The Rugby World Cup is just days away, and even though its not been a great year for English Rugby, there is still hope that we can repeat the feat of 2003. This time it’s taking place in New Zealand, which gives the dominant force of the All Blacks even more of an advantage – on top of having many of the World’s best players and the World’s best coach, they now have the home support to go with it!
Having crashed out so badly in France 2007, the All Blacks will be looking to prove that they are still the very best. As we all know, anything can happen in knock-out rugby (even Scotland can win on their day…), so its no small wonder that fans across the globe are getting excited. To reach the knockout stages the teams have to qualify from their groups, with the top two going into the Quarter Finals.
England have a relatively easy run-in to the knockout stages (he says..) with Argentina, Georgia, and Romania in their group along with the Scots. Argentina are growing in confidence and ability, but England should take the group on paper.
Everyone expects New Zealand to take all the points available to them when they take on Tonga, Canada and Japan, but they might end up facing France in a game to decide who finishes on top of the group. The Kiwi’s shouldn’t feel too threatened by the ageing Gallic horde.
Irish fans will be hoping that Italy get some early defeats on the board, as they are ostensibly the only real challengers for their group runners up spot. Australia should qualify as group winners (especially as they are much more used to the climate, etc), which leaves Ireland to battle it out amongst Italy, Russia and the United States for the second qualification spot.
In the final group we expect South Africa to walk it. Shaun Edwards might well say that this is the best Welsh side he has seen for a while, but that doesn’t really mean they have the capabilities to take on the Springboks. They will face a battle for the second spot from Fiji, but they should have just about enough.
Group Winners: England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa
Runners Up: Argentina, France, Ireland, Wales
All 8 teams above to reach the Quarter Finals – 13/8 at Paddy Power.
Chris Ashton as top Six Nations try-scorer – 6/1 at Boyle Sports.