Ireland’s 27-3 demolition of Scotland on Sunday has put them on course to top Pool A and set up a likely quarter-final with South Africa, following the Springboks’ defeat to New Zealand.
Both groups have had potentially decisive opening matches at this Rugby World Cup, although Scotland now face a challenge to make the knockout phase with Samoa and Japan both harbouring quarter-final aspirations.
Scotland, unable to afford another defeat, are essentially playing knockout rugby already and a final group match against Japan could now be decisive.
After disappointing warm-up matches against France and Sunday’s try-less outing, there is evidence to suggest one of the Tier Two teams in their group could cause an upset.
New Zealand silence doubters
New Zealand answered any questions about Beauden Barrett starting at full-back as he and fly-half Richie Mo’unga combined ruthlessly twice in four minutes to set up tries and hand the All Blacks a 17-3 half-time lead over South Africa in Saturday’s heavyweight clash.
On both occasions they lured the Springboks toward the ball, leaving them exposed out wide before breaking through the gainline to score, with Barrett assisting the first.
The Springboks chipped away at the lead, including with a well executed Handre Pollard drop goal, but despite periods of sustained pressure ended up losing 23-13.
New Zealand defended determinedly, giving away just two penalties, and underlined that it will take an exceptional performance to stop them winning a third successive World Cup.
Headache for Fiji
Australia’s second-half turnaround against Fiji on Saturday was marred by controversy after Reece Hodge’s high tackle on Peceli Yato went unpunished.
Yato is one of Fiji’s key players and helped his side race into an early lead with a try inside seven minutes.
With the score 11-7 and the flanker racing toward the try-line again, Hodge made contact with the Fijian’s head in a tackle that had minimal use of the arms.
While the Australian went on to score eight points in the Wallabies 39-21 win, Yato was removed from play after failing a head injury assessment.
It was a disappointing start for officials as World Rugby tries to clamp down on dangerous tackles, although Hodge has been cited retrospectively.