Five lessons from the past weekend's World Cup warm-up matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Wales won't be also-rans in the Pool of Death
Those who were tipping England and Australia to escape Pool A may be a little less certain after watching Wales' 16-10 win against Ireland in Dublin. The Welsh defended well, shutting down Ireland's midfield and managing to stop their driving maul, and fully deserved the win that sees them leapfrog England to fifth in the rankings. Wales, who lost 35-21 in Cardiff three weeks ago, looked a lot fitter in Dublin and their first-choice XV will be tough to beat at the World Cup.
Ireland struggle to score when their driving maul is stopped
When the Irish get it right, their driving maul is very difficult to stop, and if one of the forwards doesn't get over the line himself, the backs are provided with front-foot ball from which to attack. However, when the opposition does stop the maul, as Wales were able to do in Dublin, Ireland's scoring options dry up. That would not have escaped the attention of France, who are in Pool D with the Irish, or the teams that are expected to face them in the play-offs.
Thomas Francis is a Test-quality tighthead
The 23-year-old English-born Exeter prop made his debut for Wales (who he qualifies for through a late grandmother) against Ireland. With coach Warren Gatland having dropped veteran Adam Jones and Samson Lee still battling for form following his return from injury, the Welsh needed a good performance from Francis and he didn't disappoint. The 1.85m, 135kg prop was stable at the scrums, with Wales winning a penalty at the first set-piece of the game, and contributed around the field to almost certainly earn himself a place in the 31-man squad to be announced on Monday.
Scotland will test the Springboks at the World Cup
Having snatched a late 16-12 win against Italy in Turin last weekend, Scotland coach Vern Cotter brought back the rest of his big guns for the rematch at Murrayfield on Saturday. And they fired, with the Scots scoring six tries in a convincing 48-7 win. While a scoreline like that may have prompted wild celebrations in the past, Cotter called it a 'mixed bag' from his team and said there was still room for improvement. If that's the case, then Samoa and the Boks will have their work cut out for them when they meet the Scots in Pool B at the World Cup.
Japan are finding some form
The Brave Blossoms will also go into the World Cup with confidence following their 40-0 win against Uruguay in Tokyo. Coach Eddie Jones, who received a standing ovation afterwards, will be hoping it's a sign of things to come from his side at the World Cup. While Japan won't be good enough to beat the Boks, Scotland or Samoa, they can give Jones the perfect send-off with a win against the USA. The Eagles beat the Brave Blossoms 23-18 at this year's Pacific Nations Cup, but the latter rested several first-choice players that day and will be a lot stronger on 11 October.
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