The morning after the morning before. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? But that’s the nature of writing about a tournament that’s taking place eight-hours ahead of our own time, when the games are enjoyed over a morning brew rather than a pint of lager.
It does, however, allow you to sit back and analyse what’s just taken place. And in seeing the response to yesterday morning’s events in Japan, it is clear that it was the most significant day of the Rugby World Cup so far.
This is because every major tournament needs a moment when it announces its presence to the wider sporting world. A moment of shock, of controversy or of outright skill: and this needs to happen early. Without these, tournaments are in danger of trundling along, significant to those that care but not capturing the attention of a wider audience.
This is not unique to rugby. Each major tournament needs its moment to emerge as a global spectacle.
For football in 2018, in the backdrop of Russia’s contentious position as host nation, it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s spectacular hat-trick against Spain; for cricket this summer, it was Ben Stokes’ astounding catch that catapulted the competition from the back to the front pages of the national press; for this Rugby World Cup it was yesterday’s shock result of Ireland’s defeat to Japan alongside the attrition and quality in Wales’ victory over Australia that has confirmed this tournaments’ place in the wider sporting consciousness.
Japan’s defeat of Ireland yesterday is regarded to have a profound effect on this World Cup, with former Ireland winger Denis Hickie asserting that it will “ignite” the tournament.
This is true in two regards. Firstly, it will intensify support for the World Cup across Japan as the host nation pushes for progression through the group stages and, secondly, it will embolden supposed ‘smaller nations’ to bring the game to the bigger teams – accommodating a more open and entertaining World Cup.
Wales’ defeat of Australia was important for a wholly different reason.
The chances of shocks like yesterday’s happening regularly in this World Cup are, whilst not impossible, improbable. For major tournaments to continuously enthral, it is vital that the big billed games deliver the anticipated spectacle.
Yesterday’s Pools D tie felt like the first game to do that. The first real meeting of two giants from their respective hemispheres, resulting not in a ‘shock defeat’ or ‘major upset’ but rather a ‘to-the-wire’ thriller than oozed quality.
These games can so regularly disappoint: failing to live up to expectation as talent is overwhelmed by emotion but yesterday’s contest was not the case, and it is the manner in which these games are played, just as much as a the upsets, that will determine how this Rugby World Cup is remembered.
Written by Will Sewell.