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5 talking points from RWC pool stages

2015-10-12 14:15

Cape Town - The pool stages at the 2015 Rugby World Cup are a thing of the past, and 12 teams have packed their bags and are on their way home from the tournament. 

But as we move into the tense nature of knockout rugby, let's take a moment to reflect on what is surely one of the most entertaining World Cups to date. 

Here are 5 key talking points to emerge from the pool stages:

Brave Blossoms bow out as heroes 

Sport can be so cruel. Just ask the Japanese. They lost only once and beat the Springboks, but still they did not qualify for the quarter-finals. Their heavy defeat to Scotland made sure of that, but Japan's win over the Boks on the opening weekend will remain one of the greatest moments in rugby history for generations to come. It is fitting that they are hosts of the 2019 showpiece. 

Habana soars

The Springbok wing's hat-trick against the USA last week saw him become the joint-leading try scorer in World Cup history alongside Jonah Lomu (15). Will the 32-year-old be able to grab another to make the record his own before the end of the tournament?

England bundled out

As bad as things were for the Boks after the Japan loss, at least they recovered to make the knockouts. England became the first ever host nation not to progress out of the pool stages. To be fair to the hosts, they were drawn in the 'group of death' alongside Wales and Australia. Chris Robshaw's decision not to take the points in the dying stages of the loss to Wales will remain contentious. 

TMO impact

Much has been said about the impact of the TMO at the tournament. There is a no-nonsense approach to dangerous play, especially neck clean-outs, and there are many who are unhappy with how long some of the decisions are taking. But, this is a World Cup and the stakes are high. The margins between victory and defeat are minuscule, so surely getting the decision correct is more important than anything else. 

The rise of the minnow

Gone are the days of routs at a Rugby World Cup. The minnows have stood up remarkably well against the bigger nations, and World Rugby must be pretty chuffed that the gap has been closed. Of course, there is still a long way to go in making the sport professional, and hopefully in 2019 there will be less players who have full time jobs outside of rugby. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ... 

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