The tone has been set for the next six weeks of competition in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The Japan and South Africa game was the standout contest across the first weekend of competition, not just for the historic result, but because of the style of rugby that was played and the passion that enveloped the game. It was a joy to watch and the excitement that came from the endeavour of both sides, despite the South Africans’ ultimate disappointment, was palpable.
The weekend began with hosts England taking on the Pacific champions Fiji. While the result was probably never really in doubt, the style that defines Fijian rugby was always going to add an air of uncertainty to the contest. In the end, Fiji will regret missed opportunities and errors while England is grateful to have walked away with the win after an unconvincing performance.
All the other matches went with form in terms of results except for the Pool C game between Tonga and Georgia where Georgia took the victory against expectations and rankings but which paled in comparison and significance to the later victory by the Brave Blossoms.
Ireland saw off Canada without concern putting its stamp on Pool D with a big score line and the USA was hit by the wrecking ball physicality that is Samoa, in a match that at times looked more like a medical triage unit than a sporting field.
However, what will have world rugby and tournament organisers pleased about the outcomes from the first weekend of matches is the overall spirit in which they were played, underlining the often promoted tenets of the sport -- integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
Aside from Japan’s efforts, two games were notable -- not for the results -- but for the spirit and tone of the contest.
Uruguay took on Wales in Cardiff in front of a mostly Welsh and very vocal crowd but one which appreciated the long spiritual journey this determined and proud visiting team has made.
Uruguay is a team which revels in its amateur status -- a status acknowledged and respected by all the teams.
It has come to this World Cup in the full knowledge that it will not progress past the group stage and that it will not, in all likelihood, win a single game. But the success for Los Teros is that it qualified for the World Cup and it is here, on the world stage, representing its nation and its people, with the opportunity to play the world's best; playing a game for which each of the team members feels a deep passion and commitment.
While the scoreline did not reflect it, the team from Uruguay did themselves and their country proud.
In the final game of the weekend, the current world champions and top ranked team New Zealand found the going somewhat tougher than expected in its match against Argentina.
The Pumas have never defeated the All Blacks in 21 meetings, but certainly gave them a scare in what is being hailed as an entertaining and sometimes surprising game that saw an icon of world rugby shown only the third yellow card of his long and illustrious career.
By the end of the game New Zealand had sealed the win but, in an outstanding display of respect, stood as a guard of honour applauding the Argentinian team off the field in recognition of the standard of play and the challenge that had been put to the All Blacks.
These first eight games have now set the standard and the tone for the next six weeks of competition. It looks like rugby followers around the world are in for a treat.Suggest a correction