I sort of love the RWC inclusiveness and at the same time would prefer to see a slug fest round robin winner take all approach between the top 8 sides. The attempts at expanding the game throughout the world is great for the game’s longevity but you know there are going to be some spankings delivered during the pool stages.
I enjoy watching the PI countries battle it out with other sides but since professionalism the gap between the wealthy countries and the rest has left a chasm that despite the IRB insisting that players be made available there is little enforcement. Yes some international sides have made great improvements over time with Argentina being the prime example. But we all know in reality that the RWC winner will come from one of the top 5 sides in the world. Yes I know that Samoa defeated Aus this year but 8 of those that lined up in Gold in that game are not in the RWC squad. Come the quarter finals I think that that score will be more than reversed.
Well lets look at the Pools
Pool A: Canada, France, Japan, NZ, Tonga
- Pool A Winner: NZ
- Pool A Runner up: France
- Possible Spoiler: no one
Cannon Fodder: Canada, Japan, Tonga. It’s an unflattering title for these three sides as they should be great games between these sides but none of these sides will beat NZ or France. These will be great games to watch and I’ll predict Japan to finish third after its Pacific Nations Cup efforts, Tonga fourth and Canada fifth. The match between NZ and France will be the best to watch here.
Pool B: Argentina, England, Georgia, Romania, Scotland
- Pool B Winner: England
- Pool B Runner up: Argentina
- Possible spoiler: Scotland
Cannon Fodder: Georgia & Romania
The game between Argentina and Scotland will determine who makes the Runner up spot for the quarter finals and it will be the game to watch in this pool. I think England will however, put at least 50 on both Georgia and Romania. I’ll pick Georgia to 4th and the loss of Romania’s non- flying winger could be crucial.
Pool C: Australia, Ireland, Italy, Russia, USA
- Pool C Winner: Australia
- Pool C Runner up: Ireland
- Possible spoiler: Italy. Ireland has not been in great form since it denied England the grand slam. Italy has the ability to hang in and annoy sides. If the ref lets Italy slow down the game and their forwards keep the game messy they have a shot at keeping the game close if there kicker is on song.
Cannon fodder: Russia and USA. I think USA might get this game. Leaving Russia in 5th.
The best game in the pool will be Aus v Ireland.
Pool D: Fiji, Namibia, Samoa, South Africa, Wales
- Pool D Winner: South Africa
- Pool D Runner up: Samoa
- Possible spoiler: Wales & Fiji
Cannon Fodder: Namibia
It is without doubt that this is the hardest pool in the comp and logically it will provide the best viewing. Samoa, Wales and Fiji are all possible contenders for the quarter final but I think Samoa looks the best bet for the quarter final spot. I think all of these match-ups will be great viewing.
The real interest in the RWC starts at the quarters and beyond. Its at this stage where I would like to see the sides play each other. As logically you can win the RWC without playing two of the other top sides. Using Australia as the example, you can see that they wouldn’t have to play against 3 sides in the quarters consisting of either: England or France, South Africa, and NZ or Argentina, yet still be crowned the champions.
- Winner C (Aus) v Runner Up D (Samoa)
- Winner B (England) v Runner Up A (France)
- Winner D (South Africa) v Runner Up C (Ireland)
- Winner A (NZ) v Runner Up B (Argentina)
1 Winner QF1 (Aus) v Winner QF2 (England)
2 Winner QF3 (South Africa) v Winner QF4 (NZ)
3 place play offs: Losers of Semi finals
Bragging Rights for the next 4 years: Winners of the Semi-finals
Well onto Aus chances. They will romp through the pool stages and deal with Samoa (or Wales or Fiji) comfortably in the quarter-finals. But I think the semi-final is where it gets interesting with playing either England or France. As England has enjoyed kicking wallaby arses at the RWC it’s that scenario that has me very very worried.
The wallabies should still be able to win that game but I’m concerned. I’m still betting the NZ will romp through the pool stages and run unchecked through the quarters. The South African side is too old and despite Smit being a great captain he is not there best hooker and this is ultimately what will allow NZ through to the finals. But NZ will choke in the final match.
So realistically I’m hoping for upsets throughout the comp to make this far far more interesting a RWC than the predictions that I have made.