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The Second Series of Matches
Sean Fitzpatrick's opinion on the 2nd series of matches
Posted Sep 15, 2011 by Sean Fitzpatrick
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We started the second series of matches with our first look at Samoa, Georgia, Canada and Russia. And although I expected I would be building up Samoa as a team from whom we might expect a few surprises, it's actually Canada who get my vote as team of the day.
They beat Tonga 25-20 which is as near to a surprise as we have had so far in the World Cup. A special word of praise for Kieran Crowley, the Canadian coach, who I played with in the 1987 World Cup winning All Blacks team.
He got his tactics spot on, but Tonga really helped by producing a string of mistakes which let Canada in. Just like their game against New Zealand, Tonga were nowhere near as tough or committed as we expected them to be.
Samoa continued in the same vein as when they beat Australia in July by demolishing Namibia 49-12, but discipline was a problem for them, giving away too many penalties, and I wonder if the injury to their fly-half Tusi Pisi is going to be a worry going forward. Teams like Samoa just do not have the strength in depth of the big boys.
South Africa and Wales will be watching very carefully what happens to Samoa. In this incredibly difficult pool, nothing is guaranteed. Samoa v Wales next Sunday will be one of the tastiest matches to watch. I am already looking forward to it.
Scotland will be mightily pleased to have beaten Georgia 15-6. Neither side looked likely to score a try, though Scotland managed to nullify the physical aggressive approach that we were expecting from Georgia. Scotland beefed up their scrum and I thought their men of the match were prop Euan Murray and hooker Ross Ford.
Now for the Scots, a win over Argentina in ten days will see them go through to the quarter-finals.
The United States' 13-6 win over Russia was a classic example of how far these two teams have come. It was Russia's first appearance in the World Cup and who knows what the future of the sport could be in that country? They both have good professional coaches - US's Eddie O'Sullivan used to coach Ireland and Russia's Kingsley Jones played and coached in the Premiership - and the game lived up to the billing of a classic encounter between two evenly matched teams.
On Saturday we have one of the truly fascinating games of this World Cup - Australia v Ireland. It should answer a few questions. How good are Australia? Are they really potential World Cup winners. And which Ireland is going to turn-up, the Brian O'Driscoll inspired buccaneers or a more tame version?
I'll let you know my views after the weekend games!