Friday, 18 September 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 Predictions

Today is the day that Rugby fans have long been looking forward to. It is the opening day of the 2015 installment of the Rugby World Cup. Living in the host country, there has been a lot of hype for this tournament. On a personal level, I would say I am more excited about this World Cup than I have been previous tournaments. In 2011, I was still pretty new to the game - I had attended a couple of games and would occasionally watch England on TV. I would also keep an eye on the Bath results. In the 2010-11 domestic season, I made the switch from football being the main sport I follow to rugby union. By the time the 2011 World Cup rolled around, I was a fan but I still had a lot to learn about the game (hell I’m still learning). This time around, I’ve been a supporter for several years. I try to keep up with the game as much as possible and as such, have been caught up in the hype of this tournament for some time. The opening game is today, and I’ll be heading to Twickenham soon to be there. The point of this post is to not just talk about my excitement about the tournament and how it has finally arrived, but to post my predictions for the tournament. I’ve not opted for any major surprises in this prediction I don’t think (although if the quarter finals pan out the way I think they will, there will be a couple very interesting contests). Anyway, onto the predictions! For the pool stages, I won’t be predicting each game but rather putting up the way I think the pool will finish.

Pool A

What a tough pool! It seems to get worse the more I look at it. 4 of the top 10 teams in the world in one group – quite something really. It is also a bit frustrating when you look at other pools but never mind. I think England will come out on top of this pool. I think home advantage will give them the edge over Wales and Australia. I’m not sure they will go through the pool stage undefeated, but I can see them doing enough to win it. I would have predicted Wales to finish 3rd in the pool 3 weeks ago. Now they have lost Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb? I know they are just two men in a 31 man squad, but they are two massive names to lose right before the tournament. I think that will be their undoing this time around which I am sad about. One thing I love about the World Cup is watching the world’s best players play on the biggest stage. Injuries can happen at any time, but them happening right before the world cup just seems cruel. I think Fiji won’t be anyone’s pushover, but I don’t see them beating England, Australia or Wales. As for Uruguay…at least they qualified!

Pool B
South Africa

No disrespect to the other four teams in this pool, but South Africa will win this pool. I don’t see them being tested by USA or Japan. Samoa and Scotland might throw up a bit of a challenge, but I think they will be able to see them off. The big battle for me will be between Scotland and Samoa. I think Samoa will win the match between the two of them and see themselves through to the last eight. There are a lot of positive noises coming out of the Japan and USA camps, but I think at this world cup, they will finish in 4th and 5th place respectively. I think Japan will beat USA and use that as a platform to build on for when they host the world cup in 2019 (by the way, has a host ever gone out at the group stage?)

Pool C
New Zealand

No disrespect to the other four teams in this pool (wait a minute…) but New Zealand will win this pool. Their main challenge will be Argentina and they are undefeated against them (21 matches, 20 wins and 1 draw). I think Argentina have been looking fairly good as of late though (especially that win away against South Africa) and I think they will get the better of the other teams in the pool. I have guessed Tonga will finish 3rd. I think they will better Georgia and Namibia. As for Georgia v Namibia…I mean I’m pretty confident that I’ll watch it. It could be the game I’m looking forward to least in this tournament to be honest (possibly tied with Canada v Romania from Pool D). Speaking of…

Pool D

Italy will make some noise in this pool, but for me it will be between Ireland and France, and I think Ireland will finish top. It really could go either way between these two though. I predict it will finish this way, but I also hope it will finish this way for reasons that will become clear when discussing the quarter finals. The only way I see Italy making the last eight is if they pull off an unlikely victory over France. They have done that a couple of times recently so it could happen. Canada and Romania will unlikely get a win against the top 3 teams in this pool and will scrap it out to not go home having lost all four games.

Quarter Finals
South Africa v Australia
New Zealand v France
Ireland v Argentina
England v Samoa

South Africa against Australia will be an epic encounter. I reckon Australia will win this as they have looked pretty good in recent months but this is one that could go either way. New Zealand v France at the Rugby World Cup – if only there was some history to refer back to…! I think New Zealand would win this rematch of the 2011 final, but France have a bit of a habit when it isn’t the final of sticking it to the All Blacks in the knockout stages so who knows? I think Ireland will be given a tough match against Argentina, but I see them winning that one. I think it will be a similar story between England and Samoa to be honest. At this stage in the tournament, no game is a sure thing, but if I were a betting man, I’d say England will win this one.

Semi Finals
Australia v New Zealand
Ireland v England

Australia against New Zealand have had so many fantastic matches between them. The most recent of these clashes saw both teams each grab a win. I appreciate that I’ve said this a lot so far, but this one could go either way. I am calling a New Zealand win, but I would not be surprised to see Australia get the win. Before the tournament, I thought this is where England would bow out. However, the performance against Ireland a few weeks ago really encouraged me. I think if England go into this game and don’t underestimate Ireland’s game, they could come out victorious in this one. This game being at Twickenham could be a huge advantage as well.

Bronze Medal Match

Australia v Ireland

I have a ticket for this game, so I’d love to see Ireland win it. I think they would stand a good chance of it as well.

England v New Zealand

New Zealand of course would be the favourites going into this match. However, they are not unbeatable. I remember a conversation I had with my Dad the morning of the 1st December 2012 where I confidently stated that as excited as I was to be seeing the game, England would get battered by New Zealand. I couldn’t have been more wrong and England ran out 38-21 winners. My overall prediction is that New Zealand will win the tournament, and it would be a fitting sign off for Richie McCaw (assuming he does actually retire at the end of the tournament as has been suggested). If it is an England v New Zealand final, I will not be writing England off (I’ve made that mistake once before). I think England making the final would be a fantastic achievement for the team, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they go all the way.

So, that is how I see the tournament unfolding over the next 6-7 weeks. Regardless of what happens though, I know I am looking forward to what will hopefully be the best RWC in history thus far. Happy Rugby World Cup Day to all!

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