5 takeaways from round three of the Rugby World Cup
Two teams are warming up perfectly for the quarter-finals while the tournament has already broken one record, writes Guy Giles.
New Zealand have momentum
Any lingering doubts about the tournament favourites were well and truly extinguished in round three.
Yes, the All Blacks faced the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament in Canada and Namibia, but they had no trouble in racking up the two biggest scores of the World Cup so far.
They were hardly tested, but games like these allow a team to find their groove while also giving squad players a chance to impress.
New Zealand did that and more as they clocked up 134 points over the two games, conceding just nine at the other end.
The All Blacks are romping towards the knockout stages having emphatically reminded everybody that they remain the team to beat.
Group of Death a damp squib
Pool C was billed as this year’s Group of Death, with England, France and Argentina all vying for two places in the quarter-finals.
Instead, it has turned out to be a massive anti-climax. Not that England or France will be complaining.
They will have expected qualification to be on the line when they meet in Yokohama on Saturday, but both are safely through already.
Top spot is still up for grabs but finishing second would actually be rewarded with an easier run to the final by avoiding New Zealand in the semis.
England won’t be thinking about that, however, and, if anything, will be targeting another bonus-point win to maintain their perfect record.
Japan and Scotland set for showdown
Instead, it is the hosts’ pool that has provided all the drama.
Japan are now three from three following a 38-19 victory over Samoa that saw them take the lead in the second minute before cutting loose later on.
It could, though, still count for nothing, with their showdown against Scotland set to decide whether or not they reach a first-ever quarter-final.
Win, and they will qualify as group winners. Lose, and they will likely need two bonus points to progress.
Scotland have a game against Russia to come first but if, they secure an expected bonus-point victory, then Sunday’s clash in Yokohama could turn out to be the game of the pool stage.
Fiji have still got it
The Flying Fijians are back.
After losing their opening two games against Australia and Uruguay, Fiji responded by turning on the style.
John McKee’s side flicked and tricked their way to a 45-10 demolition of Georgia, treating the Higashiosaka crowd to one of the performances of the World Cup.
Semi Radradra was undoubtedly the star, carrying the ball an incredible 176 metres, beating 11 defenders and making six clean breaks in a two-try masterclass.
It will take a small miracle for them to reach the knockout stages by beating Wales, but the Pacific Islanders have at least produced a performance to be proud of.
Red cards on rise
There have already been more red cards at this World Cup than any other, and we still have a round of pool matches to go.
Argentina lock Tomas Lavanini became the fifth player sent off in Japan after a dangerous high tackle on England captain Owen Farrell, following USA flanker John Quill, Uruguay prop Facundo Gattas, Samoa wing Ed Fidow and Italy prop Andrea Lovotti on to the naughty step.
There will undoubtedly be more players joining them there before the tournament ends on 2 November, with referees cracking down on high tackles and dangerous rucking.
It would be a shame to see a knockout match decided by a sending-off but, at this rate, that looks almost inevitable.
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