Romania and Scotland line up in Lille for the national anthems before their RWC match; Credit:

With the first three weekends of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France in Paris over, the groups had started to provide some sort of indication as to how the final standing would look and, with that, the quarter-finalists.

However, it was not as straightforward as that as some teams had played just two matches and others three,and some had played the top ranked teams whereas others had played the so-called weaker sides. As a result, there were a couple of intriguing match-ups this weekend, notably Japan against Samoa in Group D on Thursday, New Zealand against Italy in Group A on Friday and Fiji against Georgia in Group C on Saturday.

Group A:

The weekend started early, with Uruguay against Namibia on Wednesday in Lyon, both teams looking for their first win of the tournament. Namibia flew out of the blocks, with Gerswin Mouton touching down inside the first minute for the fastest try of the tournament so far. JC Greyling added a second for Namibia for the African country to race into a 0-14 lead. Uruguay composed themselves and responded with tries by Baltazar Amaya and German Kessler, to leave the HT score at 12-20. After the restart, Baltazar Amaya added his second, with Santiago Arata and Bautista Basso making up the scorers for Namibia's five tries. Tiaan Swanepoel had kept Namibia in the game with four penalties, to one for the South Americans. Namibia's indiscipline let them down with two yellow cards and Desiderius Sethie receiving a red card, which helped tip the balance in Uruguay's favour. FT Uruguay 36, Namibia 26.

On Friday, New Zealand were up against Italy in Lyon. The All Blacks were back to almost their scintillating best, with first-half tries from Will Jordan, Aaron Smith (3), Mark Telea and Ardie Savea for a 49-3 half-time lead. In the second half, they did not let off and piled on more pressure with eight more tries, from Will Jordan (his second), Ardie Savea (also his second), Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali'i, Dane Coles (2), Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown, with Italy getting two, the first from Ange Capuozzo at the start of the second half, and from Montanna Ioane when the clock was in the red. For New Zealand, Richie Mo'unga kicked nine conversions, with Damian McKenzie adding four. FT New Zealand 96, Italy 17. Many thought beforehand that this may have been a closer contest.

Group B:

Scotland played Romania in Lille in Saturday's late game. Scotland usually rise to the RWC occasion; however, this time round, they were among to suffer from the draw being made way back in December 2020, resulting in three of the top 5 ranked teams in the world playing in the same group. Losing to South Africa in their first game, and Ireland subsequently beating South Africa, Scotland needed a try bonus point win this evening, plus a win over Ireland next Saturday, to qualify for the quarter-finals. Romania, however, were out for their first win of the tournament. Romania kicked off, Scotland got possession and went through the phases to move into Romania's half, probing their defence with multiple phases, eventually being awarded a penalty which out-half Ben Healy elected to kick for touch instead of attempting a penalty kick at goal. Scotland fluffed the line-out, but the intention was already there. Romania pushed Scotland back into their own half for a brief respite. But it was not for long; Scotland's strong running saw Hamish Watson cross the line for the game's first try within ten minutes, with Ben Healy kicking the conversion from out wide to earn a 7-0 lead. Romania tried to run the ball and put in some good breaks, but could not get near Scotland's 22. Scotland then ran in their second try of the game on 17 minutes, with Ali Price finishing off a strong move, with Ben Healy again adding the conversion. A couple of minutes later, Darcy Graham, Scotland's right wing, danced through the Romanian defence for his team's third try. During the first half water break, the TMO called the referee's attention to an incident which resulted in Romania's Robert Irimescu being yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. Twice in succession Scotland drove for the try line, but just could not finish cleanly. Romania fluffed a line-out on the half-way line, allowing Scotland to attack again, with Darcy Graham touching down for his second try of the game. Scotland now had their bonus point try five minutes before half-time. They had time for two more, too, with Matt Fagerson touching down on 38 mins. In the lead up to that try, Romania's Marius Simionescu was adjudged to have tackled illegally, resulting in Romania's second yellow card. With a two-man advantage, Scotland tore Romania's remaining defence to shreds, with Darcy Graham getting his third try of the half. HT Scotland 42, Romainia 0. For the start of the second half, Romania were back to 14 players on the pitch, although space was opening up all over the pitch. It took Scotland just two minutes of the second half to get on the scoreboard again, with centre Chris Harris touching down. On 56 minutes, both teams started to empty their replacement benches. With Romania offering little resistance, Scotland followed up with tries by full-back Ollie Smith, out-half Ben Healy, replacement hooker Johnny Matthews and replacement back-row Rory Darge, with Darcy Graham bagging his fourth with just three minutes left on the clock. Inbetween Scotland's tries, Romania did have periods of sustained pressure, with some time spent camped in Scotland's half but with no return. FT Scotland 84, Romania 0, with Scotland scoring twelve tries.

