Fiji set Rugby World Cup 2023 alight on Sunday, as they blew Pool C wide open with a 22-15 win over Australia – their first over the Wallabies since 1954.

This was no smash-and-grab win. Yes, Fiji brought their joie de rugby, but they were also disciplined – something Australia weren’t as they shipped 18 penalties. Fiji’s set-piece was solid. And, in Simione Kuruvoli, they have a penalty taker who will punish mistakes, and understands how to kick tactically and smartly in open play.

The result puts both Fiji and Australia level on six points, with Fiji second, behind Pool C frontrunners Wales, thanks to their head-to-head record.

And it means Sunday’s match between Wales and Australia, in Lyon, takes on additional significance for Eddie Jones’s side. Lose that, and their Rugby World Cup ambitions are out of their hands.

In fact, it has been an outstanding block of games for sides that would, traditionally, be considered underdogs in the rugby world.

Uruguay won over a host of new admirers as they made their 2023 tournament bow against France on Thursday. The side ranked 17th in the world gave the one ranked third a real scare in Lille. 

After going behind to a fully deserved seventh-minute try from Nicolas Freitas, Fabien Galthié’s much-fancied Bleus needed second-half scores from Peato Mauvaka and Louis Bielle-Biarrey, who became France’s youngest Rugby World Cup try-scorer when he shot over unopposed in the 74th minute, to spare Bleus blushes and help them scrape a 27-12 victory.

After conceding just four penalties against New Zealand to set the tournament off with a bang, France shipped 15 against Uruguay. The South Americans took full advantage.

“In rugby, when you think you've got something, you lose it in the next match if you don't take care of the little details,” Galthié admitted afterwards. “We started with a disciplined performance that enabled us to win against New Zealand. [Against Uruguay], we put in a poor performance in terms of collective control.

“We faced a team who fought hard on the ground, who were aggressive on the ball carrier, in tackles. We were surprised at first. It’s the type of match that we call a ‘trap match’.”

Like France, Wales didn’t have things all their own way against Portugal in Nice. Warren Gatland’s side at least picked up a try-scoring bonus  – something France could not manage – but their 28-8 victory was at the lower end of expectations, and was bolstered by late scores in each half. The try-bonus was only secured when Taulupe Faletau touched down in the 83rd minute.

“I thought [Portugal] were brilliant today,” Jac Morgan, a late replacement for Tommy Reffell, who was injured in the warm-up, said. “They brought that physicality and really tested us a few times in that game. They were very good.”

“It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done in the end,” head coach Gatland added, “we’ll take the W and move on. In fairness to Portugal they put us under pressure and moved the ball. I was impressed with them.”

The red-hot Chile supporters were once again in full voice throughout their second-ever Rugby World Cup match, against Samoa in Bordeaux. 

The 43-10 final score makes it look like it was a walk in the Stade for Samoa. It really wasn’t. A late, late first-half try from Duncan Paia'aua, converted by Christian Leali’ifano, gave them a 19-10 lead going back into the changing rooms. Four second-half tries, including three in the opening 12 minutes, however, ended Chile’s resistance. But their fans kept singing and cheering.

Paia’aua admitted afterwards that the game was much harder than they had expected: “There are quite a few sore bodies – we’re meant to be the physical side but Chile really gave it to our boys. Chile were firing like we expected. We were expecting it but to actually face it, the first 30 or 40 minutes was quite tough.

“After what we saw last week we knew this Chile team is the real deal. We didn't think it would be an easy game but that first half was really tough, but we got over that hump and ended up getting five points.”

Japan made England work for their 34-12 bonus-point victory in Nice on Sunday evening. They matched the 2019 finalists point-for-point, until Courtney Lawes’ benefited from the bounce of the ball  – off team-mate Joe Marler’s head  – just before the hour. 

It was the break England needed. Freddie Steward then got on the end of Ford’s precise cross-field kick to score in the corner, before Joe Marchant dived over for the bonus-point try in the final play of the game, as England made it two wins from two at Rugby World Cup 2023. They’ll be fully confident of topping Pool D, with matches against Chile and Samoa to come.

Not all the ‘establishment’ sides found their opponents as difficult to deal with. New Zealand made amends for their first-ever pool phase defeat on the opening evening with an 11-try, 71-3 defeat of Namibia at a rain-sodden Toulouse on Friday night. 

Scrum-half Cam Roigard had two in the first eight minutes, while Damian McKenzie, Leicester Fainga’anuku and Anton Lienert-Brown scored four more between them in the first period as the All Blacks overpowered and outpaced Allister Coetzee’s Welwitschias from the first minute to the last. 

South Africa had a try-scoring bonus inside 12 minutes against Pool B rivals Romania, as they romped to a 76-0 win in Bordeaux. 

Cobus Reinach scored a 24-minute hat-trick, to add to the 21-minute one he scored against Canada in 2019. Makazole Mapimpi also scored three, and Grant Williams got a double as the Springboks ran in 11 tries.

And Johnny Sexton overtook Ronan O’Gara to become Ireland’s leading points-scorer in international rugby – and the fourth most-prolific scorer in history – as Ireland eased past Tonga 59-16 in Nantes.

They did most of the work in the first half. Sexton’s try was the pick of the four they scored before the sides headed back to the dressing room with the score at 31-13.

The top two teams in Pool B, Ireland and South Africa, who already have 34 tries between them, meet on Saturday at Stade de France. That match is going to be unmissable.