Take Six: Ireland and Wales impress while Scotland aim to bounce back

take six ireland
The opening weekend of the 2019 Rugby World Cup is in the books and there was plenty to learn from the differing experiences of the Guinness Six Nations sides involved.

The opening weekend of the 2019 Rugby World Cup is in the books and there was plenty to learn from the differing experiences of the Guinness Six Nations sides involved.

Ireland, Wales, Italy and England all recorded comfortable first game wins while France scraped home to four points but Scotland are now looking to bounce back after defeat at the hands of Joe Schmidt’s men.

What has all it meant? We analyse the big talking points from around the teams.

2019 had been a step down from the lofty heights of the year before for Ireland.

Gone were the Grand Slams and maiden wins over the All Blacks on home soil, replaced by losses to England (twice) and Wales.

But on Sunday in Yokohama in the pouring rain, Joe Schmidt’s side fired a warning shot to the rest of the world with a brilliant bonus-point win over Scotland.

A lot of the focus will rightly go on their tight five who dominated every close encounter with their Scottish counterparts. James Ryan was heroic once again, as was Tadhg Furlong while Rory Best produced an 80-minute showing that should have silenced the doubters.

But of equal importance was the way Schmidt’s young guns stepped up to the mark.

Injuries meant Ireland’s back three had a decidedly inexperienced look to it on paper, but to win a World Cup it takes a 31-man squad effort.

And in the pouring rain, Jordan Larmour produced his best-ever outing in an Ireland jersey, Jacob Stockdale’s defensive work was as good as it has ever been – just ask Stuart Hogg who had to wear two rib-rockers from the Ulster man – and Andrew Conway was a constant menace who was rewarded for his effort with the bonus-point try.

Chris Farrell also had to climb off the bench earlier than anticipated, slid in to inside centre and looked to the manor born.

It was only one game, but whisper it quietly, Ireland might just be brewing something special out here in Japan.

England’s own bonus-point win over Tonga was not quite as impressive as Ireland’s a few hours earlier.

After all, Tonga shipped 92 points to New Zealand earlier this month whereas England had to wait until three minutes from the end just to secure the bonus point.

Passes went to ground, discipline deserted them at times and they lacked a bit of fizz up front.

That is best epitomised by Billy Vunipola’s stat sheet, the No.8 made a game-high 12 carries for only 35 metres and was hammered by one huge shot in the first half that almost tore the roof off the Sapporo Dome.

But as Eddie Jones is so keen to point out, this World Cup is a marathon and not a sprint.

Ben Youngs said England never really got out of second gear on Sunday, so to cruise to a 35-3 win, take all five points and a clean bill of health to Kobe for the USA game on Thursday is job done.

England have now not conceded a try for 167 minutes of Test rugby as well, and with Manu Tuilagi at full flow and the back three starting to click into gear, England have plenty more shots to fire this tournament.

This was the quintessential France performance under Jacques Brunel.

Magnificently brilliant in the first half and maddeningly frustrating in the second.

But the best news for Les Bleus is that, unlike in recent years when defeat has been snatched from the jaws of victory, this time they held firm in the eye of the storm.

South Africa stole a win in Paris two autumns ago, as did Wales in this year’s Championship and Scotland came roaring back in Edinburgh just last month to claim victory.

But in Tokyo on Saturday, after letting a 20-3 half time lead slip, France regathered their composure and Camille Lopez slotted a drop goal to get them up and running.

A victory like this should work wonders for their confidence, and all eyes are already on Le Crunch at the end of the pool stages in Yokohama.

France always find their feet at World Cups, they are the only northern hemisphere team that has never failed to make the knockout rounds.

After a vital win over the Pumas, they look a safe bet to repeat the feat this year.

It was similarly a story of two halves for Wales during their win over Georgia in Toyota City.

Warren Gatland’s side had been made to wait to finally get going in Japan and this showed as they got out of the gates with ferocity, scoring after just two minutes.

Combining pace with precision, Georgia couldn’t live with Wales’ backline as Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies combined on numerous occasions.

Wing Adams cut an inspired figure, scoring a deserved try to evoke memories of his effort in Wales’ win over England in February – the kind of form his teammates will be hoping he can maintain into the business end of the competition.

The second half, however, was much more laboured and scrappy as Wales appeared to lose energy in the face of Georgia’s power.

The drop in performance will slightly concern Gatland but he will know that, with no injuries suffered and maximum points gained, it was a great start to a tournament where it is all about peaking at the right moments.

They will need to do so when they face their toughest Pool D challenge in Australia on Sunday.

Conor O’Shea cut a frustrated figure in Osaka on Sunday – both in the coaching box and in the post-match press conference.

His side had just put seven tries past Namibia to kick off their Pool B campaign with a bonus-point win but the head coach knows his side will have to be much better in the weeks to come.

Too many chances went begging in the first half and they allowed the lowest-ranked side in this year’s tournament to cross three times, including twice off first-phase moves in the second period.

They will have to tighten up against the might of the Springboks and All Blacks, but O’Shea can take solace from the form of Tommaso Allan and Federico Ruzza.

Fly-half Allan pulled the strings in fine fashion, constantly putting his centres through holes and kicking most of his goals.

While Ruzza took home the man of the match award for his Harlem Globetrotter handling skills in the second row.

Throw in Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi who climbed off the bench to cross the whitewash and momentum is hopefully building with the Azzurri for the big tests to come.

Gregor Townsend was making no excuses on Sunday in Yokohama after his side’s defeat to Ireland.

Too many times now have Scotland started slowly in Test matches, leaving themselves a mountain to climb.

Twice against France in the summer they found themselves in deep holes, and again in that Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.

They have proven they can dig themselves out before, but you cannot rely on that forever.

And with Hamish Watson already on the plane home after a tournament-ending knee injury, the mood is low in the Scottish camp.

But they need to pick themselves back up, a quarter-final spot is still theirs for the taking provided they can see off Samoa, Russia and Japan.

Magnus Bradbury is a fantastic replacement to have waiting in the wings while Darcy Graham and Ali Price should inject some new life into their much-changed side for Samoa.

Townsend’s side have made some great escapes before, now they just need to do it all over again.