Even New Zealand rugby's most famous critic was impressed.

Stephen Jones, from the Sunday Times, says the opening salvos of the World Cup have found the All Blacks landing the best punches.

Jones reckoned the match ended with "the world champions firmly installed as tournament favourites".

"But is it really all black for their rivals? The match showed how wickedly difficult it is to beat New Zealand but it also showed, in the period of South African domination, that it can be done," Jones wrote.

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"The difference in pace between the sides must have been obvious to anyone…South Africa tended to operate at a healthy lumber.

"It was only when the mercurial Cheslin Kolbe on the wing was in possession that the Springboks posed much of a threat.

All Blacks first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga with ball in hand. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga with ball in hand. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"New Zealand not only had far more raw pace, but they also had changes of pace.

"Beauden Barrett often paused when in possession, as if pondering, and then took off at a rate of knots. The two wings were also rapid.

"South Africa tended towards a hit-and-hope policy, and a game plan all conducted at the same pace. Rassie Erasmus, their head coach, was right to point out (that) Wales and England should show far more imagination and far more gears against New Zealand.

"But New Zealand will fancy they can train on as well. Their rugby wisdom is something to behold, the decision-making of even their slowcoaches seems to be as rapid as any opposing back.

"Box them in and they are fallible. But at the moment, it is still they who are landing the best punches."

Elsewhere, Ireland were winning plaudits for their muscular 27–3 demolition job on disappointing Scotland.

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Stand by for a "monstrously physical confrontation in the quarterfinal".

That was a prediction from the Irish Times, with Ireland and South Africa on a collision course.

Laying on the power...Irish prop Tadhg Furlong scores against Scotland, helped by captain Rory Best. Photo / Photsport
Laying on the power...Irish prop Tadhg Furlong scores against Scotland, helped by captain Rory Best. Photo / Photsport

"Ireland take a bow after near perfect opening night," is how their headline put it.

Keith Duggan wrote: "All of the doubts and all of the fears just evaporated in the warm rain of Yokohama as Ireland got back to what they have done supremely throughout the Joe Schmidt era.

"They imposed their game plan. They overpowered and smothered the opposition.

"They left Scotland looking mentally drained after just half an hour of a World Cup adventure of which they had made big promises.

Duggan said that onlookers could "only guess at the purges and intense analysis that Schmidt has put his squad through" since the awful warm-up performance against England.

In the Independent, Samuel Lovett wrote: "It was a performance built on so many of their trademark qualities: physical dominance at the set-piece, a firm, resolute defence, an attritional forward line, accurate kicking and clinical ruthlessness."

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