Friday 18 September 2015

RWC 2015

The Rugby World Cup starts today, so technology & on-topic-ness be damned.

The RWC is held every four years. In its current format, 20 finalist teams compete in four pools of five teams each; the top two going through into quarter finals, thence to semi finals and a final (oh, and a "bronze" final to compete for 3rd or 4th place). There are 102 teams in the current world rugby rankings, and the 20 finalist teams are those in the top 20 positions at a certain date. Qualifications for the next World Cup start shortly after the preceding one.

The last World Cup was held in New Zealand in 2011, and the winner was New Zealand, narrowly beating France in the final (final score 8-7). RWC 2015 is being held in England, with a coupla games in Wales.

There have been seven Rugby World Cups thusfar:

  • 1987 - New Zealand beat France 29-9, at Eden Park in Auckland
  • 1991 - Australia beat England 12-6, at Twickenham in London
  • 1995 - South Africa beat New Zealand 15-2, at Ellis Park in Johannesburg
  • 1999 - Australia beat France 35-12, at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff
  • 2003 - England beat Australia 20-17, at Stadium Australia in Sydney
  • 2007 - South Africa beat England 15-6, at Stade de France, in Paris
  • 2011 - New Zealand beat France 8-7, at Eden Park in Auckland

So NZ, Aussie and South Africa have won it two-apiece, and England once. France have had a few chances, but have never quite made it.

Below are are my predictions for this year. Note that I actively support the All Blacks (that's NZ, OK?), Ireland and Wales; actively do not support South Africa, Australia, England and France. I'm ambivalent about the rest, although I don't mind Scotland or the Pacfic Island nations winning a match.

So, how is it going to come together? I'll go pool by pool.

Pool matches

Pool A

This is a really tough group, as Aussie, England and Wales are all top teams, and all things being equal any two of those three would top their group. England are playing at home which gives them an edge, and Wales have had some critical injuries, which is unfortunate for them. Fiji and Uruguay round out the group, but there's no way they'll figure beyond the first round.

Australia (current world ranking: 2)
England (4)
Wales (5)
Fiji (9)
Uruguay (19)

Aussie will win all their matches, England will lose to Aussie, and Wales to England. Fiji will beat Uruguay.

Pool B

There's a strong fight for second spot here, with Samoa and Scotland being strong contenders, and Japan having half a chance if they have some luck. South Africa will be clear winners of their group. USA just rounds out the numbers

South Africa (3)
Scotland (10)
Samoa (12)
Japan (13)
USA (15)

I think Scotland are playing uncharacteristically well, and will just edge Samoa.

Pool C

New Zealand will not be challenged in this pool, and Argentina would be unlucky to not make second spot, although Tonga could make it tough for them. I don't think Tonga can play the full 80min they'll need to to beat the Pumas though. Georgia are fighters but are a third-tier side, and I dunno about Namibia. I guess they are mostly overspill from South Africa though?

New Zealand (1)
Argentina (8)
Tonga (11)
Georgia (16)
Namibia (20)

I'm going to the NZ v Namibia game, which will be very one-sided but will still be a cool occasion. And I've not been to the main Olympic Stadium in London before.

Pool D

This one is too close to call for the top spot: it could go either way to France or Ireland. I also think the second spot is a contentious one, as Italy can rise to the occasion against either of those sides (especially France) on their day. Canada and Romania are two of the toughest "also ran" teams, and I dunno who will win the shoot-out between those two teams. It'll be a cool match, but will not impact who goes through to the quarters.

Ireland (6)
France (7)
Italy (14)
Canada (18)
Romania (17)

I'm going to the France v Romania game, which should be interesting. I secretly (until now) hope that France have a shocker, and end up losing to both Ireland and Italy, and Italy takes that second spot (for reasons which will become clear in a moment). It's a possibility, but an unlikely one.

Ireland will top the group by the narrowest margin, just beating France in their match.

