Five things we learned from the weekend's rugby

Battered Ireland are still Europe’s best shot at the Webb Ellis 

Magnificent as Ireland’s win yesterday was, the likely loss of so many key players next week against Argentina, for a start, will require another momentous collective effort just to ensure the Six Nations’ best side makes the last four of this competition.

For all that, they remain Europe’s best bet of making the decider.

Argentina are the real deal

Only New Zealand and South Africa have scored more tries than them, they have utilised their squad cleverly by making wholesale changes and the signs are the Pumas have the makings of a back line as incisive as their forward pack is engaging.

Harsh on Japan

Beat South Africa, Samoa and USA and you’d think it would be enough to guarantee you a place in the quarter-finals. Not so. Japan started this World Cup as the big winners and now they end it as the tournament’s main losers.

Asking them to face Scotland just four days after their defeat of the Springboks in Brighton was always going to be a huge ask and it was no surprise that it proved beyond them. The best argument yet for making gaps between match days uniform when Japan host next in 2019.

Wales plaudits misguided

Listening to BBC Five Live and reading the British newspapers yesterday, it was astonishing to detect the levels of optimism over Wales’ performance against Australia on Saturday: Many were the plaudits for heroism in the midst of their injury crisis.

Less apparent were the criticisms for their inability to claim the try required when Australia were reduced to 14 and 13 players in the second-half.

‘Warrenball’ or not, it again showed the side’s tunnel-vision in attack and it looks certain to help end their World Cup hopes.

Australia have it all

Lauded for the attacking verve that undid England in their third game, Australia displayed an ability and spirit in defence that was somehow even more impressive, even if it would be impossible to see the All Blacks play into their hands as Wales did.

A landmark line in the sand, it has already been compared to the day Michael Cheika’s Leinster dug in and held out against Harlequins in a Heineken Cup quarter-final and England’s win in New Zealand in the summer of 2003.

Both those sides went on and did even greater things.

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