and the general meaning of life. Well you would, wouldn’t you? With so much time on your hands.
Georgia started the trend of the weekend, that seeming underdogs wouldn’t really play ball. Gorgodze and friends rumbled through Tonga and look a good enough side to take third in their group behind Argentina and New Zealand. The G-men know what they do well; keep the ball close; use Gorgodze; act hairy (although not necessarily in that order). Their rugby won’t win any beauty contests, but then again, neither will their team.
Japan is responsible for some truly memorable additions to our world: Chicken Katsu Curry; Ryu from Street Fighter; outrageous and somewhat dangerous game shows; and Pokemon. With the Cherry Blossoms’ magical victory over the Springboks, the (saké) cup overfloweth. Brighton played host as Eddie Jones masterminded a wonderful victory over his former team and grown men cried. Japan’s second try was a proper training paddock carve up and the decision to turn down three points and go for the win will stay in rugby folklore for a long time. Scotland can’t be looking forward to be playing them in front of a red and white shed at Gloucester this Wednesday. If only I’d got Japan in the office sweepstake.
Uruguayan offers outside
Turning up at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is difficult enough for tier one sides. But when the assembled ITV crew start scoffing at your line out moves and remark at just how small you are, you know you’re in for a tough afternoon. Uruguay, however, were having none of it. Spurred on by the laughter, the South Americans won a number of admirers with an approach that worked with what they’d got. There are two unusual moments that stand out. The first was that at one point it looked as though one of their players asked his opposite number outside for a fight. Having clashed off the ball, the man in blue gestured quite clearly that he’d like to take their disagreement outside the walls of the stadium. When this was to happen was unclear (there was game of rugby to attend to) but such a show of old school bravado was as refreshing as it was bizarre. Equally pleasing was a run late on from their loose head prop, Alejo Corral. The ball found itself in his grasp and he, in turn, found an unusual amount of space. Corral sprinted like your dad would have done when he joined in at the rounders at your Auntie’s 40th. It was mesmerising and ungainly in equal measure. It will also be, in no uncertain terms, his most treasured moment in a rugby shirt. I shouldn’t have found it funny. I’m sorry.
Conrad Smith and Richie McCaw ended up in the bin, the Argentinians played out of their skins and yet New Zealand still opened up their 2015 RWC with a win. Unintended poetry aside, the black booted ones look tasty and even though this weekend has shown that upsets are possible, we all went to bed on Sunday night with the sobering thought that taking the cup off the Kiwis is going to be incredibly tricky. With their terrifying war dance, uniform approach to footwear selection and a replacements’ bench that would get in anyone else’s first team, the All Blacks look like champions elect. Not as much fun now is it?
Sam Roberts © 2015. (Text only). All Rights Reserved.