My all-time Ashes XI courtesy of the BBC Sport website. Leave a comment letting me know what you think of my team and who would make yours.
New Zealand beat Australia to become the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy with a strong performance to cement their place as the best in the world. New Zealand opened the scoring with a penalty, which Australia replied to and New Zealand added a couple more penalties before New Zealand scored their opening try at the end of the half. New Zealand looked to have the game secured with a brilliant try from Nonu at the start of the second half, but a yellow card for Smith allowed Australia to score two quick tries and move within four points, before a drop goal, penalty and try secured victory for the All Blacks.
The first half hour was quite nervy with plenty of errors from both sides, but once New Zealand hit their stride, they were the better team. They were able to secure quick ball when required when attacking and limited Australia’s chances – Australia only seemed to be in with a chance when New Zealand were down to 14 men. The victory for New Zealand was well deserved, who were clearly the better team and excellent throughout the knockout stages against France, South Africa and Australia.
Australia secured their place in the semi-finals with the narrowest of victories over Scotland. Australia started well and it looked that the game would progress as expected with a routine Australian victory, but Scotland soon got themselves into the game. Australia found success with driving mauls from the lineout, but gave away some soft tries, with Foley in particular having a poor game; he missed many kicks, struggled under the high ball and had a kick charged down that led to a Scottish try. However, he slotted the winning penalty with just under a minute to go.
Australia will play Argentina in the semi-final. After good performances against England and Wales, Australia were expected to secure quite a comfortable victory, but Scotland seemed to cause them problems and did much better at the breakdown than either England or Wales managed; Australia must be hoping that they can name Pocock next week. Argentina have showed that they are a dangerous side and a similar performance from Australia next week would give Argentina a great chance of making the final. For Scotland, this was a performance that they will be hoping to build upon in the Six Nations.
England failed to record the victory needed to remain in the World Cup against an attacking Australian side in Pool A. The teams exchanged early penalties before a couple of well-worked tries from Bernard Foley put Australia in a commanding position at half time. An early Australian penalty in the second half gave Australia a 17 point lead, but a try from Anthony Watson and a penalty resulted in England being just seven points behind and the comeback well and truly on. However, a yellow card to Owen Farrell ended hopes of the comeback and a couple of penalties and a try from Matt Giteau ended any doubt about the result.
England struggled for much of the game, struggling to get quick ball when in attacking situations and being unable to slow Australian ball around the 22. The key to Australia’s success was Pocock and Hooper in the back row, who forced turnovers and penalties when England had the ball, stopping any threats quickly. After having played Fiji and Uruguay in their opening two games, this was seen as Australia’s first real test and they passed it with flying colours. Their scrum was strong and, towards the end of the match, dominant. Australia will be favourites to beat Wales and top the Pool and will be strong contenders for winning the tournament.
Australia cruised to victory over Uruguay in Pool A, running in eleven tries. Australia were in complete control from the first whistle, scoring at will at times whilst defending well when Uruguay got close to the line.
Australia showed the dominance that would have been expected of them in this game and were able to pretty much rest their preferred starting XV ahead of next Saturday’s match against England. They showed that they are dangerous runners and generally make offloads at the right time. Uruguay looked underpowered and it is difficult to see how they will claim a point in the group, let alone a victory.
Australia opened their World Cup campaign against Fiji with a victory in Cardiff. Australia led throughout the game and deserved their victory, although Fiji provided competition throughout, despite only having had a 5 day turnaround. As expected, there were some great line breaks and some big hits; more surprising was the strength of the scrums (a couple in the first half went no-where for a good 20 seconds or so) and the use of the maul from attacking lineouts, which both teams threatened with.
Australia will be pleased to have got a victory and looked dangerous at times when their backs got the ball and the forwards provided a good base. However, they only scored three tries and in a group that looks as though it could be tight, it could end up being crucial that they did not do so. For Fiji, they have put in two good performances but been unable to get any points. I am sure that they will be targeting victories in their remaining two games against Wales (who would be hoping for a bonus point victory) and Uruguay.
Countries competing (current IRB ranking in brackets):
Every tournament throws up the well known cliche of ‘The Group of Death’ and at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it is definitely Group A, featuring 3 of the current top 5 teams of the world and 4 of the top 10; only 2 can qualify. The games between Australia, England and Wales will be seen as the key, but Fiji will be ready to spring a shock result on any of those three who take them lightly. I think that England have a very tricky opening fixture in playing Fiji on opening night and the danger for England is a shock result like that sprung on France by Argentina in 2007. It is difficult to see how Uruguay will get a victory or even be in the position to get a result against four strong nations. I think that the key game will be Australia V Wales and will decide who will qualify alongside England. I think that Australia will win that game – they have a good recent record against Wales (the victories have often been narrow, but they always seem to find a way to beat Wales), who have lost a couple of key players through injury in Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb. I predict the group will look like this: