Opinion: Fijians can fly, red cards mean danger, Cam Roigard can play - what we learnt from Rugby World Cup week two

OPINION: We had to wait until the second week for the first big upset of the 2023 Rugby World Cup - but was it really that big?

Given their historic victory over England last month, Fiji entered the tournament as a ticking timebomb... a boilover just waiting to happen.  

They were desperately unlucky against Wales, but the Wallabies weren't so fortunate, suffering what could be a death blow to their knockout aspirations.

Josua Tuisova scores a try against Australia.
Josua Tuisova scores a try against Australia. Photo credit: Getty Images

Meanwhile, the All Blacks showed themselves slow learners on the discipline front, while England continued to play an uninspiring, but effective style of rugby that may yet pay dividends.

Here's what we learned from week two at France '23.

Flying Fijians haven't even hit top gear yet

Fantastic Fiji were brilliant against the woeful Wallabies, but even more exciting than their historic victory at St-Etienne is the feeling they could have more to give. They are big, they are strong and they are skilful, but I sense Fiji, under Simon Raiwalui, can be more ruthless and another tier 1 team may find them too hot to handle.

The odds on Fiji making a sensational and thrilling semi-final appearance should be shorter than they were a week ago.

See red, see you later

Marginal mistakes by magnificent rugby players are likely to result in time on the sidelines during this World Cup. That's the message World Rugby seems intent on sending to all the teams competing at the tournament by so far banning three players - including All Black Ethan de Groot - for foulplay.

The three players were red-carded by the match officials on review and none of them so far have been able to convince judiciary panels they don't deserve the unwelcome time off. I think we can all see that if a player sees red on the field during RWC 2023, they can assume at least a week off will be the consequence.   

Roigard's rise

The performance of halfback Cam Roigard has been a big talking point around the All Blacks since Saturday's win over Namibia. Left out of the starting 23 for their tournament opener at Paris, Roigard is surely now coach Ian Foster's number two No.9 - but he could be a better No. 1?

French referee Mathieu Raynal deals a card against England.
French referee Mathieu Raynal deals a card against England. Photo credit: Getty Images

Aaron Smith is so much more than the sum of his lightening quick pass off the ground and, as a test centurion, he brings experience this team will need during the big games.

But Roigard could be this year’s Israel Dagg (2011) or Nehe Milner-Skudder (2015), bursting his way into the team - as those two did - with compelling performances.

If Roigard gets a start in the big games, with Smith off the bench, I doubt he will be the reason the All Blacks struggle - if they indeed do struggle - but he could provide that little something different that gets them over the line.

England are not a great watch as a spectacle, but World Rugby doesn't care, so why should they?

England's style of play so far in France is unlikely to attract new fans to the sport. It’s typically methodical, forward-dominated play, 10-man rugby, where the ball rarely goes beyond, yep, the No.10. If they keep winning, will they and their legion of supporters really care?

The answer should be obvious. England's 2003 team ground opponents down and relied heavily on Jonny Wilkinson's boot (mostly via drop goals) to do the rest. It was mighty effective and helped them win the World Cup.

George Ford in action against Japan.
George Ford in action against Japan. Photo credit: Getty Images

This is ultimately a competition about winning and if England find a way to do that within the rules set by the sport's governing body, then all power to them.

Don't hate the players, hate the game.

Irish eyes smiling for now, but it could all end in tears

Played two, won two and with bonus points collected in both, Ireland could not have asked for a more emphatic start to their campaign, regardless of the who they were up against.

They now face five tough games in six weeks to win it all and the run to the title could look this like - South Africa (poolplay), Scotland (poolplay), New Zealand (potential quarter-final), England (potential semi-final) and France (potential final).

Ireland regroup against Tonga at the World Cup.
Ireland regroup against Tonga at the World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

Ireland are a wonderful team - the current world No.1 - but that is some path to the Webb Ellis Cup. They have created plenty of history in recent years, but winning all of those games... that would be some feat.

No other team have a run-in that looks half as daunting as that.

Tom Bartlett is Newshub sports editor