With at least 20 pool games played and 20 more to go, the 2019 Rugby World Cup has already delivered its fair share of shocks, upsets, brilliance and farce in Japan.
From Ireland’s humbling at the hands of hosts Japan to Wales triumphing in their heavyweight clash against Australia, the memorable moments have come thick and fast as the tournament graces Asia for the first time ever.
Alongside brilliant atmospheres the setting has brought with it some unique challenges, from early starts for UK audiences to stifling heat and humidity for the competitors.
The likes of Gareth Davies and Cheslin Kolbe are enjoying fine personal tournaments while Argentina’s reserve hooker Martin Montoya tops the try charts with four, but Scotland and Argentina are among the nations now fighting for their lives.
There have been controversies too, with referees under heavy scrutiny over the tackle laws and Wales coach Rob Howley at home already for breaching betting rules.
At the halfway point of the pool stage, Sportsmail answers 10 key questions from the tournament so far.
Are New Zealand living up to their billing as favourites?
A controlled victory over a resurgent South Africa went some way to assuaging the pre-tournament doubts, while little was learnt from a 63-0 demolition of Canada.
Either way, in using Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga in both games, Steve Hansen is giving his relatively new 10/15 combination chance to gel ahead of the tougher tests to come. A run to the final seems fairly assured at this point.
What has been the biggest shock so far?
A stirring victory for the host nation was just what this tournament needed and it was just what Japan delivered in seeing off Ireland 19-12. They survived a bruising start from Joe Schmidt’s side to spark genuine hopes of making the quarter-finals thanks to Yu Tamura’s unerring boot and a colossal display from back-rower Kazuki Himeno.
Uruguay also deserve great credit for defeating an admittedly weakened Fiji 30-27 and proving just how quickly the Tier 2 nations are progressing.
Who has been the biggest find of the tournament so far?
Sevens convert Cheslin Kolbe lit up South Africa’s defeat by New Zealand with his lightning-fast feet on the wing after just 10 caps.
In that same game, the All Blacks started two wings in Sevu Reece and George Bridge with 10 international appearances between them. Bridge scored and in the process may have solved an issue out wide that could bring New Zealand a third straight trophy.
What has been the try of the tournament so far?
For scintillating, devastating team play, see New Zealand’s all-court opening try finished by George Bridge in their win over South Africa.
For a try that sums up so completely the best traits of a nation, see Peceli Yato’s free-flowing early score for Fiji against Australia featuring hand-offs, offloads and support lines galore.
How has the refereeing been?
Difficult at best. The tournament has suddenly thrown up issues with judging offside calls, with World Rugby set to bring in more technology to adjudicate it.
Questions over the application of the new high tackle laws also remain.
Piers Francis avoided any sanction for a high tackle against USA, while Reece Hodge will miss three weeks following his indiscretion against Fiji after no action was taken on-field.— Daily Mail