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Donaldson justified Jones’ shock call and is now undroppable

1. Bolter Donaldson now can’t be dropped

How much sleep did Ben Donaldson lose after missing that crucial last-gasp conversion against Italy last year? Probably a lot. That’s the context behind his encouraging goalkicking display in the Wallabies’ 35-15 win against Georgia: he’s shown plenty of character to bounce back.

And that No.15 jersey is now his to lose after the first weekend of RWC matches confirmed some age-old rugby truisms: kick your goals, defend well, keep your discipline. That’s the overall message of the opening round, and the Wallabies simply cannot progress through this tournament without a 75-80 percent goalkicker, because the top sides all have one.

Not that Donaldson’s goalkicking was the only good thing about his performance: he showed a surprising turn of speed to grab his first try - a big stride, and genuine athleticism.

2. McDermott’s injury hangs heavy over the win

If Donaldson was the big plus, then Tate McDermott’s apparent concussion was the big negative. A category one concussion like the one he suffered at Stade de France is an automatic stand-down of 12 days, and that has a big effect on the game plan against Fiji.

McDermott has developed an unlikely but crucial understanding with Mark Nawaqanitawase. The Reds halfback has clearly been given licence to attack the line and oflload when he is wrapped up, and Nawaqanitawase is the bloke who is most often hovering around him.

That chemistry is hard to replicate, and although Nic White can play at the line he prefers to go east to west and look for a hole rather than to north to south running of McDermott.

3. Taniela Tupou’s comical try assist

Rugby can be far too serious at times, so the big prop’s offload to Ben Donaldson should be enjoyed without guilt. It was amusing because as Georgia staged the initial counterattack, Tupou tried to get back but looked absolutely out on his feet.

Taniela Tupou popped a pass that would have done Mark Ella proud to set up Ben Donaldson for a try.

Taniela Tupou popped a pass that would have done Mark Ella proud to set up Ben Donaldson for a try.Credit: AP

However, when the ball popped fortuitously into hands it looked like someone had applied Eddie Jones’ cattle prod to his backside. Suddenly, the 140kg man-mountain found another 10-metre burst of speed as he set Donaldson free on the outside. It was meme-worthy: the sort of moment that actually engages supporters and makes them fall in love with the game and its characters.

4. Michael Cheika is now under the pump

Argentina were an error-riddled mess in their 27-10 loss to England - only a late try put some respectability on the scoreboard, despite having a one-man advantage for 77 minutes. Their handling and discipline was poor, and they gradually got dealt to in the scrum by England.

Argentina now have a two-week gap before they play Samoa in Saint-Etienne. They are in real jeopardy, and if they lose that game they’ll likely be out of the tournament before the quarterfinal stages. It’s a possible shock that no one saw coming, and could open up Australia’s side of the draw even further.


5. England were the big movers

The Wallabies’ performance was solid, but the display that really caught the eye was England’s big win against Argentina. Eddie Jones’ former side were like a pack of junkyard dogs on defence. They brought some real line speed, even with 14 men, and Los Pumas did not cope. It was England’s best display in years and it looked like a weight had been lifted off coach Steve Borthwick.

No.8 Ben Earl, who is a natural No.7, was excellent, and big players such as Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje stood up. They won’t mind accumulating their points in threes during the tournament. In fact, if people label that boring, it’ll just fuel the siege mentality they’ve clearly tapped in to.