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Rugby World Cup: Five things we learned from opening weekend of games

Carreras collision may be revisited - World Rugby acknowledges logistical woes - Ireland not the kicking kings - Aki puts his hand up - Jesse Kriel challenge looked like a red in real time

Ireland v Romania: Irish team’s early kicking strategy backfires

Ireland may review the quality of their kicking game in the first 20 minutes of the record-breaking victory over Romania in Bordeaux. Johnny Sexton elected to go long from the opening kick-off in the match and again after Romania scored the opening try rather than give the kick-chase a realistic opportunity to contest possession.

There were a couple of Irish kicks that went out on the full and a few that gave their opponents some cheap possession with no pressure. It was a minor issue when weighed against the result but perhaps something that will be a work-on starting with next Saturday’s game against Tonga in Nantes.

Bundee Aki puts his hand up at inside centre

Bundee Aki was given the first opportunity in the 12 jersey, and he took it with both hands, strong and direct in contact, winning the gainline and exploiting the space created by his pack and his halfbacks. His decision-making was first class in terms of bringing in other players and appreciating the best option off the run/kick/pass menu.

His two tries were a nice reward for an excellent all-round display. He also profited from a slight change in emphasis in the way Ireland attacked in the second half in terms of their attacking patterns when employing the ‘front door’ option rather than the wraparound that they favoured more in the opening 40 minutes.


Ireland got over the advantage line much quicker, winning the initial collisions, especially through the carrying of several forwards and were therefore able to play with much more fluency and tempo.

Yellow or red?

It would be wrong to describe it as a refereeing controversy, but it will be interesting to see if World Rugby review the yellow card that Mathieu Raynal awarded to Argentinian outhalf Santiago Carreras for colliding with England outhalf George Ford during Saturday night’s Rugby World Cup game in Marseilles.

Carreras jumped to charge down a kick and caught Ford in the process as he landed. England head coach Steve Borthwick mentioned the incident afterwards when he said: “It looked very similar to an instance a few weeks ago that got upgraded to a red.”

The latter is a reference to an incident when Argentinian fullback Juan Cruz Mallia caught South African Grant Williams as he jumped to block a kick, catching the scrumhalf on the temple, a knock-out blow. There was no punishment during the game, but Mallia was subsequently given a two-match ban following the citing.

Santiago Carreras caught Ford on the chest and that may be the point of difference and the saving grace.

World Rugby acknowledge logistical woes

The Rugby World Cup experienced significant logistical issues on the opening weekend. The French organising committee have come in for criticism following the chaos that arose in Bordeaux and Marseilles in terms of the infrastructure surrounding matches relating to transport and access to the stadiums.

Social media highlighted the thousands left queuing outside the Velodrome and there were a substantial number of vacant seats come kick-off time in England’s win over Argentina, with fans still drifting in throughout the first quarter.

World Rugby released a statement in which they accepted that there had been delays. “While fans were able to take their seats, fan experience is paramount, and we are working with all stakeholders to establish the facts and implement measures to prevent such delays for the remaining Rugby World Cup 2023 matches at the venue.”

Could Jesse Kriel have citing case to deal with?

It will be interesting to note if South African centre Jesse Kriel faces a citing hearing after escaping any punishment during the Springboks’ 18-3 victory over Scotland. His head-on-head collision with Scotland number eight Jack Dempsey looked like a red card incident in real time but Australian referee Angus Gardner and TMO Ben Whitehouse thought otherwise.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend had no doubts. “I saw it about two screens away so it did look like a head-on-head collision and I was expecting the TMO to come in and make the referee aware of that.”

Could that have changed the game? “Who knows? If it had been a red card. Last night a red card didn’t change the game in Argentina’s way so who knows?

Frustrating? “Yes. We had a promising attacking position outside the [South African] 22 and the TMO came in for something like a body check. Finn [Russell] came in to try and get the ball. It wasn’t a traditional sort of tackle, [but] I didn’t really know how that ended up being a penalty. So, there are still inconsistencies in seeing these things.”