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So, the pool games are completed with the biggest surprise for me, being three time winners, Japan.
Had they not been expected to turn around in just 4 days, after the hardest game they had collectively played, who knows?

One would hope (but certainly not expect) that the performances of Japan and Georgia - both securing automatic qualification for RWC2019[1] - would trigger a rethink of the competitive structure, and push the so-called "Tier 1" nations into engaging with them to further aid their development.

Argentina are a case in point... they were included in the Tri-Nations (now, of course, the "Rugby Championship") against, arguably, the three top sides in the world, and they have progressed into a top side, who shouldn't be written off against anybody. Georgia and Japan, and perhaps Fiji and Samoa, have the same potential to develop if they are given the opportunities. Whether the old boys' club of the IRB will do anything about this remains to be seen.

I was dreading coming back here (here being both VR and the UK in general) and having to face those who, like MV, are not of a red rose persuasion after England's performance. In the 4 years under Stuart Lancaster, England have progressed from an inconsistent but potentially brilliant side to one that is consistently not quite good enough. Four consecutive 2nd-place finishes in the Six Nations would make Peter Sagan laugh in pity; and it's not as if one other side has been dominant... both Wales and Ireland have beaten us to the title in that time.

Our win over Fiji was rusty - a side getting used to the pressures of being a host nation. Against Wales we were not good enough. Against Australia we barely turned up[2]. Even the first half against Uruguay seemed laboured. We have some very good players, and there is competition for almost every position. But we don't have enough spark. We don't have enough real game changers. There are very few players, I would argue, who would worry top-quality opposition by their inclusion in the squad.

It will be interesting to see what the even-older boys' club of the RFU do next. Lancaster deserves a position within the coaching set up - he is too talented to lose completely. But I think we need someone a bit more special to take this group of players - and the exciting crop of younger guys coming through the ranks - and allow them to fulfill their potential in Japan in four years' time.
 1. Although Japan did already have a place assured as hosts, they also earned one on merit
 2. I was in Greece, 2 hours ahead of UK time... I survived to half time, which was about midnight, and gave up and went to bed...
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