With the 2019 Rugby World Cup only 2 and a bit years away (not that I’m counting), the pools have today been announced for the tournament. As not all the teams are currently confirmed, we only have the top 3 teams from each group, along with an indication of who could fill the other spots once they qualify.
As it stands, here is how the pools are looking for 2019:
Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, play-off winner (Europe 2 v Oceania 3)
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, repechage winner
Pool C: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2
The European qualifiers are most likely to be Romania, Russia, Spain, Germany or Portugal.
The Oceania qualifiers should be Fiji, Samoa or Tonga
Namibia are likely to be the African qualifier
The Americas qualifiers will consist of at least 1 of the USA or Canada, with the other possible qualifiers being Uruguay, Brazil, Chile or (less likely) Paraguay
Though it is difficult to fully analyse the pools until all 20 competing teams are confirmed, not to mention taking into account how much a team’s form can change between now and the start of the tournament, here are a few thoughts from today’s announcement.
Pool A: Scottish fans will be very happy with this draw. Not only have they avoided the big guns of England, New Zealand and Australia, but they have been drawn against a Japanese side that so far has not looked as impressive as in 2015 and an Irish team that they have beaten in this year’s 6 Nations. The Scots are on an upward trend and I expect their game against Ireland will be the pool decider. Meanwhile the possibility of one of the Pacific Island nations entering as a playoff winner means that Japan could be under pressure to gain an automatic qualification spot for 2023.
Pool B: As things currently stand, this pool looks to be a walk in the park for the Kiwis. However I expect South Africa to start recovering over the next few years and I expect Italy to push on under Conor O’Shea. It would not surprise me to see New Zealand top the group ahead of the Springboks, with Italy getting 3rd place and qualification for 2023.
Pool C: As it stands, this looks to be the dreaded ‘Group of Death’. Assuming England can continue their resurgence under Eddie Jones, I would expect them to win the group, but the Pumas, who will be playing in their first World Cup since the Jaguares joined Super Rugby, will be a potential banana skin. It is a well-known cliché that you never know which French team will turn up for a match, but they do have a habit of getting themselves together in time for the World Cups. I expect the currently announced teams to make the top 3, but a slip up against a possible Pacific Island nation could cost one of these teams their chance of a place in the knockouts. Unfortunately as it stands I struggle to see the American qualifier being able to cause much of an issue, with their game against Oceania 2 their best chance (and likely only) chance of a win.
Pool D: While Australia and Wales will be the favourites to progress, if one of these teams is off form they could be in serious trouble. Fiji have cost the Welsh in previous tournaments and there is a good chance they will be meeting again as Oceania 1. Like in Pool C, I struggle to see Americas 2 having much success in this pool, but depending on form, any of the other 4 teams could consider themselves capable of making the top 2.
What are your thoughts on the draw? Are you happy with the teams that your nation have been drawn against? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge