Another tremendous few days of rugby dominated by the already legendary England V Wales match at Twickenham on Saturday night. The gap between the top nations and the smaller ‘tier two’ playing nations is closing. The International Rugby Board diverts large amounts of money from the world cups into coaching, playing and infra-structure development in the smaller rugby nations and it’s starting to show. Following on from Japan’s triumph over the Springboks the less fancied sides have been encouraged to have a real go at their fancied opponents. There is no point in just trying to hang on and restrict their points. If you’re going to lose you might as well go down all guns blazing is the attitude and the result is one of the most enjoyable world cups we have ever seen. On Saturday Canada should have beaten Italy. There are no two ways about it, the Canadians completely outplayed their more fancied rivals from the six nations. The one thing that they lacked was the composure to finish off their chances. They created enough try scoring opportunities to have won the match quite comfortably but when they needed a cool head to apply the finishing touch, it wasn’t there. Hurried passes, knock-ons, or frantic attempts to reach the line when a team mate was better placed cost the Canucks dear and another historic ‘giant killing’ slipped away from them, final score 23 – 18.
Elsewhere the All Blacks overcame a spirited Namibian team. The greatest cheer of the night was reserved for the South West Africans’ try in a 58 – 14 defeat. Argentine beat Georgia 54 – 9 and in one of the most physical games of the tournament thus far the Springboks overcame Samoa 46 – 6.
Then came the Saturday night clash of the two British heavyweights in pool ‘A’. After an hour of play it looked like England were certain winners. They had dominated the scrums and lineouts and looked to have the Welsh bottled up as an attacking threat. At 22 – 12 it seemed as good as over. However Welsh tenacity, English indiscipline and the accurate goal kicking of Dan Biggar kept Wales in the hunt. They gradually clawed their way back as England tried to slow down and close out the game too early. The final try by the Welsh was a triumph for courage and refusal to be beaten, but the cost, in injury terms, could yet derail their tournament. Final score England 25, Wales 28.
Wales are struggling with a growing injury list and so are England, but spare a thought for Springbok captain Jean De Villiers. In November 2014 he suffered a serious knee injury playing for the Boks against Wales in Cardiff. The joint was re-built with artificial ligaments but it was feared that he wouldn’t be fit for the world cup. Revealing his indefatigable character, De Villiers fought his way back to fitness and re-joined the squad. His recovery was hailed as nothing short of miraculous but during his come-back match against Argentina in August his jaw was broken. Once again his world cup chances were written off by everyone bar De Villiers. He had the jaw wired, kept up a training regime which saw him lose over a stone in weight due to obvious dietary restrictions, but he was back in the squad in time to lead his country to the world cup. On Saturday the jaw was broken again during the match against Samoa. He has since announced his retirement from international rugby. A true sportsman, hard but fair and as tough as they come. He is a loss to the game.
Elsewhere Australia put part timers Uruguay to the sword, 65 – 3. Scotland kept up their winning ways, eventually overcoming the USA 39 – 16, in spite of being behind at half time. Ireland beat Romania 44 – 10 at Wembley in front of a rugby world cup, record crowd of 89,267.