Sunday's second, and last, game saw South Africa up against Tonga in Marseille. A bonus-point win would see South Africa top the group and be assured of qualification for the quarter-finals, while Tonga were waiting for their first win of the tournament. Tonga kicked off and took the lead in the third minute when William Havili slotted home a penalty from in front of the posts. Two minutes later, South Africa had the ball up the other end of the pitch and took a penalty quickly for Cobus Reinach to run over in the corner for the first try of the game. Converted by Handre Pollard for a 7-3 lead. Tonga responded with some great offloading, drawing penalties from South Africa, one of which was under the South African posts which Tonga opted for a scrum instead but could not convert into points. Tonga were having most of the ball in the first 20 minutes but could not find a way part the rush South African defence. On South Africa's next attack, they broke through Tonga's defence, with Canan Moodie touching down between the posts, with Handre Pollard again converting. And on 31 minutes, Deon Fourie got South Africa's third try, from a pushover movement. Tonga attacked South Africa's try line again and prop Ben Tameifuna eventually forced his way over on the 37th minute for their first try of the match, to reduce the arrears. HT 21-8 to South Africa. In the second half, South Africa started using their replacements from the 45th minute. Four minutes later they got their fourth (and bonus point) try, with substitute back Jesse Kriel finishing off a well-worked move. But Tonga were still up to the task and had periods of possession, and territory. In the 53rd minute, wing Fine Inisi went over when the ball was spread out wide for Tonga's second try of the game. A couple of minutes later, South Africa pounced on a Tongan error and spread the ball wide for Willie Le Roux to touch down to extend South Africa's lead to 22 points. Substitute Marco van Staden got South Africa's next try. The game had opened up and Tonga got a third try with seven minutes left on the clock, Patrick Pellegrini touching down. But it was South Africa who got the last score of the match, Kwagga Smith touching down under the posts. FT South Africa 49, Tonga 18

Group C:

