Scotland’s world cup finally got underway with a morale boosting 45 – 10 win over tournament darlings, Japan. So if they can beat the Japanese this easily, they should be able to deal quite comfortably with the Springboks who were vanquished by these same Japanese, right? Unfortunately not. This victory owed as much to some very ‘charitable’ refereeing, and the short time that the Japanese had to recover from their titanic victory over the Springboks, as it did to Scottish excellence.
Let me expand…
Imagine being pummelled for an hour and a half by a group of highly trained athletes, all weighing in around the fifteen/sixteen stone mark, and some considerably heavier. Apart from the really heavy knocks which are painfully apparent, you notice all sorts of other cuts, bruises and strains after the adrenaline has worn off in the ice bath or at the post-match reception. By the end of the evening it’s a stiff walk back to the team bus. The next morning you sometimes have to roll out of bed and get up from your knees, using the mattress to pull and push yourself upright. That’s a rest day. A chance to study video of your next opponent and perhaps a little swimming or a massage, if the bruising isn’t too tender! The following day is a little better. Stretching will allow you to do some light training – jogging through set moves or some line out work perhaps, but little more. On the third day the team will have the ‘captain’s run’ at the match venue. On a seven day turnaround this would come on the Friday. It’s a chance to run through your strategies against make believe opponents, a bit like shadow boxing for rugby players. It would normally be done at full pace but three days after a match some players, (usually those in their thirties) are still a little stiff and require plenty of stretching and a massage from the team physio – often loosening up tightness in muscles/joints where old injuries are still making their presence felt. So to matchday. After fifty minutes you’ve got new cuts bruises and strains on top of the others. The calories that you’ve been putting into your body since the last game have been replacing lost energy from that test rather than building up fresh reserves for this contest. You tire. You lack your usual spark, vitality and creativity. Tightness in muscles can lead to injuries. The upshot is that against a decent side, like Scotland, you lose and that magnificent win over the Springboks looks like a bizarre fluke. Let’s hope that this excellent Japanese side has a chance to redeem itself and show the world that they really are a side to be reckoned with.
Elsewhere, in England’s group ‘A’, Australia overcame the Fijian behemoths 28 – 13 but, unlike England, they failed to secure a bonus point, only managing to score three tries. The tournament’s other match saw France overcome Romania 38 – 11. The Romanians have been rebuilding everything in their country since the revolution and rugby is one of the things that, I’m sure, will steadily improve now that the country is finding its place in the world once more.
Looking ahead to the weekend we will have one of the defining games of the tournament when England face Wales at Twickenham on Saturday evening – 8.00pm kick off, and if you think the games thus far have been fairly brutal, in the words of the song, you ain’t seen nothing yet!