Quarter finals

QF1: South Africa v England

The Saffers aren't at the top of their game at the moment, and England are surprisingly solid if uninspiring. I'm picking an early exit for South Africa, with England winning narrowly. If the match was not at Twickenham, I'd reverse my call there. That's how close this will be.

QF2: All Blacks v France

Last time these two teams met at Millennium Stadium for a Rugby World Cup Quarter Final? FFS. Nuff said. Not this time, you tri-coloured cock-wearers. The ABs will crush 'em. F*ck I hope they do. I'm not sure. I was at the game at 2007 and it was a pretty grim experience. I'm gonna be at this game too :-/ So I'm really really supporting Italy to do some upsetting here, and finish ahead of France in their group, knocking France out, so we don't have to play them. France is the only rugby side I fear.

QF3: Ireland v Argentina

Ireland are just too strong for the Pumas, I think. But it won't be cut and dried. I'm gonna pick Ireland.

QF4: Australia v Scotland

Sorry Scotland, no chance. But knock them about a bit, will ya? Aussie to thrash them.

Semi Finals

SF1: England v All Blacks

This is going to be really really tough. NZ are the better of the two teams, but England can play a very focused 80min of rugby, and NZ tends to not do that: they could lose it in the first 15min whilst they get their heads straight, whilst England just grind away at them. Or, on the other hand, NZ could shine and hand England their arses. I'm going for the latter. NZ to win.

SF2: Ireland v Aussie

If Ireland make it this far, I think they'll be pretty tough to beat. Australia are fairly ordinary at the moment, so are vulnerable in a tough match. I just hope Ireland hold it together and don't lose focus in the last 20min, as they have a habit of doing. Ireland.


All Blacks v Ireland

I don't actually mind who wins this. I'll be more actively supporting NZ, but if Ireland were to win, that'd be well cool too. However Ireland never have beaten New Zealand, and they're not about to start in a Rugby World Cup final. NZ will win.

Bronze: England v Aussie

England will win this one. It's always a bit of a non-event of a match though.

Games to watch

England v Fiji (Fri, Sept 18)

This match is this evening, and is the opening match. England will win, but Fiji are a very tough side, so will make them work for it.

France v Italy (Sat, Sept 19)

France are really unpredictable, so this might gauge which French side has shown up to the tournament. And I'd love to see Italy beat them.

NZ v Argentina (Sun, Sept 20)

Should be an OK match, and they're two good teams. There's should be some bloody stylish rugby on show, too. Today the All Blacks announced their squad, and it's the fullest strength XV they can muster. They're taking Los Pumas seriously

South Africa v Samoa (Sat, Sept 26)

The Samoans are pretty bloody good and should not be discounted. This could be the undoing of the Boks. Possibly. Maybe.

England v Wales (Sat, Sept 26)

Go Wales. Kill them. If you can't manage that: just beating them will be fine.

Samoa v Japan (Sat, Oct 3)

These two teams are mid-field, but moderately evenly matched these days, so could be a good game.

England v Australia (Sat, Oct 3)

The best thing about this match is that one team will lose. Unfortunately the other one will win. It'll be a bloody tough game though.

Ireland v Italy (Sun, Oct 4)

Ireland need to win this well to demonstrate they belong in the final, but Italy won't make it easy for them.

Canada v Romania (Tue, Oct 6)

Two fairly evenly-matched sides, I reckon. But it will be a difference class of rugby from the bigger matches.

Samoa v Scotland (Sat, Oct 10)

Samoa could ruin it for Scotland, so this is a fairly key match.

Australia v Wales (Sat, Oct 10)

It's such a tough pool this one, there's no scope for either of these sides to mess up (they're competing for two spots along with a third tough team England, remember).

Italy v Romania (Sun, Oct 11)

There's not a gulf between these teams, although one would expect Italy to win. It might be Romania's moment though? Probably won't impact the outcome of the pool, unless Italy manage to beat France or Ireland.

France v Ireland (Sun, Oct 11)

Probably the best match of the pool matches, I reckon. This will be a real nail-biter.

Key date/time

About 6pm on Sat Oct 31. When we will be able to see something like this happen:

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