A touch of French flair, daily newspaper Junge Welt, September 14, 2023

The French rugby team during training on Wednesday at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Villeneuve-d’Ascq

It is, after all, the third largest sporting event in the world and began last Friday in France. At the 10th World Rugby Union Championship, 20 teams in four groups will fight for the “Webb Ellis” trophy until October 28th. The pot is named after William Webb Ellis, who is said to have invented the wild brawl over the “ledererei” (in reality an elongated ellipsoid of revolution) in English rugby in the county of Warwickshire in 1823 – exactly 200 years ago. Legend has it that Webb Ellis ignored the rules at a soccer game, picked up the ball and charged forward to score a goal. Incidentally, Webb Ellis later lived in France, where he died in 1872 and is buried – so the mythical link to the current World Cup host is taut.

In the opening game last Friday, France met co-favorites New Zealand in Group A at the Stade de France in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis, which was sold out with more than 80,000 spectators. And it immediately became historic: The All Blacks lost 27:13 after a thrilling duel. It was New Zealand’s first defeat in the group stage of a World Cup. The “All Blacks” started like the fire department: after just one and a half minutes of play, Mark Telea dived into the French in-goal for his first attempt after a precise cross-kick from Beauden Barrett. After a missed increase – which would have been worth two points – by Richie Mo’unga, it remained 5-0 for the world champions of 1987, 2011 and 2015. But France hit back with two penalties (5th/19th) by Thomas Ramos and led 6:5 before “Les Bleus” went into halftime 9:8 after 40 minutes.

Brutal heat

After the restart, Talea turned the game to 13:9 (43′) after a cross run and attempt. The French team shook briefly and struck back nine minutes later. Matthieu Jalibert exuded a touch of French flair when, after an aggressive, light-footed run, he drew three New Zealanders towards him and set the scene for the free-standing Damian Penaud, who scored the first French try. After the scoring kick was converted, the score was 16:13 for France. The brutal heat of around 30 degrees Celsius became increasingly noticeable. Mistakes piled up and the All Blacks, who played in an unusually undisciplined manner, caused penalty after penalty. Ramos didn’t take long to extend the lead (65th/74th) to 22:13. In the 78th minute, the French put the lid on it: After winning the ball in midfield, Maxime Lucu kicked a “candle” in front of the opponent’s in-goal. Although the ball bounced directly in front of Mo’unga, it bounced off the ground so impossibly that Melvyn Jaminet, who was charging from behind, plucked the ball out of the air and dropped into the in-goal for the final score of 27:13.

Incredible fight

In the second game of Group A, Italy ripped apart Namibia 52-8 on Saturday. Uruguay, who also plays in the group, will not enter the tournament until Thursday (9 p.m.) against France. In Group B, the results so far have been quite clear: Ireland – where players from the Republic and the British North traditionally form a team – demolished Romania 82-8, while South Africa beat Scotland 18-3. Tonga, who are also represented in the group, will play against the Irish next Saturday.

In Group C, Australia won its opener against Georgia 35:15. In the second game of the group on Sunday, Wales and Fiji fought an incredible battle, which Wales won 32:26 after a great fight. Fiji played magic in the first half, but were thwarted again and again by the experienced Welsh team. In injury time of the game, Semi Radradra already had the victory in hand six meters from the Welsh in-goal. But the center couldn’t catch the ball cleanly and dropped the ball. Chance missed, victory for Wales. Portugal, which already took part in a World Cup in 2007, will play its first game against Georgia on Saturday. England delivered a tactical masterpiece against Argentina in Group D. From the third minute onwards, after a red card for Tom Curry when he was outnumbered, English playmaker George Ford fired a barrage of technically very demanding “drop goals” between the goal posts when the score was 3:3 (27th/31st/37th). Ford also converted six penalties and single-handedly secured England’s 27 points. Japan won the second game in Group D 42:12 against World Cup debutant Chile, against whom Samoa will play its first game on Saturday.


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