With pool play behind us and the knockout stages right on our doorstep, now seems like an ideal time to check in for a quick state of the (rugby) union.
Most suprisingly good team?
Andrew Gourdie (Newshub sports reporter, presenter): It has to be Japan.
I expected the hosts to score an upset and finish second in their pool, but a dominant display against Scotland that saw them play with pace and execute skills at a level associated with the very best proved their win over Ireland was no fluke.
James Regan (Newshub sports reporter): Japan.
Always love seeing a host team go far, especially when they’re underdogs. A fantastic show against Ireland that set the tournament alight.
Ollie Ritchie (Newshub sports reporter, The Cup 19 podcast host): Japan.
While many hoped the 'Brave Blossoms' could go all the way through pool play, the way they've done it has been nothing short of first class - playing with width and giving opposition teams headaches out wide.
Michael O'Keeffe (Newshub sports reporter): The obvious answer here is Japan, but how about Uruguay!
Their victory against Fiji was like the ending of the movie 'The Prestige'. Very surprising.
AG: Kotaro Matsushima is hardly new to the international scene, but he’s announced himself as a genuine global star at the 2019 World Cup.
His burning speed has been one of the keys to Japan’s success and he will be a threat against a Springbok side, which - as Steve Hansen noted - can present opportunities for wide men by taking risks with their defensive tactics.
JR: Japan's Yu Tamura.
Leading the tournament in points, instrumental in Japan’s success and a solid pair of hands guiding them around the park. So good off the boot.
He's playing with confidence and cutting up opposition defences. Such a fun player to watch.
MOK: Michael Leitch.
Every ship needs a captain and he's been tremendous. While the 31-year-old has been around for a while, this tournament is sure to change the way he is viewed in the rugby world.
I feel that qualifies him for 'breakout player'.
Most disappointing team?
AG: Argentina, followed by Wales and France, one of which will somehow reach the semi finals.
After two years of build up and hype, the Irish haven’t brought the X-factor everyone thought they would. They’ll need everything to fall into place to challenge the All Blacks in the quarters.
The Pumas blew the chance to beat France and looked like their confidence was rocked after that. Didn't offer much against England.
Not only for their performance on the field, but their sour grapes approach to the threat of their game v Japan getting cancelled by Typhoon Hagibis.
Most disappointing player?
AG: A three-way tie between the referees, World Rugby and Typhoon Hagibis.
JR: David Pocock.
One of the Wallabies' best players, we haven’t seen anything great from Pocock, although he hasn’t played in his preferred No.7 jersey.
OR: Rieko Ioane.
Looks like a player with no confidence. Struggled to make an impact against two very lowly ranked teams.
MOK: Ardie Savea's goggles.
Made one appearance and that was off the bench against Canada. Hasn't got the call-up since.
Biggest threat to the All Blacks?
AG: England and South Africa undoubtedly have the quality to destroy the All Blacks’ hopes of a threepeat.
But if they look too far past a team that’s beaten them twice in the last three years, they might end up watching the final from home. For that reason, right now, Ireland present the biggest threat to the All Blacks.
They may have a thing or two up their sleeves and still have another level they could go to. A couple more world-class players than Australia and South Africa.
My goodness, they look clinical.
MOK: Themselves (cue groans)
AG: England to beat Australia - but only just.
All Blacks to comfortably account for Ireland. Wales will be too clinical for France.
Japan’s dream run to end at the hands of the Springboks.
JR: All Blacks, England, France and South Africa to go through.
OR: All Blacks to beat Ireland, England to beat Wallabies, South Africa to beat Japan and Wales to beat France.
MOK: Wallabies, All Blacks, Wales, Springboks.
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