So I’m pretty sure only 7 of you read this stuff but it’s almost the most wonderful time of the year and the rest of you need to get with it. I’ve done two masterfully written blogs on what rugby is and what the world cup is so today we’re going down group by group and I’ll be giving you my predictions, pictures will be included.
Before we start, the format of the Rugby World Cup is as follows.
1) Every team is guaranteed to play 4 games within their own pool. This begins on September 18 with England playing Fiji and goes to October 11 with USA Rugby playing Japan. If you have any semblance of sports knowledge you understand how pool play works, if not you shouldn’t be reading this.
2) The top 2 teams in each pool play each other in what can be seen as the traditional tournament. The winner of Pool B plays the Runner up of Pool A (1). Winner of Pool D plays the runner up of Pool C (2) and vice versa. These are the quarterfinals.
3) The semifinals are the winners of Game 1 vs winners of Game 2. The other semi final are the other 2 teams remaining.
There you have it. Rugby is just like any other sport when it comes to how the World Champion is decided. You have to be an idiot to not understand an international sports tournament. So without further ado, here are Pwagon’s picks for Pool Play and the rest of the Rugby World Cup.
Before we begin, here’s a printable schedule so none of you miss out on the greatest tournament since Texas Western won March Madness.
Pool A (Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, Uruguay)
Some have named this pool the group of death of the Rugby World Cup. You have Australia ranked 3rd in the world, England 5th, Wales 6th, Fiji 9th and Uruguay bringing up the rear in 19th. However, I firmly believe that Australia will be able to weather the storm against the other teams in this group and come out on top of Pool A.
The runner up in this group is going to come from the winner of the England/Wales matchup. With Sam Warburton (Flanker) and Leigh Halfpenny (Fullback) on the Wales team, they can score at will. Halfpenny is the equivalent of Adam Vinatieri back in the early 2000s. He’s clutch.
PWagon Pick 1. Australia (4-0) 2. Wales (3-1) 3. England (2-2) 4. Fiji (2-2) 5. Uruguay (0-4)
Pool B (South Africa, Samoa, Japan, Scotland, USA)
With this group it’s no shocker that South Africa (#4) is going to run roughshod over everyone. Pencil them into the playoffs now. However, with the remaining 4 teams you see a very interesting dynamic. The USA Eagles have won their last 2 games over Canada (#18) and have been coming into their own recently. If they continue to get production out of their pack and kicker AJ MacGinty, they’ll be tough to beat. Samoa put it on the Eagles and so did Japan during the Pacific Nations Cup but given the amount of time they’ve had to train and mesh together I believe the US will make the second spot in this group*
*I reserve the right to change this pick after Samoa runs directly down the chest of our starting XV.
PWagon Pick 1. South Africa (4-0) 2. USA (2-2) 3. Samoa (2-2) 4. Japan (1-3) 5. Scotland (0-4)
There’s not much to say about this group. New Zealand is the best in the world for a reason. They’re through with a youth team playing. No one will be able to beat them in this pool. And due to my lack of knowledge about world geography I’m going with the only other team that I know where it is on a map. Argentina.
Pwagon Pick 1. New Zealand (4-0) 2. Argentina (3-1) 3. Tonga (2-2) 4. Georgia (1-3) 5. Namibia (0-4)
Pool D (France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Romania)
Nothing too exciting out of this pool either, you have the RWC runners up and Ireland playing each other with Italy, Canada and Romania fighting for a 2019 bid. Expect Ireland (#2) to beat France (#7) for a rematch in the quarterfinals of the 2011 RWC between France and NZ.
Pwagon Pick 1. Ireland (4-0) 2. France (3-1) 3. Italy (2-2) 4. Canada (1-3) 5. Romania (0-4)
Quarterfinals and beyond.
South Africa vs Wales
Wales is a good team and if they continue to click during this time, they’ll be through to the next round. However, South Africa had that movie about them made for a reason (Invictus was awesome). This would be a knockdown, drag out fight til the end where Halfpenny splits the uprights for the win. Wales is on to the semis.
Ireland vs Argentina
Ireland wins. Nothing else to say, they are 1000% better than Argentina. Ireland on to the Semis.
Australia vs USA
Because I’m an American I want to see my country do well against the men from the land down under. I may edit this after seeing their match on 9/5 against the Wallabies but there’s no way the team in yellow loses. Australia on to the Semis.
New Zealand vs France
In a rematch of the finals from 2011, New Zealand will physically overpower the French team. They move on.
Semi Finals (Ireland vs Wales & Australia vs New Zealand)
In semi-final 1 you have Ireland pairing up with Wales, a rekindling of the Six Nations match earlier in the season. Ireland currently holds a record of 50-66-6 against Wales but expect that this match becomes #51 in the win column.
Semi-final #2 may be the most exciting match of the year. Australia and New Zealand facing off in the battle of down under. I’ll call it the Kangaroo Cup (it’s actually known as the Bledisloe Cup). New Zealand asserts their dominance and is on to the finals.
Finals Ireland vs New Zealand
In a battle of 1 vs 2 this has the makings of an all time great contest. New Zealand is 27-0-1 against Ireland and in their most recent match in 2013 Ireland narrowly avoided defeat but lost 24-22 after New Zealand converted a try late in the match. This is a different Ireland team however and I expect them to quell New Zealand’s attempt at going Back To Back.
Get excited. It’s RWC2015 time.