The Springboks game was the biggest clash during the pool stages. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/AP Photo
You’ve got Australia versus Wales on Sunday and another two weeks wait until England play France. Those are the only two heavyweight clashes that could influence the make-up of the World Cup quarter-finals.

This is a World Cup that could be won by six teams, but realistically it is also a World Cup that only has six teams in it.

The next three weeks really are practice hit-outs for the likes of New Zealand, Ireland and the Springboks, while England, Wales and Australia prepare for one big game that will determine who they play in the quarter-finals.

There will be good entertainment from teams that are relatively equally matched, but the problem with this World Cup is the lack of quality match-ups during the group stages.

Outside of a handful of matches, the only thing in doubt pre kickoff is the score differential. This tournament will only come alive between 19 October and the final on 2 November.

In the interim we will get enthusiastic about individuals and those matches that provide competitiveness. Rugby’s World Cup, for all its growth and popularity, can’t compare with a Soccer or Cricket World Cup.

There just isn’t the quality of top teams and there aren’t enough matches in a week to sell the group stages as anything, but a prolonged playoff preparation for the top six teams.


New Zealand, of the top six, were the most impressive in the opening week. The All Blacks beat a very good Bok team to put down an early marker to be the champions. South Africa’s performance ranked second because of the quality of the opposition they played, while Ireland and Wales were emphatic in their opening halves against Scotland and Georgia.

Wales blasted Georgia away in the first 20 minutes and then settled into winding down the clock for the last hour.

Ireland looked structured and strong, but you won’t be able to get a sense of just how good they are at this tournament until the playoffs.

You’ll get a good idea of how realistic Wales’ World Cup aspirations are once they have played the Wallabies.

England are powerful and will be strong in the playoffs. They are a team that will build to the French game and use that game as a playoff match.

Eddie Jones’ English team copped a lot of flak for their performance against Tonga, but they were comfortably in charge and they showed very little of their playoff game plan strategy in brushing aside a Tongan side that a fortnight ago had conceded 92 points in 65 minutes against the All Blacks.

In the next few weeks we’ll enjoy the individual qualities of players like Sevu Reece, Cheslin Kolbe, Manu Tuilagi and Adrie Savea, but all-round it is going to be more bore than big bash for now because it will be all too predictable when the Boks and the All Blacks play the likes of Namibia, Canada and Italy.

@mark_keohane 


IOL Sport