Two weeks in and the pools have started to take shape, with the cream rising to the top and some epic battles, yet no outright upsets to speak of so far.
Each week, we’ll be ranking the top 10 teams based on their performances in the World Cup so far and taking into account their wins, opposition and overall performances.
Let’s see how the teams are faring after Week 2.
1. France (last week 1)
Coming off the back of a strong performance against the All Blacks, the hosts made a number of changes to their squad to take on Uruguay. Despite being pushed by the South Americans, the French showed their depth and held on to position 1 with a strong performance, sealing the game when Louis Bielle-Biarrey crossed with eight minutes to go. Melvyn Jaminet continued his strong start to the tournament with five successful kicks in the 27-12 victory. With Namibia up next, France should continue on their winning ways.
2. South Africa (last week 2)
The Springboks had an opportunity to test their depth against Romania, with two of their 2019 heroes Malcolm Marx and Eben Etzebeth being ruled out before the match. With far too much power upfront and out wide, the Boks continued their strong start to the tournament with both Cobus Reinach and Makazole Mapimpi crossing for hat tricks in the 76-0 rout. Going into their top of the pool clash with Ireland, the Boks have bolstered their squad with the inclusion of Handre Pollard to replace Marx.
3. Ireland (last week 3)
The Irish have started their World Cup with two formidable victories, this time over a strong and willing Tongan side, including experienced internationals Vaea Fifita, Malakai Fekitoa and Charles Piutau. Despite the opposition, the Irish got into their stride early, bringing up an Irish points scoring record for Johnny Sexton on the way to a 59-16 win. Bundee Aki looking strong in the midfield, with Caelan Doris and Tadgh Beirne leading the way up front. Next up the Irish take on the Springboks in a clash that will likely determine which team takes out their pool, as we start to get an idea of the Quarter Final match ups.
4. New Zealand (last week 5)
After a defeat to France in their opener, the All Blacks needed to achieve two things in the second round. Firstly, achieve ascendancy up front to allow their backs front foot ball, and secondly improve their discipline. From the start, their pack looked dominant even achieving a near 5 metre push over try off Namibia’s feed. This ascendancy led to Cam Roigard and Damian McKenzie running riot, both scoring tries with McKenzie kicking eight conversations on the way to a resounding 71-3 win. On the discipline front, things improved somewhat although there were still a number of penalties, however a yellow card turned red for Ethan de Groot will see him sweating on the outcome as New Zealand goes into its bye week.
5. England (last week 4)
England are now 2 from 2 having overcome a persistent Japanese performance. Ford once again led from the front with his boot, kicking four conversations and two penalties, while Lewis Ludlam, Courtney Lawes, Freddie Steward and Joe Marchant all scored tries. England will be happy to have won their second straight game, despite being booed by their own fans for their lack of endeavour, and appear to have already sewn up a place in the Quarter Finals with outsiders Chile up next.
6. Wales (last week 7)
Despite coming into the World Cup out of form, Wales sit atop the pool of death with two wins and two bonus points after overcoming Portugal 28-8. Having rung the changes, Warren Gatland will be happy with the result if not the performance of his team. The elder statesman, Leigh Halfpenny, had a good night off the tee with 3 from 3 conversions, while Louis Rees-Zammit, Dewi Lake, Jac Morgan and Taulupe Faletau each scored a try. Sterner things are to come, with the Wallabies up next in a make or break game for both teams.
7. Fiji (last week 8)
Speed, strength, skill and set piece. After ruing missed opportunities against Wales last week, Fiji came out charging this week against the Wallabies. By half time they held a 12-8 lead, however their dominance over the Australians was only starting. Josua Tuisova looked full of pace and power, crossing after half time to extend their lead, while the wheels steadily fell off for the Wallabies. With the crowd at their backs, the Fijians overpowered the Wallabies scrum late to secure an historic victory. Having alredy played the other two best teams in their pool, the Fijian’s fate is now in their hands.
8. Italy (last week 9)
A bye in the weekend gone, yet the Italians move up a spot on the Power Rankings. They’ll be fresh and rearing to go against Uruguay this week, before their World Cup steps up a gear with a must win game against the All Blacks next week. Lose that and they face the prospect of having to beat the hosts in the final round to make the Quarter Finals.
9. Australia (last week 5)
Sacre bleu. Things are going from bad to worse for the Wallabies, who started the World Cup with their front row stocks looking thin, then lost Taniela Tupou and their (fifth) captain Will Skelton in the build up. They knew how the Fijians were going to play but didn’t seem to have the game plan or players to be able to sustain pressure and hold back the Fijians’ power game. Mark Nawaqanitawase again looked lively, Nick Frost was strong at lineout time, but it was the hooking of Carter Gordon early in the second half which set alarm bells ringing. With depth at 10 already a concern, can Eddie Jones rely on Gordon in the must win game against Wales this weekend, or will he pick 3 Test veteran Ben Donaldson to lead his team?
10. Samoa (new entry)
Beginning the World Cup with a bye isn’t ideal, but Samoa got the ball rolling this week with a solid 43-10 win over Chile. Christian Leali’ifano led the way with the boot as Duncan Paia’aua, Jonathan Taumateine and Fritz Lee scored tries and Sama Malolo got two. The Samoans will face a much sterner challenge next week as they take on Argentina, but will be better for their first hit out. A win’s a win.
What do you think Roarers, who are looking the best? Which teams have the most room to improve?