The Rugby World Cup got underway on Friday with union fans across our home nations dreaming of their team bringing the Webb-Ellis Cup home.
Sunday threw up eye-catching wins, with England beating Tonga 35-3 and Ireland improving after an underwhelming Six Nations campaign to defeat Scotland by 24 points.
Wales, similarly, are expected to batter Georgia on Monday, with bookmakers having them winning by more than 28 points in their pre-match odds.
Generally, fans think that these big margin victories against weaker oppositions are a good thing.
The consensus is that their team get minutes to improve fitness, points on the board and that morale and belief will grow as a result of the dominant win.
Often, though, this isn’t the case.
The minutes the team have accumulated aren’t quality minutes as the team can win by operating at a level short of what will be required to be crowned champions.
A loss could easily shatter inter-squad belief, but delivering a large win that was widely expected, really doesn’t have much effect other than to increase off field expectation and pressure. While points on the board is, of course, more important than anything else, teams will learn very little from the game tape as the lesser opposition fail to expose the weaknesses that a team could work on for their next games.
In my opening game at the Olympics, the team had a baptism by fire, playing Australia who were ranked well above us in the world’s top three.
After beating the Aussies, we gained real belief that we could go on and do something special.
Watching back the match, as players of real quality pulled us out of position and probed out flanks, we were able to see an up-to-date gameplan that top oppositions would have for us and we could develop a strategy on how to counter them.
Four days later, when we played Argentina, the team ranked second in the world, while we were already operating at the Olympic required level, they were still coasting.
We romped into a 3-0 lead and despite their late rally, they weren’t able to reign us back in.
They just got up to speed far too late.
While these vanity wins for England, Ireland and presumably Wales will do little to help the teams improve, by contrast New Zealand’s superb 23-13 win against tournament second favourites South Africa will give them real advantage (as if they needed one) going forward.
The two teams in their previous three tests had an 82-82 aggregate score and this result will have given real confidence to the Kiwis as they sent out a signal to the rest of the world that they are still very much the team to beat.
The real All Blacks have arrived in Japan but they will now need to guard against complacency themselves with many expecting a procession of walk-overs until the semi-finals stage.