Rust is the colour of the World Cup so far. Even the top teams rattling up the big points totals have looked as if they needed the game to get the rustiness out of their systems.
It should not be a surprise because they haven't played for a while and there is no substitute for full match practice even if it is a lesser side you're up against. They have all come off realising they have plenty more to do before they get into the tournament properly.
Let this be a lesson to those playing today. England may feel they need to amass 80 or 90 points against Georgia just to keep up with their rivals. They should take that pressure off themselves and concentrate on playing their game and getting their systems working smoothly. For Wales and Scotland it might be a problem because they cannot afford to be rusty. They need badly to win their first games.
France looked very impressive. Their front five were excellent against Fiji, which allowed the back three to do what they do well. The central partnership of Tony Marsh and Yannick Jauzion looks as if it could become lethal over the next few weeks and they still have Damien Traille in reserve.
But the Frenchman who makes them tick is scrum-half Fabian Galthié. You could see yesterday how well he links between forwards and backs. He is so sharp at getting the ball away. Fiji put up their usual bright and battling display and they have a few fliers but their front five can't sustain it for for 80 minutes and I reckon Scotland can beat them.
Ireland are going to be OK. They struggled a bit yesterday but the Romanians have a big pack and were difficult to subdue. The Romanians are one-dimensional and do not have the cutting edge that Ireland possess. Once the Irish pick up the pace and rhythm they will be much more of a handful.
New Zealand did what they had to do against Italy, and did it well, but they are not there yet and they suffered a grievous blow with the probable loss of Tana Umaga for the rest of the tournament. He is such a big player for them. He has been around a long time and gives the double option of crashing through the middle or staying out and playing football. He is irreplaceable. I was disappointed with the All Black scrum-half Justin Marshall. He is very slow and takes too long to get the ball out.
Having seen the other teams suffer from the same problems as they did in the opening game against Argentina on Friday, Australia will be feeling much better about themselves. They are clearly going to miss the ball-carrying abilities of Toutai Kefu but David Lyons played well at No 8 and picked up effectively from the base of the scrum. The Aussies are going to struggle against a good pack unless their front three can improve, but they have a lot going on behind the scrum where Stephen Larkham is playing with much more cohesion. The former rugby league wing, Wendell Sailor, is going to provide some entertainment for us, but his defence is not yet all it should be.
Argentina look strong but they made the mistake of giving Australia too much respect and with Felipe Contepomi having an off-day with the boot they were not really in with a chance. The only confident conclusion to be drawn from the first two days is that you can expect every team to improve.
The Wales coach Steve Hansen launched a major attack on me in the press on Friday for criticising the Welsh tactics and called me a coward for doing it behind his back. Anyone who reads this column regularly will know that I have been making constructive criticism of the way they play for at least six months, and I also made them while sitting next to Hansen on television.
A Welsh newspaper cobbled together my comments and presented them as fresh last week under some lurid headlines which led to Hansen's reaction. I rang him at the Welsh headquarters at breakfast time on Friday and we cleared the air and vowed to have a beer soon. I hope it is a celebratory one.Reuse content