Two interesting Rugby World Cup games

The Rugby World Cup group stage is nearing the end and the top two teams from the four groups who will qualify to become the eight quarterfinalists are almost determined. There were two games where the highlights are worth watching for a few things that distinguish rugby from American football.

One is the game between Japan and Samoa, which was not close (Japan won 38-19) but has certain features of interest. The game was a little ugly with many penalties but you get to see some excellent goal kicks where the skill of the kickers in drilling the ball between the uprights from acute angles is displayed at the 3:00, 3.25, 6:45, 9:06, 11:15, and 13:25 marks.

In rugby, you are only allowed to tackle a player while they have the ball, which reduces the risk of injury. They also take strict action against ‘late tackles’ where a player tackles the ball carrier after they have released the ball, if the tackler could have avoided doing so. You can see that at the 4:42 mark where the Samoan player #7 gets caught doing a late tackle and gets a yellow card warning.

At the 11:30 mark you see a player who has carried the ball into the end zone try to get as close to the uprights as possible before touching the ball to the ground, just before there is a danger of him being pushed out of bounds by a defender. This is to make the conversion kick as easy as possible, something I discussed in an earlier post.

The other game was between France and Tonga, which France won narrowly 23-21. This game highlighted the excellent use of forward kicks. As I said, in rugby, you can only tackle the ball carrier and once a player is tackled to the ground, they must release the ball or the team will be penalized with a costly penalty. So when a player knows that they are about to be tackled, they try to find a team mate to whom they can pass the ball, but it is only legal to pass the ball backwards, never forwards. But you can kick the ball forwards, and sometimes the ball carrier will kick the ball gently forward when they see a tackle coming and then run past the defender to pick it up again, which you can see at the 2:25 mark. On other occasions, a player might kick a ball so that a distant teammate, away from the crowd that usually accompanies the ball, can run forward and collect it. You can see this at the 7:05 and 11:30 marks.


  1. jrkrideau says

    I missed the France vs Tonga game but enjoyed the Japan--Samoa game. There were too many stupid penalties, especially with the Samoan players coming in from the side in the loose rucks and mauls. (A type of offside for non-rugby types.)

    It looks like South Africa versus Canada tomorrow; I am not too hopeful.

    It has been a good world cup so far, with some surprising results. The quarter finals should be fun

  2. jrkrideau says

    It looks like South Africa versus Canada tomorrow; I am not too hopeful.
    I was correct.

  3. Mano Singham says

    I am not sure why South Africa ran up the score so much once it was clear that they were going to win, had got the bonus point for scoring four tries, and had qualified for the next round. Even if Italy beats New Zealand and gets a bonus point, they would not be able to match South Africa in the points difference.

  4. says

    Typhoon Hagibis hitting Japan means there are two (potentially three) more interesting games not played: England v France, New Zealand v Italy, and most importantly, Japan v Scotland.

    England v France was cancelled, declared a scoreless draw, which means England win the group and France finish second; both had already qualified for the second round, but I’m sure France wanted the chance to win. New Zealand v Italy was cancelled, which took away Italy’s slim chance of an upset and handed first place to New Zealand instead of South Africa. If Italy somehow won and scored four tries, they would win the group.

    If Japan v Scotland is cancelled, Japan automatically qualifies for the second round. Ireland would need to beat Samoa (very likely) and score four tries (a difficult task) to finish first. The group winner plays South Africa, second place plays New Zealand. If Ireland and Scotland both win, Japan would be eliminated. People won’t be happy if that game isn’t played.

    It’s not the first time Japan has been involved in cancelled games. Back in 2011, they withdrew (for obvious reasons) from the IIHF world championships. Most of Japan’s hockey players came from Sendai and Hokkaido, so they were among the hardest hit. Japan was given last place in their group, but Spain was relegated instead.

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