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What a day it’s been in Japan. We’ve just about drawn breath here after three thrilling Rugby World Cup games - from the late Wallabies resurgence that saw them overcome Fiji to the French implosion and drop-goal recovery.
As we dragged ourselves across the gainline for a quick coffee before the headline act, the question on everyone's lips was this: could the day’s final game live up to what had come before it?
In truth, there was no need to worry. Our correspondents in Japan, along with our team of writers from the leading rugby nations, weren’t wrong in promising that the All Blacks-Springboks showdown would be an encounter not to be missed.
After the Boks dominated the opening 20 minutes, Sevu Reece took flight and Beauden Barrett finished for a break-away try. His brother Scott added another to take a commanding 17-3 lead into half-time. The odds were stacked against the Boks, but Rassie Erasmus’ side were given a way back into the game as a defensive lapse left Pieter-Steph du Toit through to score a try.
The second drop-goal of the day followed soon after, and in a nail-biting final 20 minutes, the thought began to form: could Ireland handle either in a potential quarter-final? On the basis of this thriller, Joe Schmidt’s men will need to be at the top of their game to overcome either side.
Which isn’t to say we are getting ahead of ourselves. All eyes now turn to tomorrow’s opener against Scotland, and the New Zealand or South Africa debate can wait until progression from the group is assured.
Donal Lenihan is breathless after Day Two. Watch his take from a frenetic Saturday in his exclusive Daily Donal segment.
Lenihan isn’t looking for anything special tomorrow - just a winning start. Simon Lewis has taken the temperature of the Ireland camp, and reports back that “confidence is brimming” in the squad.
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