France 9-24 Ireland

Ireland claimed victory in Pool D and top spot with a hard fought victory over France. A couple of early penalties were missed by France, whilst Sexton was accurate with his kicking until forced off by injury. Ireland created one good break, but were unable to hold on to the final pass and lost Paul O’Connell to injury on the stroke of half time. In the second half, Ireland were able to score a couple of tries and secure the victory.

Ireland played well and shut France down effectively and will need a similar effort next week against a good Argentine side, although it looks as though they will be without some key players in Sexton and O’Connell if the injuries are as bad as they look and O’Brien could be cited for a punch off the ball. France will have to show a great improvement (especially in securing ball at the breakdown) if they are to challenge New Zealand next weekend.

Italy 32-22 Romania

Italy established enough of a lead to withstand a late flourish from Romania and claim a second victory and third spot in Pool D, guaranteeing automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup. Italy took a good lead into half time, playing little, but scoring when they did. With time running out, Romania were able to create and score some chances, but had left themselves too much a deficit to make up.

Large parts of the game were forgettable, with Italy seemingly happy to sit back on a comfortable lead they had established. Romania battled on throughout, but didn’t have the creativity to consistently carve open the Italian defence and score points. Italy have recorded 2 losses against Six Nations opponents in the group, whilst gaining 2 unconvincing victories against tier 2 opposition. Although a Six Nations side, Italy are showing few signs of developing as a rugby nation and it is easy to see why the likes of Romania and Georgia are calling for promotion and relegation within the premier European tournament.

Ireland 44-10 Romania

Ireland recorded a bonus point victory over a resolute Romanian side in Pool D. Romania defended and tackled well, with Ireland only securing the bonus point in the final quarter when Romania went down to 14 men and they were able to run in a couple of tries to put some gloss on the score, although Romania scored a late try.

Ireland have secured two bonus point victories from their opening games against the two weakest teams in the group, which they would have expected to do. They will surely be confident about beating Italy and setting up a big final game against France, the winners of whom will surely top the group. Romania have played France and Ireland, two games that they would not have been expecting to get anything out of. They now have games against Italy and Canada, which they will surely have targeted to get something from. Whilst they have impressed with their workrate, it is difficult to see them winning either, although they could achieve a bonus point for losing by less than seven points.

Italy 23-18 Canada

Italy scraped a victory they didn’t really deserve against Canada in Pool D of the World Cup. Canada opened the scoring with a penalty, claimed the kick off from the restart and then scored a try from just inside their 22. Italy soon responded with an excellent try of their own from around the halfway line. The scores remained close, with a Canadian penalty with 10 minutes left narrowing the score to 20-18, but Italy managed the clock and territory well in the final 10 minutes; they didn’t give Canada a chance to score, kicked penalties for lineouts to use up the time and scored a penalty with the last kick of the game.

Italy were quite poor today, but had enough experience to hold on at the end. It is difficult to see how they will progress from Pool D as I would expect Ireland to beat them quite comfortably based on that performance. Canada battled well, made several great line breaks and were full of exciting rugby from their backline. The game against France will be tough for them, but they must stand an excellent chance against Romania.

France 38-11 Romania

France recorded their second victory in Pool D to put them in an excellent position against a tireless Romanian side making their first appearance of the tournament. France scored their tries in bunches (two in the last ten minutes of the first half with Romania down to 14 men and three in the final 15 minutes) and secured a bonus point. Romania also scored a try through a lineout in the final ten minutes of the game, but France deserved their victory.

To make use of a cliche, it was a very French performance – full of flair and incision at times, whilst at other times ponderous and lacking direction and precision. France will need to play better to be considered genuine contenders or to beat Ireland. However, having beaten Italy already and with Canada still to play, France look all but certain to already be in the quarter finals. Romania were generally solid defensively and competed ferociously at the breakdown, but were severely lacking in creativity, which is going to make winning games difficult for them.

Rugby World Cup: Pool D preview

Countries competing in Pool D (IRB ranking in brackets):

Canada (18)
France (7)
Ireland (6)
Italy (14)
Romania (17)

Pool D (on paper at least) appears to have two clear favourites in Ireland who should qualify reasonably comfortably. However, I think that this will be quite a tight group, as Ireland seem to have had difficulties at the World Cup in the past and then there is the favoured cliche of which French side will turn up. Italy will certainly be waiting in the wings waiting to take full advantage of any slip from them and qualify; they played well against Wales in a recent World Cup warm-up, showing strong defence and out-scored the hosts in tries. I expect France V Italy to be the key match for qualification, with the winners joining Ireland in progressing from the group. For Canada and Romania, the game between them will be important and will decide who will finish fourth.

Predicted final table:

1. Ireland
2. France
3. Italy
4. Romania
5. Canada