Who’s hot and who’s not: France shine, England answer their critics and Rugby World Cup anthems

David Skippers
Who's hot and who's not pic 11 September 2023.jpg

England fly-half George Ford and the All Blacks.

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

France: The Rugby World Cup hosts got their campaign off to an excellent start as they proved too strong for New Zealand in the tournament opener at the Stade de France in Paris on Friday. Although both sides scored two tries apiece, Les Bleus came to the fore with a controlled performance and held an edge throughout en route to their 27-13 victory in front of a crowd of more than 80,000 spectators. Although it was the first match, France’s victory sets them up nicely for the rest of the competition and with less powerful opposition in Italy, Namibia and Uruguay lying in wait in their remaining Pool A fixtures, they are expected to finish at the top of that group ahead of the quarter-finals.

England answer their critics:Β Where did that performance come from? After some underwhelming results in the build-up to the global showpiece in France – most notably against Fiji at Twickenham – few rugby fans expected Steve Borthwick’s troops to win their World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille on Saturday. However, the Red Rose did just that as they clinched a 27-10 victory, despite playing almost the entire match with 14 men after Tom Curry was red carded in the third minute. A special mention goes to fly-half George Ford, who scored all his team’s points in their win courtesy of six penalties and three drop goals.

World Cup’s individual stars: After the first weekend’s round of matches there were several players who hit the ground running and caught the eye with excellent individual performances. Leading the way was the aforementioned Ford of England, who is the leading points-scorer after the first round’s action. Elsewhere, Johnny Sexton also caught the eye with a 24-point haul (two tries and seven conversions) in Ireland’s 82-8 win over Romania, while Tommaso Allan also impressed as he added 17 points (seven conversions and a penalty) in Italy’s 52-8 triumph over Namibia and Ben Donaldson contributed 25 points (two tries, three conversions and three penalties) in Australia’s 35-15 victory against Georgia.

Chile:Β It was a momentous occasion for the South Americans as they made their first ever appearance at the World Cup when they went head-to-head with Japan in their Pool D encounter in Toulouse. Although Los Condores suffered a 42-12 defeat, that scoreline is not a fair reflection of the encounter as the Chileans did brilliantly for long periods and put the Brave Blossoms under great pressure, especially during the opening half. They can certainly hold their heads high as they did not disgrace themselves on their World Cup debut and will look to build on that performance in the next match against Samoa in Bordeaux on Saturday.

COLD AS ICE!

World Cup anthems: The 2023 Rugby World Cup organisers have come in for plenty of criticism for the way the anthems have been sung at matches at this year’s global showpiece in France. All the anthems at the tournament have been performed by a children’s choir and recorded to be played before matches. However, most fans have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction and there have been calls from various users on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the tournament organisers to make changes going forward. It started on Friday night prior to France’s win over New Zealand when the hosts’ La Marseillaise was butchered and continued at most of the other matches where the anthems were incoherent and it also sounded like in most versions that there were multiple verses sung at the same time. According to a report in Midi Olympique, critics are set to get their wish as organisers are considering a change in how the anthems are done from the Round Two matches onwards.

New Zealand: As good as France were in the tournament opener, the All Blacks were also their own worst enemy as they came off second best in most facets of play to their hosts. Firstly, just like in their World Cup warm-up loss to the Springboks at Twickenham, Ian Foster’s charges’ discipline let them down badly as they conceded a whopping 12 penalties to France’s four. They also had to play with 14 men for 10 minutes midway through the second half when Will Jordan was yellow carded for a dangerous aerial challenge. He was lucky to avoid a red card as shortly after his return to action he was only penalised for a similar offence. Another area which the All Blacks struggled in was their forward play and France held the upper hand up front for most of the match and their forward dominance eventually paved the way to their win and New Zealand’s first ever defeat in a pool game at the World Cup.

Argentina: For a side who came into the World Cup in solid form and who were expected to get the better of an underperforming England side in their tournament opener, Los Pumas failed to impress against their opponents, who played most of the match with 14 men after Curry was sent off in the third minute. Despite their numerical advantage, Michael Cheika’s troops battled to get going with ill discipline at the root of their downfall as they conceded a whopping 13 penalties and when it was within goal-kicking range Ford made them pay.

High tackle inconsistencies:Β We’ve only had one round of matches at the World Cup but there is controversy already after match officials have not been consistent in their application of the laws as far as high tackles are concerned in the various matches played so far. England’s Curry was awarded a yellow card on the field, after his clash of heads with Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia, before the infringement was upgraded to a red card. On Sunday, Chile’s Martin Sigren was yellow carded for a similar incident against Japan while no action was taken against South Africa’s Jesse Kriel who also clashed heads while tackling Scotland’s Jack Dempsey. Bizarre!

READ MORE:Β Two Cents Rugby’s five takeaways from the opening Rugby World Cup round