Viliame Mata Rugby World Cup 2019: Six things we’ve learned from Japan so far

Viliame Mata Rugby World Cup 2019: Six things we’ve learned from Japan so far

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The World Cup is in full swing after four days of gripping rugby that, in these parts at least, has been embraced with open arms. From Tokyo to Sapporo to Osaka and beyond, the locals have turned out in their thousands for a tournament that is making its debut here in Asia.

Although there have been no shock results so far, there’s been plenty to get stuck into with the likes of New Zealand, Ireland and Fiji (briefly) catching the eye. The All Blacks remain the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup come November, but who knows what’s in store over the coming weeks.

Here, we look back over the opening weekend of fixtures and dissect the key themes and topics that have emerged:

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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Viliame MataHeavyweight contenders only just getting started 

Some of the rugby on offer over the weekend was a delight to watch. The boot and brains of Conor Murray. The effervescent dynamism of Beauden Barrett. The poise and finishing prowess of Kotaro Matsushima. The all-round tenacity and spirit of the Fijians. It was all there, kicking off the tournament in style. But as many head coaches were keen to stress, there’s so much to come from their sides. 

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England, Australia, Ireland and, yes, New Zealand are all capable of reaching greater heights as the competition progresses. The English put in a tame and uninspiring performance against the Tongans while the Wallabies were caught sleeping against Fiji, before eventually finding their feet to secure the win. Joe Schmidt’s side were relentless and clinical but will know that they were handed a free pass against a lacklustre Scotland. And for all their brilliance against South Africa, it still felt as if New Zealand have another gear at their disposal. “Were we perfect? No, but you’re never going to be at this stage of the tournament,” said Steve Hansen on Saturday evening. You feel his team aren’t the only ones.

Viliame MataPacific Islanders pack a punch 

The Pacific Islanders will do some damage to the World Cup expectations of this year’s heavyweight contenders. The way that Fiji exploded out of the blocks against Australia was a joy to watch, mainly because it was a performance built on power and pace that, at times, proved too much for Michael Cheika’s side. It is a real shame that Peceli Yato will not be able to

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