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Round Three of the Rugby World Cup 2023: What we learned

The Rugby World Cup 2023 continued to captivate fans around the world with thrilling encounters and standout performances. One of the standout matches featured Ireland and South Africa locking horns in a gripping Pool B showdown at the Stade de France. Meanwhile, Wales became the first team to secure a spot in the quarter-finals following their victory over Australia in Lyon.

In a fiercely contested battle in Paris, Ireland managed to upset the defending champions, defeating South Africa 13-8. Johnny Sexton, the Irish fly-half, played a pivotal role in their triumph by adding a penalty and a conversion, making him the top points scorer of the tournament with 45 points.

South Africa vs Ireland Highlights

One notable aspect of Ireland’s performance was their resilience at the ruck. Known for their quick ruck speed, the Irish were put to the test in this department, with an average ruck speed of 4.83 seconds in Paris. This was the seventh slowest ruck speed recorded by any team in any game of the tournament, causing them to drop from the top overall ruck speed ranking to sixth within a week.

However, where Ireland truly excelled was in their defensive work at the breakdown. Despite being ranked 10th in the tournament for average turnovers with 6.7, they stood out with the second-most turnovers at the breakdown, totaling five.

Jacques Nienaber, the head coach of the Springboks, acknowledged Ireland’s exceptional breakdown work as a significant factor in their victory. He stated, “I think that’s one area where Ireland were exceptional tonight. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons why we didn’t get momentum.”

Captain Siya Kolisi echoed this sentiment, noting, “I thought they were more accurate than us today, a bit faster to the breakdown. We knew it was coming. We got to their 22, but the opportunities we lost were all through the breakdown.”

One area where South Africa did shine was in dominant tackles, recording an impressive 31 during the match. To put this in perspective, France, a team known for their strong defense, ranked second in dominant tackles overall, managing only 34 throughout the entire tournament—just three more than South Africa achieved in their match against Ireland.

Reflecting on the physicality of the game, Johnny Sexton praised his teammates, saying, “Pieter-Steph [du Toit] is one of the best back rows in the world and he made his presence felt. It was a very physical game, a lot more collisions than our first two games. I’m proud of the lads to front up.”

In contrast to the nail-biting contest in Paris, Wales delivered a dominant performance in Lyon, defeating Australia 40-6 in a Pool C match. The two teams started evenly, but from the 17th minute onwards, Wales began to assert their dominance at OL Stadium.

Wales beat Australia 40:6

Liam Williams, Wales’ full-back, commented on the early challenges they faced, stating, “First 10-15 minutes we were under the pump. We backed ourselves on our line, got the turnover. They aren’t a bad team, but I thought we put them to the sword this evening.”

Wales showcased their willingness to run the ball from various parts of the pitch, evident from their fourth-place ranking in total time in possession (16:22). Despite this, they ranked 15th in territory, demonstrating their confidence in their ball-handling skills. Furthermore, Wales led the tournament in tackles made, with a total of 505, although nearly half of these were against Fiji in the opening round.

In another compelling match, Italy secured a 38-17 victory over Uruguay in Nice. Italy climbed to the top spot for average ruck speed with 3.19 seconds, surpassing Ireland. Their impressive 91 percent tackle success rate also placed them at the forefront in this category.

Italy beat Namibia

However, Italy faced a formidable opponent in Uruguay, who ranked third in turnovers per game (8.5) and first in turnovers at the breakdown (6.5). Italy’s discipline proved to be a weak point, as they committed seven turnovers within their own 40, which proved costly.

Uruguay’s blindside flanker, Manuel Ardao, emerged as a standout player with six breakdown steals, earning high praise from Italy’s assistant coach, Marius Goosen. Comparing him to the likes of David Pocock, Goosen said, “There’s probably only two or three guys in world rugby at the moment that have the skill that number six has around the breakdown – like [David] Pocock used to have.”

France beat Namibia 96:0

In other noteworthy developments, Henry Arundell became the tournament’s leading try-scorer with five tries against Chile in Lille. Tonga continued to impress with their red-zone efficiency, averaging 4.8 points per entry into the opposition’s 22, although they had not yet secured a victory in the tournament.

Namibia, despite a defeat to France in Marseille, boasted the third-quickest ruck speed in the tournament with 3.42 seconds. They aimed to utilize this sharpness in the upcoming match against Uruguay, with scrum-half Jacques Theron expressing confidence in their forward’s ability to outmuscle their opponents.

The Rugby World Cup 2023 continued to deliver thrilling matches and exceptional performances, keeping fans on the edge of their seats as the tournament progressed. With more games ahead, rugby enthusiasts eagerly anticipated the next set of exciting encounters and standout moments on the world’s grandest stage.

For everything about the Rugby World Cup 2023 check out our guide here.

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