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Sean Fitzpatrick 3rd Blog on the RWC
What a weekend!
Posted Sep 19, 2011 by Sean Fitzpatrick
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What a weekend! Ireland's brilliant 15-6 win over Australia has set the Rugby World Cup alight.
One of the favourites has been taken down for now! And more significantly, because of the way the draw works, it has virtually guaranteed a northern hemisphere team will be in the final which will make for a wonderful north v south battle.
Despite all the nice words that were said about Australia before the World Cup, Ireland brutally exposed them. They exposed Quade Cooper and they exposed Tatafu Polota-Nau, the hooker. Both struggled when put under intense pressure. Cooper can make things happen, but under pressure he created problems for his own side.
Ireland's Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien were just fantastic in the contact areas. Australia were hammered in this phase of the game due to the loss of Pocock to injury. They were always on the back foot and they were in disarray before the end.
The next step is blindingly obvious for Ireland - do not celebrate too big. They have to work hard to maintain their focus. They have to beat Italy and then they will take the Pool.
For the All Blacks, it was job done. A score of 83-7 against Japan would suggest all is well for the favourites. But the injuries aren't helpful and they have highlighted just how much the team depends on three individuals in particular - Daniel Carter, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read. Because of the injury to Read, we won't be getting them back in full until the final pool match or the quarter-final.
Read's and McCaw's injuries highlights the dilemma at loose-forward. For the second time in as many matches, Victor Vito was quiet and it did not escape attention that he was substituted pretty early. It tells me that all is not well in that area.
If scores can be misleading at this stage, you only have to look at England for proof. Six tries and 41 points against Georgia looks good, but if I was an England player I would be disappointed. You just cannot give away 12 penalties in the first half at this level. If Georgia had a kicker, it could have cost England the game.
Coach Martin Johnson can belt on as much as he wants about this, but it's leadership on the field that is needed to cut this out.
One thing was clear to me after this match, England need to play Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half from now on. Toby Flood did not dominate the game enough and they need Wilkinson's leadership, his reading of the game and his ability to use his kicking to give them field position.
If there was a real positive for England it was the display of Simon Shaw, one of the oldest players. I thought he looked terrific.
Wales followed their good but losing display against South Africa with a 17-10 win over Samoa which should see them through to the quarter-finals. This was the danger match for Wales and although there were uncomfortable moments, they can now look forward to the next phase.
I was very pleased that Wales captain Sam Warburton dedicated the win to the victims of the mining disaster in South Wales. Other nations involved in the World Cup - Australia, New Zealand and Japan - have all had their own natural disasters to cope with and we all know how sport can play in an important part in the healing process and letting victims know we are thinking of them.