These daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the World Cup as well as betting lines, what to watch for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from France.
THE LEAD: Foster: ‘World’s got to decide which game they’d rather watch’
All Blacks coach Ian Foster has taken a veiled dig at New Zealand’s potential quarterfinal opponents — and the state of international rugby in general — quipping the world would have to work out “which game” it would rather watch into the future.
The All Blacks were incredible in Friday night’s 96-17 hammering of Italy in Lyon, playing a brand of rugby few teams, at any level, have the ability to replicate. The high-tempo, high-skill attacking onslaught was beautiful to watch, but came off the back of a dominant set-piece and maul that also demonstrated there was substance to their style.
But it was their attack that had fans on their feet; as right from Jordie Barrett’s pinpoint kick for Will Jordan through to offloads from Brodie Retallick and Ardie Savea for the same winger yet again, Friday night’s 79-point thrashing was as close as rugby could get to football’s tag as “the beautiful game.”
Asked exactly what value the win over Italy, which have some likened to a glorified training run, would have for the All Blacks ahead of their quarterfinal, particularly when they face Uruguay in their final pool game, Foster stressed the amount of work that had gone into the performance over the team’s bye week.
“Yeah, good question, in rugby you’ve got to deal with the challenges that you’ve got,” Foster said. “And the trouble is that when you win with a big scoreline people think there is no value in it; well the value in it will have been massive for us because we put ourselves under pressure the last 10 days for that performance.
“But we knew we had to, we didn’t want to give Italy a chance and we respect them enough to know that we had to be in the house. So what we’ve learned is that we’re really focused on our preparation and we get it right, and we figure out the challenge in front of us, that we can play good rugby.”
Foster then shifted the narrative to Ireland’s grinding, but still hugely engaging, 13-8 victory over South Africa, the match which looks likely to supply the All Blacks’ quarterfinal opponents — and most likely Ireland at that.
And he couldn’t resist taking aim at those who would play in a contrasting fashion to the All Blacks, and perhaps those at World Rugby who are looking at ways to drive greater attacking rugby and, therefore, entertainment at the game’s highest level.
“Now, if you look at the South Africa-Ireland game, it was a very different game of rugby, the ball in play was 27 minutes in the whole game,” Foster noted. “So a very stop-start game, very physical, very combative, whereas you saw a different spectacle tonight, and probably at some point the world’s got to decide which game they’d rather watch.”
Ooft. Bring on the quarters.
AROUND THE CUP
Wallabies have a pulse — just
Australia are still alive at the World Cup, after Fiji failed to pick up a bonus point in their 19-12 win over Georgia on Saturday evening.
The victory took Fiji to 10 points, solidifying second place in Pool C, but the Wallabies can move beyond them with a bonus-point victory over Portugal on Sunday in Saint-Etienne.
That would mean Fiji would require only a solitary losing bonus point in their closing pool encounter against Portugal next week to book their quarterfinal berth.
It’s a long shot, but at least Australia still have some sense of hope to play for against the Portuguese, after a fortnight when not only their campaign has been torn to shreds, but so too the very seams of Australian rugby altogether.
Meanwhile, relieved Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui said he was delighted that the Pacific islanders had rediscovered the discipline that has made them such a force this year in the second half of their win over Georgia.
The Fijians rallied from a nine-point half-time deficit to win 17-12 at Stade de Bordeaux and put one foot in the World Cup knockout stages with only a losing bonus point required from their final match against Portugal.
After eschewing the most excessive flamboyance of island rugby to take Wales close and beat Australia in their first two Pool C matches, Fiji were sloppy and inaccurate in the first 40 minutes against a Georgia side happy to take advantage.
“We were put to the sword in the first half. It was because of a great Georgia team and we’ve got to be better there,” Raiwalui said.
“If we’re being honest, we were beaten to the punch. They came out and they were firing and we were probably lucky to be only down by nine points.”
- With Reuters
No wins, but Chilean rugby ‘on a different path’
Chile bowed out of the Rugby World Cup with a 59-5 defeat by Argentina in their final Pool D clash in on Saturday, but they are richer for the experience and ready to return in Australia in four years time, coach Pablo Lemoine said.
Chile lost all four games, scoring 27 points and conceding 215 in a tough debut on the sport’s biggest stage, but Lemoine believes it has at least put rugby on the map in the country.
“It was an amazing month here,” he said. “This Rugby World Cup has given us a lot and put Chilean rugby on a different path.
“It was really tough after last week (a 71-0 loss to England), but the boys worked hard and today they showed what Chilean rugby is about.
“There are lots of things we must keep from this World Cup and take into the next cycle so we qualify for the next one.”
Lemoine said coping with the physicality of matches at this level has been a big eye-opener for his team.
“In attack, we have evolved, compared to what we have shown getting here,” he said. “Even against the big teams like England and Argentina, we have had some possession of the ball and managed to create space and opportunities to score, so we can be happy with that.
“I don’t think you can under-estimate the mental aspect and we can build on that. But being physically competitive and experiencing the intensity of the game at this level has been invaluable.”
Australia vs. Portugal
TAB (tab.com.au): Australia $1.04, -25.5 $1.95, Portugal $11, +25.5 $1.85
This has been a World Cup to forget for the Wallabies. Back-to-back defeats to Fiji and then Wales all but ended their campaign, and now all that is left is a face-saving 80 minutes against Portugal. Meanwhile, coach Eddie Jones continues to duck questions about his future beyond the tournament; it is truly a new low in Australian rugby. But the 23 Wallabies players selected on Sunday cannot worry about all that, they must instead reinsert some pride into the gold jersey. Jones has opted for a new centre pairing in Lalakai Foketi and Izaia Perese, while Fraser McReight returns at No. 7 in the only other personnel change. The Portuguese, on the other hand, have nothing to lose and are a team that has shown genuine mettle throughout the tournament, first pushing Wales and then all but defeating Georgia last week. They will see this as the perfect opportunity for an ambush, but Australia should still have too much class.
South Africa vs. Tonga
TAB (tab.com.au): South Africa SUSP, -42.5 $1.95, Tonga $26, +42.5 $1.85
All the focus will be on the right boot of Springboks No. 10 Handre Poll, specifically as he strikes the ball from the kicking tee in the closing encounter of week three. With Manie Libbok struggling to split the uprights, the Springboks have rushed back Pollard, who was an injury replacement for hooker Malcolm Marx, despite the veteran No. 10 having little more than 30 minutes of rugby under his belt since his return from injury. Elsewhere, this is a final tune-up for the Springboks before they have a two-week break leading into a quarterfinal, likely against France, in Paris. If Pollard kicks well, you’ve got to think that he will be the man in the No. 10 jersey at the Stade de France in a fortnight. Tonga, meanwhile, will have one eye on next week’s pool clash with Romania, which is infinitely more winnable than their first three encounters, though they did stick it to Scotland for 50 minutes last week.
NEWS OF THE DAY
France skipper Antoine Dupont rejoined his teammates on Saturday, increasing hope he may be fit for the quarterfinals in a fortnight.
Les Bleus first have to get past Italy on Thursday, but should they successfully navigate that assignment and face the second-placed finishers of Pool B the week after, their talisman may well be good to go.
Dupont recently underwent cheekbone surgery after a nasty head-on-head tackle from Namibia captain Johan Deysel, which earned the African a five-week ban.
But the 2021 World Rugby has since been cleared for a “progressive return to physical activity”, giving hope to the host nation’s supporters that he may yet have a significant role to play in this World Cup.