The power of 'Beau’unga', and an Ireland-Boks quarter-final? Five things we learned from RWC opening weekend

With the first weekend of Rugby World Cup action in the history books, there's already been plenty of high-stakes action and heart-racing moments.

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw places the Web Ellis Cup on a plinth during the opening ceremony for the Rugby World Cup. Source: Associated Press

But there's also been some lessons for players, fans and critics.

Here's five observations 1 NEWS Now Sport producer Brodyn Knuckey made from the first seven games in Japan. 

1. The All Blacks’ dual-playmaker system works

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The pair had arguably their best outing together in the 23-13 win over South Africa. Source: 1 NEWS

Who would’ve thought a two-time World Cup-winning coach would be able to come up with a strategy to get two of our best attacking players on the field at the same time?

Sure, it’s been bumpy but finally fans, critics and even the All Blacks themselves are starting to see just what this “Beau’unga” combo can do when they are in sync and confident with their decision making.

The first try in Saturday’s 23-13 win featured both playing key roles in its build up with Mo’unga chipping a kick-pass across to Sevu Reece which led to the initial break and Barrett hitting the line in the next phase before putting George Bridge over to score.

It was attacking rugby at its finest, but the duo reckon they can refine it more.

If they do, it’ll be a nightmare for any defence.

2. Japan have a genuine chance to make history

Some critics and punters were labelling the Ireland v Scotland clash as “who will have to play the All Blacks?”, implying the loser will go on to take second in Pool A and meet up with the All Blacks in the quarter-finals.

But that Test which Ireland won comfortably, along with Japan’s big win over Russia, should have those same critics second-guessing.

Scotland struggled to get any footing in their 27-3 loss to Ireland, with 17 missed tackles and 12 handling errors stalling them consistently throughout the contest.

The Brave Blossoms made Russia miss 46 tackles in their 30-10 win. Sure, there’s a contrast between Scotland and Russia, but if the Japanese attack can fire up in the same way it did to open this World Cup, then that final match, should all results go according to script, could see the hosts make history with their first quarter-finals appearance.

3. Ireland v South Africa is going to be one helluva quarter-final

Sticking with the script, with Ireland looking as Pool A’s favourites and the Springboks losing to the All Blacks, we’re effectively looking at the two sides facing off in the last quarter-final in Tokyo.

The Springboks showed they can heap pressure on throughout the match, and while the All Blacks managed to fend it off on Saturday, Ireland haven’t shown consistently that they can do the same.

Not to mention South Africa have plenty yet to give with both Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard having quiet games against the All Blacks.

But Ireland also showed in their win over Scotland they're a refined machine who know how to find holes and exploit them.

If South Africa have players like de Klerk and Pollard off their game again in a quarter-final with the Irish, it's safe to say Joe Schmidt and his men will find a way to make use of that.

4. The drop goal is already becoming a key part of this World Cup

Seven games in and already we’ve had two drop goals – one a game-winning effort for France and the other a chance to keep South Africa in the hunt against the All Blacks.

The drop goal is an often overlooked weapon from many offences due to its high-risk, high-reward trade off.

On the one hand, it's three points if you nail it without needing to earn a penalty which, as we saw on Saturday night, can be the difference between needing to score once or twice in the final minutes of a close encounter.

On the other hand, miss it wide and you’re giving possession away with a kick that wasn’t designed to net you territorial advantage like box kicks and regular punts do.

And yet twice on Saturday we saw players go for it and players succeed.

With this year’s World Cup expected to be closer than previous tournaments, expect more to do the same.

5. Japan was a brilliant choice for hosting

When Japan was handed the hosting rights to the World Cup there were concerns – it wasn’t a proven rugby nation, would fans fill the stadiums, what about weather and so on and so forth.

But if the warm welcomes teams received on arrival matched by the buzzing atmosphere from the first seven games is anything to go by, we have a brilliant atmosphere to look forward to this time round.

There’s already the “yoooo” scream at kickoff that crowds reciprocate. There’s Mexican waves. The chants and songs from the north. Even Japanese fans practising other countries’ national anthems outside stadiums before heading in just to make the event that much more authentic.

Mix in the fact over 96 per cent of tickets for the entire tournament were sold prior to the opening game’s kick off and you know World Rugby has stumbled on a gold mine.