Saturday's second game saw Fiji against Georgia in Bordeaux. Both teams had something to prove -Georgia wanted to look beyond the RWC and put pressure on World Rugby to allow them into the 6Nations, but Fiji had their eyes on a quarter-final place after defeating Australia the previous week. Georgia (ranked #14 in the world) started off the best, certainly the more composed, and landed two penalties, one by Luka Matkava on five minutes, and the other by Davit Niniashvili on the 20th minute. Fiji (ranked #8), meanwhile, were showing more adventure and were playing free-flowing rugby, threatening the Georgian try line on a number of occasions, but with their handling letting them down. Simione Kuruvoli then missed a penalty kick for Fiji. On 30 minutes, Davit Niniashvili kicked Georgia further ahead with his second, and Georgia's third, penalty of the game. In the last five minutes of the first half, Portugal started to run with the ball and pass it out wide, threatening the Fijian defence, and even attempted a drop-goal, but Luka Matkava's kick was just wide. With just one minute to go, Selesitino Ravutaumada touched down for Georgia, only for the referee to call play back for a knock-on. HT Fiji 0, Georgia 9, after which Georgia made one substitution and Fiji two, including their scrum-half. The second half started off badly for Fiji when they lost Semi Radradra to a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. Georgia put pressure on the Fijian defence and threatened the try line, but they could not make the extra man advantage count. On 50 minutes, with Fiji back up to 15 men, Waisea Nayacalevu finished off a well-worked Fijian move, touching down with an acrobatic leap in the corner; with substitute Frank Lomani converting the touchline conversion, suddenly Fiji were just two points in arrears and their quarter-final place was looking again a reality. They had their heads up and had a chance two minutes later to go into the lead, only to see a penalty attempt go wide. With just over 20 minutes to go, both teams made a couple more substitutions each, for fresh legs on the pitch. Fiji were starting to get on top, gaining more possession and more territory, with their heavyweight props used as battering rams to try and breach the resolute Georgian midfield defence. On 65 minutes, Fiji did manage to tilt the scoreboard in their favour, with Frank Lomani converting a 43-metre penalty to give the Pacific Islanders a slender one-point advantage. And on 67 minutes Fiji extended their lead when substitute Vinaya Habosi finished off a great move started by a break by #7 Levania Botia, touching down in relative comfort. With two tries in the bag, could Fiji even start thinking about a try bonus point, with two more needed in the last ten minutes. Georgia then got their hands on the ball and were playing possession rugby in an attempt to claw back the eight-point deficit. With four minutes remaining, Fiji were awarded a penalty and drove the ball up to Georgia's 22, content to keep it tight with the forwards. An attempted drop-kick was wide, giving Georgia back the ball. With less than a minute left on the clock, the referee yellow-carded Fiji's inside centre, Josua Tuisova, for a dangerous tackle. Georgia, needing two scores, kicked a penalty quickly, giving Fiji enough time to kick the restart. A massive scramble followed, with Georgia breaking through the Fiji defence and kicking the ball through, only for a Fiji boot to connect with the ball first and kick it out of play. With the clock over 80 minutes, the referee blew for full-time, with Fiji winning 17-12 in a highly entertaining game.

On Sunday, Australia played Portugal in Saint-Étienne. Portugal kicked off and Australia had possession, bring the ball up in phases into Portugal's 22 only to knock the ball forward. They were awarded a penalty a minute later and Ben Donaldson elected to kick for three points rather than go for touch and aim for a try, showing their lack of confidence. Portugal were passing the ball wide and running up the wings and pressured the Australians up to their own ty line. Portugal scored a stunning try when centre Pedro Bettencourt went over in the right corner on twelve minutes, taking the lead, with Samuel Marques kicking the conversion and taking a 3-7 lead. Just two minutes later the try-scorer, Pedro Bettencourt, was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. From the resulting penalty, Ben Donaldson missed the chance for Australia to narrow the gap. But Australia recovered and powered through the Portuguese defence for Richard Arnold to touch down beside the posts to give Ben Donaldson an easy conversion, for Australia to retain the lead, 10-7, on 20 minutes. Two minutes later and Australia had their second try, with hooker David Porecki diving over from a maul, opening up a ten-point lead for the Tier 1 rugby-playing nation. And five minutes later, Angus Bell got Australia's third try after strong running play dissected the Portuguese defence. With four minutes to half-time, Portugal showed how dangerous they are with ball in hand and were inches away from scoring their second try only for back-row Nicolas Martins to put his leg in touch before he grounded the ball. HT, Australia lead 24-7. In the second half, Portugal held out for seven minutes before back-row Fraser McReight touched down in the corner for Australia's fourth try and bonus point. When Portugal got possession, they played entertaining rugby, running strongly and not afraid to pass the ball out wide. Their perseverance almost paid off in the 60th minute when a line-out maul was pushed over the line only for the ball to be knocked forward; nevertheless, Australia were down to fourteen men when Matt Faessler was yellow-carded. Two minutes later Australia were down to thirteen men when substitute Samu Kerevi was yellow-carded for leading with his forearm. Portugal piled on the pressure but Australia were putting in massive hits, stopping Portugal from getting over the line in their 22. On 70 minutes, just as Australia were back to fifteen men, Portugal forced their way over the Australian line for their second try, with Rafael Simões getting the touch down and Samuel Marques the conversion with nine minutes left to play. Three minutes later Australian wing Marika Koroibete touched down for Australia's fifth try. FT 34-14 for Australia.

