The Rugby World Cup is well underway and supporters have been treated to some high-scoring matches, scintillating tries and tremendous tackling throughout the opening week of action. England, who are hosting the event, opened the competition with a bonus point victory over Fiji while New Zealand and Australia have also started strongly. South Africa, meanwhile, lost their opening match to Japan in one of the biggest Rugby World Cup shocks of all-time. The Springboks will be keen to eradicate that defeat with a strong performance against Samoa on Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster’s England were one of the leading candidates for success prior to the tournament and they showed plenty of quality throughout their clash with Fiji. Sam Burgess and Owen Farrell were both instrumental after coming off the bench to dictate the play, while Mike Brown scored two tries as England picked up all five points from their potentially tricky opener.
England will face both Wales and Australia in the coming weeks and Lancaster’s men will have to raise their game if they are to compete against these two nations. Pool A is widely regarded as the ‘Group of Death’ in this year’s World Cup and the hosts will need to emerge victorious in at least one of those matches if they are to progress to the knockout stages.
Meanwhile, New Zealand are one of the most formidable sides in world rugby and Steve Hansen’s men will be full of confidence after picking up two wins in their opening two matches. While they struggled against Argentina, the All Blacks produced an impressive display to comfortably dispatch Namibia and the dangerous Julian Savea chipped in with two scores.
If they play at their best, the All Blacks will be difficult to beat and could justify their 11/10 valuation. It’s not a foregone conclusion by any means but New Zealand are a talented side, with experience and intelligence all over the field.
Finally, South Africa. While the Springboks suffered an embarrassing defeat to Japan in their opener, this may rile them and could help to raise their performance for the duration of the competition. South Africa will be looking to reassert some pride after their dismal opening display and could run riot against a Samoa side that beat the United States in their first match.
South Africa are, and have been for quite some time, one of union’s top sides and it would be foolish to rule them out. The defeat to Japan shows that they are, like everybody else, mortal but they won’t be taking any of their next opponents for granted. They will still expect to top the group and could face Australia or Wales in the quarter-finals if England also finish at the summit of Pool A.