HOSTS France don’t feature in this week’s line-up after Les Bleus failed to secure a bonus point against plucky but limited Uruguay on Thursday night. The fact that the South Americans managed to push many people’s tournament favourites so hard (eventually losing 27-12), after their Under-20s team beat Scotland at the Junior World Trophy this summer, reinforces the impression that they could be an emerging force who could help shake up the established order if given the right opportunities during the next World Cup cycle.
Another ‘minnow’ nation to give a promising account of themselves was Portugal, who gave an unimpressive Wales a run for their money on late Saturday afternoon before Warren Gatland’s side pulled away for a 28-8 victory, and their willingness to have a go from anywhere was typified by full-back Nuno Sousa Guedes, who made 108 metres of 11 carries to earn selection at full-back, and also launched a couple of really effective long-distance clearances. he is selected just ahed of Uruguay’s Baltazar Amaya, whose magical try on 53 minutes really had France on the ropes.
Mack Hansen‘s try, an excellent 50-22 and tidy all-round performance as Ireland eventually ran out 59-16 winners over Tonga gets the nod on the right wing, while hat-trick hero Makazole Mapimpi was man-of-the-match for South Africa in a 76-0 demolition of Romania (not all the ‘minnow’ nations are managing to be quite as competitive) so is on the left touchline.
With two try-assists, Garry Ringrose of Ireland gets the nod at outside-centre, while there was lots and lots of competition for the No 12 jersey, including last week’s selection Bundee Aki, who had another barnstorming performance for Ireland to be named man-of-the-match, the classy Tomas Appleton of Portugal, heroic Uruguayan captain Andres Vilaseca and Wales’ Johnny Williams who was arguably his team’s most effective attacker – but it has to be Fijian man-of-the-match Josua Tuisova, who scored two tries, carried for 123 metres and made nine tackles during hobbling off with a hopefully not too serious ankle injury on 68 minutes. A moment which summed up his and his team’s never-say-die attitude came just before his departure when he was penalised for a high tackle then immediately won the ball back with an excellent turnover in the next play.
Johnny Sexton might have become Ireland’s all-time leading points scorer with a haul of 16 against Tonga from a try, four conversions and a penalty, to take his career total in the green jersey to 1,090 (seven ahead of Ronan O’Gara), but it wasn’t quite the tactical masterclass early on that he will have been hoping to deliver, so Uruguayan playmaker Felipe Etchevery gets the nod. His evening may have ended in heartbreak after a wayward clearance kick hit a team-mate allowing Peato Mauvaka to score the try which stretched France cleared, but he was superb in so many other ways, and he was desperately unlucky to have his try which would have made it 13-12 coming up to half-time chalked off for an obstruction. George Ford was man-of-the-match again for England but Damian MacKenzie scored two tries in an authoritative performance for the All Blacks, but both miss out here.
Maxime Lucu was man-of-the-match in that France win, Cam Roigard was the same for New Zealand in their 71-3 hammering of Namibia, Cobus Reinach scored a quick-fire hat-trick inside 24 minutes for South Africa against Romania (and now holds the record for the two fastest hat-tricks in World Cup history having grabbed three tries in 21 minutes against Canada in 2019) while Samuel Marques was another stand-out for Portugal against Wales, but it has to be Fiji’s Simione Kuruvoli who kicked 14 of his team’s 22 points in that sensational win over Australia and ran the show, with the Pacific Islanders losing some shape and focus when he went off but good enough and determined enough to still get the job done.
Loose-head prop Eroni Mawi helped set the tone of that Fiji win with a powerful surge through James Slipper and a thunderous hit on Carter Gordon to dislodge the ball early on, and he along with tight-head Luke Tagi made sure Australia did not have the scrum dominance they hoped for, so they are the pillars on either side of another Pacific islander in Sama Malolo, who scored two tries off the bench as Samoa mauled their way past Chile gets him the hooker spot. And another Fijian
Tadhg Beirne put in a big shift in the engine-room for Ireland with 11 tackles and 11 carries and his team’s opening try, so he teams up in the second-row with Amato Fakatava, who provided valuable physicality and two excellent cover tackles on the escaping Elliot Daly, to help Japan stay competitive with England until the final quarter. That means no room for Portugal’s Steevy Cerqueira, who made 18 tackles against Wales, or Samoan man-of-the-match Theo McFarland.
Courtney Lawes, scorer of England’s decisive try versus Japan, retains the blindside slot.
Breakdown king Levani Botia of Fiji is named ahead of Welsh man-of-the-match Jac Morgan, Ben Earls of England (arguably their best player this weekend with 111 metres carried and 12 tackles made but playing in a competitive position), Nicolas Martins of Portugal and 20-tackle Sione Havili of Tonga at openside, with the deciding factor being that he was such a key figure in one of the all-time great results in World Cup history.
At No 8, Taulupe Faletau scored Wales’ bonus-point securing try and had a handful of brilliant tackles including a sensational try-saver on Martins, while Caelan Doris was a big performer for Ireland, but Tongan talisman Vaea Fifita is helped set the tone as Ireland were rattled early on before recovering to keep their campaign on track.
15. Nuno Sousa Guedes (Portugal)
14. Mack Hansen (Ireland)
13. Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
12. Josua Tuisova (Fiji)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (South Africa)
10. Felipe Etchevery (Uruguay)
9. Simione Kuruvoli (Fiji)
1. Eroni Mawi (Fiji)
2. Sama Malolo (Samoa)
3. Luke Tagi (Fiji)
4. Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
5. Amato Fakatava (Japan)
6. Courtney Lawes (England)
7. Levani Botia (Fiji)
8. Vaea Fifita (Tonga)