NEW YORK, NY – So it’s just over five months until the Rugby World Cup kicks off and the pre-cup predictions and banter appears to be very quiet. So, let me kick-start you thinking.
Pool A – The dreaded pool of death features three teams Australia, England and Wales who are all capable of making it through to the next round. However, it is my prediction that England and Wales will prevail in this pool. After all a Rugby World Cup is often won by the team with the most depth and once the intensity of World Cup Rugby hits the Aussies, I simply don’t believe they have the depth required to make it into the late rounds should they encounter injuries, which invariably they will. Moreover, the Poms and Taffs are playing in front of their home crowds so couldn’t possible stumble at the first hurdle – could they?
Pool B – There’s South Africa and then the rest. Hopefully the Eagles can get up and be close to the quarter finals, however they will face stiff opposition from Samoa, Japan and Scotland, all of who can beat each other at any given time. Sorry to have to say it but I don’t think the USA’s 7’s success can be replicated in the 15’s game just yet so I believe it will be South Africa and Samoa who will go through to the next round from Pool B at the expense of the “Sweaty Socks” (Scots).
Pool C – Again there’s the All Blacks and the rest. Argentina must certainly be favored to make the next round but they have always struggled against big, physical teams so watch out for Tonga to be the dark horse in the Pool C race.
Pool D – It would be a brave man who would bet against France and Ireland making it through to the Quarter Finals but both Italy and Canada are capable of an upset on their day. That said too much experience and class will see France and Ireland make it through.
So, eight teams go through and my picks are England, Wales, South Africa, Samoa (sorry Eagles), New Zealand, Argentina, France and Ireland. Based on where they finish I’m liking the following:
QF 1 Winner Pool B – South Africa vs. Runner Up Pool A – Wales
QF 2 Winner Pool C – New Zealand vs. Runner Up Pool D – France
QF 3 Winner Pool D – Ireland vs. Runner Up Pool C – Argentina
QF 4 Winner Pool A – England vs. Runner Up Pool B – Samoa
What a mouth-watering proposition! And here’s how I see it playing out in the Semi Finals:
SF 1 Winner QF 1 – South Africa vs. Winner QF 2 – New Zealand
SF 2 Winner QF 3 – Ireland vs. Winner QF 4 – England
World Cup Final Winner SF 1 – New Zealand vs. Winner SF 2 – Ireland
World Cup Champions 2015 – New Zealand
Comments: In my opinion Pool A could go either way. If South Africa were to face England this could be an epic encounter as there is no love lost between these two nations. That would leave Wales facing Samoa, a team who has beaten them before at World Cup level. However, I don’t think Samoa is the team they were ten years ago with many of their top players now opting to play in New Zealand, Australia and England.
New Zealand would be very nervous about a repeat of their 2007 World Cup Quarter Final against France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and if any team can worry the AB’s it’s France with their audacious and unorthodox play.
The Irish have shown they are a true international force that I believe are capable of making it to the RWC Final. However this is not the Six Nations and emotions will need to stay in check if they are to make it all the way. If they face England in the Semi-Final this could be a HUGE match for both nations, particularly at Twickenham.
So, I’ve picked the All Black’s to win the 2015 RWC Final and their odds would be considerably shortened if they face Ireland. The men from the Emerald Isles have never beaten New Zealand and I couldn’t see them holding their nerve to do it at the “Big Dance.” That said she’d be a hell of a night in London if they did with Guinness freely flowing in the streets!
If it ended up a New Zealand vs. England final anything could happen at Twickenham where the “sweet chariots” brigade could edge the home team over the line. Whatever the outcome, it should be a fantastic occasion for rugby – bring it on I say!