Group D:

Thursday's game saw Japan up against Samoa in Toulouse was intriguing on paper, with the world's 13th ranked side up against the 12th. Japan got the first try of the game when Pieter Labuschagne touched down after 13 minutes, but they had to wait for around 20 minutes for their second when Michael Leitch scored. Rikiya Matsuda converted both, with a penalty too, with Samoa's Alai D'Angelo Leuila getting the Pacific Islanders' only points of the first 30 minutes with a penalty. They did mount a late comeback with Seilala Lam scoring their first try of the game with two minutes of the first half remaining. With the score 17-8 at half-time, Samoa had to do something extra in the second half to rescue the match. Nine minutes after the restart, Kazuki Himeno extended Japan's lead with their third try of the game; however, Samoa staged a 3rd quarter recovery with tries from Duncan Paia'aua and Christian Leali'ifano, both converted by Christian Leali'ifano, to narrow the gap to six points after Rikiya Matsuda got a late penalty for Japan. Samoa's indiscipline cost them in this match, with Jonathan Taumateine yellow carded on 32 minutes. Just four minutes later, Japan's Shota Horie also started ten minutes on the sidelines; but it was just seven minutes into the second half when Samoa lost Ben Lam for the rest of the game for a red card which indirectly led to Japan's second-half try. FT Japan 28, Samoa 22.

Saturday's early game saw two South American teams, Argentina and Chile play each other in Nantes. The South Americans got on the score-sheet in the 9th minutes courtesy of Nicolas Sanchez who also converted. Juan Martin Gonzalez and Agustín Creevy also touched down for Argentina in the first half, giving them a 24-0 lead. They added five more tries in the second half, courtesy of Martín Bogado, Rodrigo Isgro, Ignacio Ruiz and Santiago Carreras, with Juan Martin Gonzalez getting his second. Chile tried valiantly but they had no answer to the power and experience of their South American neighbours, save for a late consolation try by Tomas Dussaillant with just seven minutes left on the clock. FT Argentina 59, Chile 5.  

Week-end Summary

In Group A, France play Italy on Friday evening; if the home side wins that, they will go through as group winners, to be joined most likely by New Zealand who have to play Uruguay on Thursday in Lyon.

In Group B, next Saturday's big game sees Ireland and Scotland up against each other in Paris. While a Scotland win in itself may not be quite enough (the permutations are complex), an Ireland win would see them go through as group winners, to be joined by South Africa.

In Group C, in Fiji beat Portugal next Sunday, they will join Wales in the quarter-finals at the expense of Australia who would not qualify for the knock-out phase for the first time in their history.

In Group D, Japan's win over Samoa leads into a winner-takes-all game next Sunday in Nantes when Argentina and Japan go head-to-head to see which side joins England in the semi-finals.

Group A: Uruguay 36, Namibia 26; New Zealand 96, Italy 17 (France top the group on 13 points, with New Zealand in second on 10 points on points difference from Italy) - Namibia has played all four group matches
Group B: Scotland 84, Romania 0; South Africa 49, Tonga 18 (South Africa top the group on 15 points, with Ireland in second with 14 points, with Scotland in third on 10 points) - South Africa has played all four group matches
Group C: Fiji 17, Georgia 12; Australia 34, Portugal 14 (Wales top the group on 14 points, with Australia in second on 11 points, with Fiji in third on 10 points) - Australia has played all four group matches
Group D: Japan 28, Samoa 22; Argentina 59, Chile 5 (England top the group on 14 points, with Argentina in second on 9 points on points difference from Japan) - Chile has played all four group matches