Who’s hot and who’s not: Portugal, Ireland and France shine, early exits and World Cup-ending injuries

Jared Wright
Who's hot and who's not image 9 October 2023.jpg

Ireland players celebrate a try against Scotland while Wales' Taulupe Faletau is forced off the field due to injury against Georgia.

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.


Portugal create history: Who saw that one coming? Os Lobos claimed an historic first Rugby World Cup victory on Sunday as they beat Fiji 24-23 in a thrilling game. Fortunately for Fiji the result was enough to take them through to the quarter-finals but the story of the night was definitely Portugal, who matched the islanders blow for blow and thoroughly deserved their win. What a special moment for the team.

Rampant Ireland: The best team in the world have now notched up 17 straight victories, and topped their pool at the World Cup as their attentions turn to their quarter-final clash with New Zealand. They steamed past Scotland, scoring six tries in a convincing 36-14 victory as they once again threw down a marker in terms of their title credentials. Their fans will hope those injured in the game recover in good time.

Ruthless Les Bleus and red-hot Matthieu Jalibert: Despite inspirational captain Antoine Dupont missing their final Pool A match, France were brutal and brilliant as they cruised to a 60-7 thrashing over Italy. Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert was the star of the show, assisting three tries and scoring another as Fabien Galthie’s side swept the Azzurri aside in an emphatic performance in front of their beloved fans.

Los Pumas show their teeth: Michael Cheika’s charges threatened to cause a few upsets at this World Cup, but they never really lived up to their hype until their final pool game against Japan. The Pumas finally muscled up and showed their teeth in a more accurate and physical performance to send the Brave Blossoms home. For Argentina, a clash with Wales awaits and after this win they’ll be much more confident.

English rugby shake-up: “We are on the cusp of something quite spectacular”. Those were the words of RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, who revealed plans for new ‘hybrid contracts’ for men’s international players. Yes, these could be empty promises, but at least it is clear that the bigwigs know that change is needed, especially after the collapse of Worcester Warriors, Wasps, London Irish and now Jersey Reds.

Spirited Samoa sign off: The Pacific Islanders were displeased by their showings during the Rugby World Cup, but they did save their best for last, pushing England all the way in a superb performance in their final match. Lima Sopoaga was exceptional throughout, as were the likes of Fritz Lee and Theo McFarland. In the end, they were unable to hold out for a famous win, but boy did they impress in defeat.

World Cup quarter-finalists: So there we have it. It’s France, Ireland, Wales, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Argentina who are the remaining eight in the competition. The weekend’s quarter-final action kicks off with Wales v Los Pumas before Ireland tackle the All Blacks in Saturday’s late game. On Sunday we’ll see England face Fiji in the afternoon and then it’s the hosts against the Springboks. They are four mouth-watering matches and congratulations to all the sides who have progressed to the last-eight. Who wins it from here?


Azzurri fail to impress: After ending their long wait for a Six Nations victory last year and backing that up with a historic victory over Australia in November, there were hopes that Italy could make a good fist of making the quarter-finals despite having France and the All Blacks in their group. However, it was not to be as both Les Bleus and New Zealand put Kieran Crowley’s side to the sword convincingly. Quite simply, it was a hugely disappointing campaign from the Italians, who only really put in a decent performance against Namibia.

Razor’s stadium ban: Justin Marshall revealed this week that incoming All Blacks coach Scott Robertson was banned from watching the  team live at the stadium whilst in France. Understandably, there is some bad blood between current head coach Ian Foster and New Zealand Rugby, and it is understood that Foster made the call to stop Razor from viewing the games as he felt it could be a distraction for his team.

Early exits: With the pool stages now wrapped up, there will be fans proud of what their team have achieved at the World Cup and simply qualifying for the tournament, but for others, it was a big disappointment. The likes of Australia, Japan and Scotland will be angry, upset, dissatisfied or all of the above by their side’s showing on rugby’s biggest stage and rightly so. The knives will be out as the autopsy begins.

Anthem and flag ban await Boks: News broke this week that the defending champions, South Africa, may be forced to play their World Cup quarter-final and beyond – if they get there – without their national flag and anthems. It’s a sorry state of affairs with the South African government failing to compile with the World Anti-Doping Agency policy updates. Hopefully, it is updated in time to avoid this eventuality.

World Cup-ending injuries: Injuries are never a good thing, but for the likes of Makazole Mapimpi, Jack Willis, Taulupe Faletau and Pablo Matera, they couldn’t have come at a worse time. The quartet all got the opportunity to represent their country at the tournament but have picked up injuries as they helped their respective sides qualify for the last-eight. One sympathises as they must now watch from afar.

READ MORE: Fiji v Portugal: Five takeaways from a thrilling Rugby World Cup clash