Rugby World Cup Round Two takeaways

Four games and four wins for the Guinness Six Nations sides in action at the Rugby World Cup this weekend – but that fails to tell the full story.

Four games and four wins for the Guinness Six Nations sides in action at the Rugby World Cup this weekend – but that fails to tell the full story.

Both France and Wales were much changed, and they left it late to add a little gloss to games they were expected to find far more comfortable.

Ireland, meanwhile, guided by the record-breaking Johnny Sexton, were a touch more ruthless which left England to complete a winning weekend for the Championship sides on Sunday.

Hosts survive Uruguay scare

France fielded 12 changes against Uruguay but rather than providing fresh legs, they seemed to contribute to a lack of cohesion in Lille.

Their performance against New Zealand on the opening night underlined the fact that this is perhaps the most talented France side in World Cup history, but this was a throwback to the toil of tournaments gone by.

While there is an argument to say that Uruguay out fought France in some areas of the game, there is no doubting that they were the more determined and impassioned side.

France – boosted by the return of Anthony Jelonch – took the lead through a Melvyn Jaminet penalty, but it was Uruguay who scored first through Nicolas Freitas.

Antoine Hastoy and Baltazar Amaya traded tries either side of half time to leave the scores at 13-12 after 53 minutes, but 20-year-old Louis Bielle-Biarrey, unburdened by the trauma of previous campaigns, ended the Uruguayan challenge as Les Bleus marched on with a 27-12 success.

Wales earn crucial late bonus point

Taulupe Faletau’s last-gasp bonus-clinching try mattered little in the context of Wales’ 28-8 win over Portugal, but it could yet have big ramifications in Pool C.

Wales can secure qualification with a win over Australia next Sunday, but Warren Gatland will be asking for more from his players after they found the going tough in Nice.

Were it not for a couple of missed opportunities early on and some second-half fatigue, tier two Portugal could well have toppled the two-time semi-finalists.

Louis Rees-Zammit’s opener settled some early nerves and co-captains Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan also crossed at a sun-kissed Stade de Nice.

Flanker Nicolas Martins crashed over for Os Lobos, but Faletau had the final say, plunging late on to put Wales in pole position.

Ireland stay perfect as Sexton makes history

It’s unlikely that Ireland’s 59-16 victory over Tonga will be the abiding memory of a fiercely competitive Pool B, but Johnny Sexton’s record-breaking score made this match all the more significant.

Ireland’s captain crossed for his third try of the tournament to overtake Ronan O’Gara as his country’s leading points scorer, but insisted the tantalising Paris showdown with South Africa will be a true indication of his and his team’s current level.

Sexton’s teammates could not have done much more in their opening two games, with 10 points on the board and 20 tries across victories against Romania and the Sea Eagles.

They started a little slowly here, with Tonga determined to disrupt at the breakdown and despite an early flurry of penalties and turnovers, they were soon put to the sword.

Bundee Aki was on the board twice in Nantes and he too called for Ireland to rediscover their clinical edge – Springboks beware if they do.

Luck on England’s side

For all of England’s preparation ahead of their clash with Japan, it seems unlikely that a headed Joe Marler assist was in Steve Borthwick’s masterplan.

Courtney Lawes was the beneficiary of a truly freakish passage of play which saw the ball ricochet off Will Stuart’s arm onto Marler’s head and into the giant arms of Lawes for a simple score under the sticks en route to a 34-12 triumph.

England were thankful for a large slice of good fortune at that point, after Japan had cut the gap between the sides to just a single point at the start of the second half.

Lewis Ludlam had earlier scored his country’s first try of the World Cup and England could have had more but for a few too many handling errors.

But when all else failed they had George Ford’s boot to rely on, just as they did against Argentina, and it was his kick-assist for Freddie Steward which ensured England would stay on track for top spot in Pool D.