I don’t usually comment on sport on my blog, mainly because I lack interest in Football and my personal favourites (Snooker and F1) aren’t popular enough to be worth the effort. However, with the Rugby World cup in full swing, I thought I’d have a crack at predicting how the tournament will pan out now that every side has played 2 matches each.
While I’m no expert pundit, I watch Six Nations religiously and have followed every World Cup since ’03, so this isn’t just blind stabs in the dark. That said…
Warning: Predictions may be wildly optimistic/inaccurate.
Here’s my predictions on the way the groups will play out…
Group A: (Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Samoa, Russia)
The only prediction I can make with any certainty with this group is that Russia will finish last with 0 wins (if they don’t I will be mocking Ireland/Scotland for the next 4 years – there’s no way either should win by less than 30 points minimum, even if Russia’s players have shown spirit so far). After being annihilated by Scotland, I think Samoa will finish fourth – they lack the pace and consistency to trouble Ireland and Japan’s spirit and home advantage should overcome them. The result of the group should come down to Japan vs. Scotland, which is very hard to call. I want Japan to win, I think they definitely can win, but Scotland will be desperate to avoid crashing out in the group stage and will be a major threat. This will either focus them or make them buckle under pressure… its a 50/50 call knowing the Scots. That said, it may all come down to bonus points – if Scotland fail to gain one against Russia, they will be utterly screwed.
Group Winner: Japan. Runner-up: Ireland. 3rd: Scotland. 4th: Samoa. 5th: Russia.
Group B: (New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Canada)
Group B is a bit easier to predict. New Zealand will sweep Namibia aside and while Italy are capable of scoring against them, their defence isn’t good enough to beat them, so the All Blacks are pretty much guaranteed to win the group by a mile. Judging by what I’ve seen so far, I think Canada are equally likely to finish dead last. NZ and Italy both tore them apart, as will South Africa, and Namibia have to fancy their chances of beating them and scoring their first ever group stage win. The only question mark in this group is who finishes second – on paper it should be South Africa. But the Springboks are nervous about Italy, with good reason. Italy looked very convincing against Canada and have played better than they have in a long time in the tournament so far. Two bonus point victories have left them confident, and while an upset isn’t exactly likely, it definitely looks possible. If they start strong and the crowd get behind them, Italy might just do the impossible and knock the Springboks out in the group stage… its a long shot, but if there’s another shock result in the groups, I’d put money on it being this one.
Group Winner: New Zealand. Runner Up: Italy. 3rd: South Africa. 4th: Namibia. 5th: Canada.
Group C: (England, France, Argentina, United States, Tonga).
Another hard group to call. England haven’t played a strong side yet, and both France and Argentina have had unconvincing spells in both of their games. Tonga have beaten France before, and if France play like they did against the USA, it’s definitely possible. Likewise Argentina can’t slack off against the US – they look nowhere near as group as in 2015 and the USA will definitely think they have a shot at victory. The scores so far suggest Tonga should beat the US, but to be honest that game is a 50/50. The USA don’t look capable of maintaining their intensity over 80 minutes though, so I’ll back Tonga. On paper England should beat both France and Argentina comfortably on what we’ve seen so far. But expect both teams to raise their game against the side they most want to beat. Given the fact Argentina need to win to have any chance of exiting the group, that’s the match I am more worried about right now. But never rule France out.
Group Winner: England. Runner Up: France. 3rd: Argentina. 4th: Tonga. 5th: USA.
Group D: (Australia, Wales, Fiji, Georgia, Uruguay)
This group should already be settled – despite Uruguay’s shock victory over Fiji and Wales’ narrow takedown of Australia, its played out largely as expected. Uruguay won’t trouble Australia or Wales and Georgia lack the quality to test the Australians, so those matches will all be pretty one sided. The only question is where Fiji come. For them to come last would be shameful, so I imagine they will give their all against Georgia and Wales. Wales are probably too strong for a repeat of Fiji’s shock victory in 2007, so it’s all down to Fiji vs. Georgia. My money would be on Georgia, who are desperate to prove themselves worthy of being added to the Six Nations (they aren’t, but that dream seems to be spurring them on and they did draw the second half of their match with Wales).
Group Winner: Wales. Runner-up: Australia. 3rd: Georgia. 4th: Uruguay. 5th: Fiji.
If these predictions are right, the Quarter-finals would look like this…
England vs. Australia
New Zealand vs. Ireland
Wales vs. France
Japan vs. Italy
These look like four great match ups – and yes, while there’s a good chance Scotland and South Africa will be there instead of Japan and Italy, for the sake of variety, I hope the two underdogs can meet each other in the Quarters. It would be great for the sport, and more importantly, something we’ve never seen before.
I’ll do another round of predictions at the actual QF stage – hopefully we still have some great matches before then!