There were stunning tries, a drop-goal exhibition, red card controversy, and last-minute fumbles on the opening weekend of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
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What were the key talking points as the tournament got under way in France? Here are our seven picks.
Antoine Dupont v. Beauden Barrett
There was an edge-of-your-seat footrace followed by some quick thinking on the opening night in Paris between France and New Zealand.
Tournament : 8 September to 28 October 2023
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It was a one-on-one battle between two of rugby’s biggest stars as the host country kicked behind the All Blacks.
A vociferous Parisian crowd cheered every move of captain Antoine Dupont, and both men appeared to have their hands on the ball at the same time.
The All Blacks were left with no choice but to carry it in touch after Dupont released it while Beauden Barrett was still holding on. The sound inside Stade de France was deafening, and the hosts won 27-13.
The record-breaking Sexton is back
It may have been six months since Johnny Sexton last kicked a ball competitively, but he slotted back in with ease during Ireland’s win over Romania.
With two tries and seven conversions, the fly-half became the highest scorer for his country at the World Cup, surpassing Ronan O’Gara’s 24 points.
At the age of 38 years and 58 days, he became the oldest player to represent Ireland.
Video Credit : skysports youtube channel
The key moment was when Sexton was replaced in the second half fully intact. Ireland and their fans will want Sexton wrapped in cotton wool between matches as they aim for their first world championship.
Ill-discipline and inconsistent red cards in English
After returning from an ankle injury, Tom Curry became the fourth England player to be sent off this year within three minutes.
In the World Cup, Curry became the first man to be shown an upgraded red card by the ‘bunker’ after a head-on-head contact with Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia.
During England’s opening-weekend win, Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola both served bans under the new system.
Steve Borthwick’s men may feel slightly let down by the inconsistency that saw Chile captain Martin Sigren receive yellow against Japan while South Africa center Jesse Kriel remain on the field without even a review against Scotland.
A manifesto for Ford’s kicking
The conditions were humid and Curry was off the field, so England needed a different strategy.
The 14 men of England took the lead courtesy of George Ford’s right boot, which clipped over the first of three drop-goals.
As Freddie Steward ran over to congratulate his team-mate, Ford just turned his back and got back into position to receive Argentina’s kickoff.
Ford and England finished the first-half with two more drop goals, including one from the halfway line, and six more penalties for a total of 27 points.
The no-look Libbok
Libbok has stepped up to Test level with ease as he fills in for World Cup winner Handre Pollard.
With the ball in hand, the 26-year-old is a classy distributor, but his boot is just as devastating.
When Libbok received the ball in midfield, he instinctively nudged a no-look kick-pass to Kurt-Lee Arendse, who scored.
The Springboks beat Marseille 18-3 thanks to a try from Arendse, one of the tries of the opening weekend.
Video Credit : Virgin Media Sport youtube channel