Last night’s 36-0 lambasting of England versus South Africa, in part, confirms England’s diminished performance against the US. It also reconfirmed the Southern Hemisphere’s general primacy. Even if it is early days in the tournament, one gets the suspicion that NZ, Australia and RSA are destined to get to the semi-finals. What minnow will join them? RWC Report [now taken offline] and a good writeup from ruggerblogger.

Nothing like rubbing one’s nose in it, but I found this unfortunate quote from Brian Ashton, Britain’s coach, right after the outing against the US (anemic 28-10 victory) last week: “It’s a win after all…. Next Friday [against the Springboks] will be different… I suspect mentally there’s a bit of work to do, but playing against the Green and Gold of the Springboks sharpens the senses.” Plant Rugby. And, to be sure, it was different. It was a loss.

A few comments come to mind:

– England: Welcome to The Wallabies (in the quarter finals).

– Kicking can be fatal. The Springboks found touch on the fly or by the bounce (outside the 22) with remarkable finesse. The emblematic, off the outside of the left foot by the dapper #15, Percy Montgomery (no relation I’m afraid*), was a point in case. The Argentine up-and-unders, another part of the kicking game, were equally disarming against the French. And, of course, we haven’t seen the full importance of the drop kick or penalty kicks — the games have, by and large, been very lopsided.

– It is not enough to do “well.” Winning the ball from a set play doesn’t suffice; it is how clean and quickly it is won. Tackling isn’t enough; stripping the ball on the tackle is the ambition [feels like the influence of American Football]. Giving a booming up-and-under and not being all over the opposing player catching the ball is totally insufficient.

– Despite scoring 36 points, RSA only notched 3 tries, thereby missing a bonus point. This would seem to demonstrate how hard it is to score 4 tries in a match (between legitimate rivals).

There are fortunately a few other interesting pool ties ahead, notably France v Ireland (Sep 21), Ireland v Argentina (Sep 30) and NZ v Scotland (Sep 23). And, given the way Georgia gave Ireland a run for its money, Georgia v France (also Sep 30) could also be fun to watch in the dangerous D pool.

* Montgomery is my uncle’s name, and my son’s middle name.

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