We are just weeks away from the beginning of the World Cup. 20 teams vying to become Champions and lift the Webb Ellis Cup. To date, only 4 nations (New Zealand x3, Australia x2, South Africa x2 and England) have won the tournament… Will we be seeing a 5th nation added to the list this year?
That is what I have set out to predict over the next 2 articles, as I continue my “Journey to RWC2019” series with a look at the tournament itself in an attempt to predict how the tournament will go. To make this more fun, I have also invited back 2 friends to also predict the tournament: Phil, who joined me for the England squad prediction, and Gez, who was involved in predicting the Wales squad.
Today we will be looking at the pool stages, and the knockout stages will follow in a few days. In the interests of fairness, I want to make clear that I asked Phil and Gez for their picks ahead of many nations finalising their squads, which could potentially have impacted some of their selections.
Journey to RWC2019 series:
- Predicting the Wales squad
- Predicting the Scotland squad
- Predicting the Italy squad
- Predicting the Ireland squad
- Predicting the Fiji squad
- Predicting the England squad
- Predicting the USA squad
- Predicting the Argentina squad
- Predicting the South Africa squad
- Predicting the New Zealand squad
- Predicting the Australia squad
How do you see the pool stages going?
Ireland had a very disappointing Six Nations campaign as so many of their stars failed to hit form, but I think that they will be comfortable in qualifying for the knockouts even if they must grow into the tournament. Likewise, I think that Scotland have created a deep enough squad to comfortably qualify along with Ireland (despite a short turnaround before facing Japan), with their match deciding who tops the pool. Of the remaining 3, Samoa have been going through a bad period off the field, which is also impacting them on the field, while Russia do not get to play opposition of this quality often enough and have had some poor results in their warm-ups. As such, I think Japan will get third, while Russia and Samoa will be looking to avoid finishing bottom.
My prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia
Phil’s prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia
Gez’s prediction: 1st Ireland, 2nd Scotland, 3rd Japan, 4th Samoa, 5th Russia
Let’s be honest… barring the mother off shocks, New Zealand and South Africa are guaranteed to qualify and their match (the opener for both of them) will decide who tops the group. South Africa have been one of the few teams to cause the All Blacks some real issues in recent seasons, and I think that they will start the tournament the stronger team and get the win here, especially with Brodie Retallick unlikely to feature in the pools. Beyond that, Canada are not as competitive as they used to be and Namibia again struggle to play regularly against other nations of this quality, so I see these 2 teams fighting for 4th while Italy take 3rd place and the final automatic qualifying spot for RWC2023.
My prediction: 1st South Africa, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia
Phil’s prediction: 1st New Zealand, 2nd South Africa, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia
Gez’s prediction: 1st South Africa, 2nd New Zealand, 3rd Italy, 4th Canada, 5th Namibia
Boy do I feel sorry for the USA here. They are a team clearly on the up with the successes of the MLR and USA 7s team, while more players have been making themselves regulars in the top European leagues. Unfortunately, I can’t see how they are going to pull off a result against any of England, Argentina and France, while they have a short turnaround against Tonga in what will likely decide the bottom 2 positions. Moving to the top 3, Argentina have so much potential if they can get it together in the moment but are on a poor run of form and have left out some of their biggest stars due to a reluctance to pick players based outside of Argentina. France have a habit of getting things together in the World Cup despite being dismal ahead of time and England are in a place where one week they look like world beaters and the next look awful, you feel that they could (and should) be so much better if Eddie Jones picked the players that were on form. I think that England’s consistency (compared to the other 2) gives them the advantage over their rivals here, while some questionable omissions from Mario Ledesma and the time France have had together since their squad was announced gives France the advantage in the race for 2nd.
My prediction: 1st England, 2nd France, 3rd Argentina, 4th USA, 5th Tonga
Phil’s prediction: 1st England, 2nd France, 3rd Argentina, 4th USA, 5th Tonga
Gez’s prediction: 1st England, 2nd Argentina, 3rd France, 4th USA, 5th Tonga
Wales’ Six Nations Grand Slam gives them the top spot here by a wide margin. Australia are well off their best and could be at risk in their opening match against Fiji, however I think their win over New Zealand showed enough to suggest they can come out on top in this fixture. Following on from that game, I think that a 3-day turnaround before facing Uruguay is doable for Fiji, who then have 7 days before taking on Georgia, giving them a good chance of putting 3 wins on the board before facing Wales in the final round. Assuming Australia beat Fiji, I see them having enough to make the top 2, but if they do lose to Fiji, I can’t see them beating Wales and the lack of momentum may see them struggle to put enough points on against Uruguay and Georgia (who will come in with an extra 2 days rest and less travelling) to take advantage if Fiji were to slip up against someone. As for Georgia, the short turnaround before playing Fiji probably kills their chances of finishing in the top 3 unless Australia completely fall apart, which leaves Uruguay likely to finish winless. Basically, the Wallabies could finish anywhere from 2nd to 4th!
My prediction: 1st Wales, 2nd Australia, 3rd Fiji, 4th Georgia, 5th Uruguay
Phil’s prediction: 1st Wales, 2nd Australia, 3rd Fiji, 4th Uruguay, 5th Georgia
Gez’s prediction: 1st Australia, 2nd Wales, 3rd Georgia, 4th Fiji, 5th Uruguay
As we get close to RWC2019, I will be running a fantasy rugby league on the rugby magazine website, and you are all invited to join! Simply follow this link and use the Unique Token: b6c1e40d48e6