England 13-33 Australia

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.

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Australia 65-3 Uruguay

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.

England 25-28 Wales

Wales gained a valuable victory in Pool A, narrowly beating England. England seemed to be in control for much of the game, but Wales always kept themselves in touch, establishing a lead with 9 minutes to go. England did get a kickable penalty in the last 4 minutes, but kicked for the corner and Wales defended the lineout and claimed the victory.

England appear to have handed the game to Wales; they allowed Wales to keep in touch, made some poor decisions at times and discipline was poor. Too many penalties seemed avoidable and were within range for Wales to keep in touch. England now have a crucial game against Australia, which they must win if they are to qualify for the quarter finals. For Wales, they now have an excellent chance of qualifying for the quarter finals.

England team annoucement

Stuart Lancaster has named the England team to take on Wales at Twickenham on Saturday in Pool A of the Rugby World Cup. As has been widely reported over the past couple of day, Owen Farrell has replaced George Ford at fly half, whilst Jonathan Joseph’s injury has seen Brad Barritt moved to outside centre, with Sam Burgess coming in at inside centre.

Lancaster has certainly picked a big, strong midfield that looks set to be able to cope with the powerful Welsh centres of Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams. However, Burgess is still new to Rugby Union and when he came on against Fiji, was out of position a couple of times, which I am sure Roberts and Williams will look to exploit. Also, whilst it is a big and powerful midfield, England have picked more creative midfields; go forward, it looks as though it will be making hard yards by looking to smash through the Welsh line.

Australia 28-13 Fiji

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.

England 35-11 Fiji

The scoreline suggests a comfortable England victory, although this was not the case for much of the game. England had a great opening 20 minutes, moving into a 15 point lead, which featured a penalty try and one from Mike Brown. Fiji appeared to have scored a try with a fantastic break from Nikola Matawalu, who ran half the field from a scrum. The referee awarded the try and as the conversion was being lined up, a relay showed it had been dropped; the referee reviewed it and no try was awarded. Moments later, a cross kick found Nemani Nadolo and Fiji scored a try. The game became remained close, but Fiji missed penalties (they missed a total of 11 points from the boot) and a strong final 10 minutes from England featured tries from Mike Brown and Billy Vunipola went over in the last play, which added further gloss and secured a bonus point victory for England.

England will surely be pleased to have come through a tough opening encounter against a strong Fijian side and emerged victorious in the opening game of the tournament. England did not play well for around 50 minutes of the game, but secured a bonus point, which puts pressure on Wales and Australia to do the same against Fiji. In the tough-looking Group A, this could yet prove to be crucial. If England want to do well in the tournament, they will need to improve on the performance of tonight, but it is a foundation to build on. In contrast, Fiji will be looking to spring a shock result on Wales and/or Australia, but the way they tired towards the end of the match suggests that they might just fall short.

Finally, I was surprised at the involvement of the TMO. All of the decisions seemed to take a long time and on a couple of occasions he seemed to ask the referee to look at things as opposed to the referee asking him to look at things. If this continues throughout the tournament, there are going to be some very long games and I think it undermines the role of the referee if they are constantly being told to look at things as opposed to asking for help when they need it.

Rugby World Cup: Pool A preview

Countries competing (current IRB ranking in brackets):

Australia (2)
England (4)
Fiji (9)
Uruguay (19)
Wales (5)

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:

1. England
2. Australia
3. Wales
4. Fiji
5. Uruguay.