The much anticipated Rugby World Cup got off to a blinding start this weekend. From the enormous opening ceremony at Twickenham on Friday and England’s win over Fiji, to Japan’s phenomenal victory over the Springboks and Argentina’s battle with the All-Blacks, it has been a weekend of some of the finest rugby played for many years, blowing the entire competition wide open. As avid rugby fans at The Gentleman’s Journal, here are the most notable highlights from the opening weekend.
1. MAN OF THE WEEKEND – MIKE BROWN
Scoring two phenomenal tries against Fiji on Friday, Mike Brown showed his prowess on the field. His explosive sprints and razor sharp handling skills not only secured us the win, but the maximum 5 points too. Mike Brown, we love you.
2. WIN OF THE WEEKEND – JAPAN
A punishing performance against South Africa gave Japan the win in the final moments of overtime. Showing delicately honed skills since the last world cup, Japan has caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of rugby union. For a team whose last victory came 24 years ago to win against a team that hasn’t lost an opening game for 20 years, this match is sure to go down in the history books.
3. BALL CONTROL – NEW ZEALAND
Like a well-oiled machine, New Zealand have a team that, when called upon, can perform every position expertly. To have backs hitting like forwards, and forwards handling like backs is a rare thing, but something the All-Blacks seem to dominate year-on-year. Although there were a few drops, the majority of play saw textbook phases, and pioneering handling skills.
4. HAND-OFF – AMANAKI MAFI
Ok Ok, so Japan’s win was above and beyond spectacular, but that final try wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for Amanaki Mafi beautifully handing-off Jesse Kreil in order to get the ball out to Hesketh for the final try. 34-32… Done.
5. MOST INFLUENTIAL PLAYER – SONNY BILL WILLIAMS
After a rather poor start for New Zealand, Williams came on in the the second half to storm ahead, with exceptionally explosive power, quick hands and a dominant presence in all plays of the game. A physical force to be reckoned with, we look forward to seeing what be can do (Not against England)
6. BEST TACKLE – JOE LAUNCHBURY
After a string of serious injuries, Launchbury’s back with a vengeance. His impressive tackle against the mammoth of Fiji’s Nadolo showed that nobody can stand in England’s way.
7. BEST VICTORY CELEBRATION – GEORGIA
A side that have often be laughed at in the Rugby World Cup, Georgia’s win over Tonga was incredible, and their reaction even better. Watching the closing moments, you would have thought they had won the World Cup from their celebrations. Go on Georgia!
8. BLUNDER OF THE WEEKEND – NEHE MILNER-SKUDDER
The biggest blunder has to go to Skudder, after a beautiful set up from Sonny-Bill the winger dropped the ball, being immediately subbed off. Oh Nehe!
9. WORST INJURY – CORY ALLEN
After an already weakened Wales side, the sight of Cory Allen leaving the pitch with a severe hamstring tear is bad news for the team, especially with replacements few and far between and a dominant England squad to face this weekend.
10. WORST KIT – ENGLAND
The England away kit is beyond awful and left us wondering, ‘Is this really England?’ Luckily they will be in white from now on, a good omen for sure.