World Rugby

Top Five Moments From The Opening Round Of The Rugby World Cup

Top Five Moments From The Opening Round Of The Rugby World Cup

Top five moments from the opening weekend of action at Rugby World Cup 2023, as George Ford saves England, Fiji come up short and Chile impress.

Sep 13, 2023
Top Five Moments From The Opening Round Of The Rugby World Cup

The World Cup is back, and so far, it’s living up to all the hype.

We’ve seen the hosts start strong, watched the reigning champions exhibit their title credentials and gazed upon a kicking masterclass put on by England.

We’ve already seen our fair share of heartbreak, with late disallowed tries and prologued injuries haunting teams early into the competition.

So, as the rugby world takes a breath and readies itself for round two, Flo Rugby examines the five standout moments from the opening round of rugby.

The New Wilkinson 

England are in turmoil – that was the overriding sentiment hanging over the team as they prepared for their World Cup opener against Argentina on Saturday night.

With little hope of a win, things got even bleaker three minutes in when Tom Curry was shown a yellow card for a high tackle, which was bumped up to a red.

As fans were entering panic stations, one man remained calm and collected and put the weight on the nation on his shoulders.

That man was George Ford. The veteran fly-half proceeded to knock over not one but three first-half drop goals, the second of which was launched from around the halfway line.

Ford’s masterclass ran through 80 minutes as he racked up all 27 of England’s points.

History Made in Paris

The start of any World Cup is special, but this year’s opener felt different. The stakes were higher than ever before, as France and New Zealand – two of the best teams in the world – faced off, with the top spot in Pool A on the line.

Never before has an opening fixture held so much jeopardy.

Sometimes, when expectations are that high, it’s almost impossible for the match to live up to the occasion, and while the rugby was error-strewn, the atmosphere never dipped.

The French crowds were faultlessly noisy, screaming support for their nation, willing them on to a famous win, which they eventually achieved thanks in large part to a fine bit of running from Matthieu Jalibert, who set up Damian Penaud in the corner to put France in control in the second half.

The scenes erupted across the Stade de France when the final whistle was spellbinding, not only because France had just toppled rugby royalty.

They’d become the first team to beat New Zealand in a World Cup group-stage game.

A Day to Remember for Chile 

Despite losing, Chile will revisit their bout with Japan for decades. That’s because it was their first-ever appearance in a Rugby World Cup.

To mark the occasion, they made sure to start things on the right foot, taking the lead within the opening six minutes, courtesy of a smart break by Inaki Ayarza. After storming deep into Japan’s half, the full-back offloaded to captain Martin Sigren, who was brought down inside the 22.

It looked as though he’d spoilt the attack by spilling the ball in the tackle; however, Rodrigo Fernandez was on hand to collect possession and stroll across the line to score Chile’s first-ever try in the competition.

Their lead lasted less than two minutes, as Japan went on to comfortably win the game. However, Fernandez's try will live long in the annals of Chilean rugby.

No-Look Libbok 

Following a closely fought first half in Marseille, it looked as though Scotland were in with a chance of toppling the reigning champions. South Africa led at the break by three points but were being matched physically by an enlivened Scotland, who were inexplicably controlling the scrum.

That competitiveness didn’t last long, as South Africa emerged from the break with a new lease of life, taking complete control of the breakdown for the remainder of the game.

After a series of phases in the Scotland 22, Pieter-Steph du Toit managed to crash over to extend the Springboks’ lead with less than 50 minutes played.

But the real turning point in the game came three minutes later when Manie Libbok delivered an outrageous no-look cross-field kick to Kurt-Lee Arendse. The winger didn’t have to break stride as he stormed down the right wing to collect the flying ball and score.

The kick itself was perfectly placed and made all the more audacious by Libbok’s casual turn of the head.

Heartbreak for Fiji 

Sport can be cruel sometimes. On Sunday night, it was Fiji, the great entertainers, who fell foul of fate. After enduring a breathless 80 minutes in what was arguably the game of the tournament, Fiji found themselves down 32-26 with the clock in the red.

Fortunately, they had possession deep in the Wales 22, with the try line in their sights.

They patiently waited for the right moment to spring an attack and then pounced. The ball was ferried to Josua Tuisova, who delivered a miss-pass to Semi Radradra.

The ball hit the deck before bouncing up to the centre’s hands. In a cruel twist of fate, Radradra knocked the ball on, giving Wales the win.

Had he caught it, there’s a strong chance he would have scored a try untouched, giving Fiji the chance to clinch the game with a successful conversion.

Watch Flying Fijians Score World Class Try