The Rugby World Cup 2015 begins in a matter of days – with the opening match taking place between hosts England and Fiji on 18 September at Twickenham, London.
How will the 20 teams in the four pools fare? Who will survive and who will be knocked out in the group stages? Here are my predictions.
This is the Pool of Death. There are three strong teams – Australia, England and Wales. But there are only two spots in the knockout rounds. So who will survive the group stages?
Especially with the home support behind them and their great record in recent matches against the Wallabies, I think that England will make it out of the pool and qualify for the knockout rounds as the group winners.
And despite their injury woes, I suspect that co-hosts Wales should sneak into the knockout stages behind England. This is because they will have an advantage in terms of familiarity with the time zone and the climate, as compared to the Australians.
Also, I don’t see anything special coming from Fiji and Uruguay, either. While there is a slim chance that Fiji could pull of a surprise upset because after all, they did almost beat Wales in Cardiff in November. But then again, I don’t exactly see that happening, in a tournament of this scale.
- South Africa
- United States of America
You have simply got to fancy the Springboks to qualify as winners from this group. Compared to the other teams, they have too much strength in depth about them.
As for who will qualify along with them, anything could happen, really. Japan and the United States are fast-improving in the world of rugby. Samoa, a rugby nation that has shot up the rankings in recent years, also has the potential to get through this group.
But I still think that Scotland – the more experienced rugby nation out of the four in terms of playing in a tournament of this level – will qualify though. The experience that they have at World Cups, together with pain from their exit from the previous World Cup in 2011 should spur them on to make sure that it does not happen again.
Winners: South Africa
- New Zealand
New Zealand are the defending World Cup Champions. And they are currently the undisputed best rugby side in the world, having lost a mere two games in the 42 Tests that they have played since lifting the Rugby World Cup 2011 title. They are so utterly dominant and there is no other rugby side like them at the moment. So only a fool would ever doubt the All Blacks from easily cruising through this group – to qualify as group winners. Not only that, but I also think that the All Blacks are going to go on to successfully defend the Web Ellis Trophy.
Joining them in the knockout rounds though, should be the Pumas, which are a fast-improving rugby nation, having shown their mettle in the game, with wins over France and Australia over the past year.
While Tonga may pose some challenge, I don’t think that they have enough in them to pip Argentina to the knockout rounds. Georgia and Namibia also lack the strength and depth to be able to trouble the Pumas.
Winners: New Zealand
The Irish should be favourites to qualify as winners of this group – as long as they don’t self-implode, like they have a tendency of doing in World Cups. But then again, the Irish team’s excellent record at the Six Nations Championship over the past couple of years is evidence of their quality as a rugby playing nation, together with the calmness that head coach Joe Schmidt has brought to the team.
Joining them should be the French, as they are a good side on paper – and have a good record at the World Cup. However that said, they can be extremely inconsistent and unpredictable – whenever it comes to playing rugby.
Regarding Italy, I think that they will definitely give France a close fight, but I don’t think that they will be able to shake off the loser tag – and so they will probably fall just short of the knockout stages. Canada and Romania are probably there to simply make up the numbers and I think they won’t be able to change anyone else’s fate.