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Sep 8, 2011


For weeks now, I have been counting down the days to the Rugby World Cup, and it is finally starting tomorrow. If you are not very familiar with the sport, I suggest you immediately go to Hikosaemon's blog and read his "Quick Guide To Enjoying The Rugby World Cup".

Teams are organised in four pools of five:
- Pool A: Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Tonga.
- Pool B: Argentina, England, Georgia, Romania, Scotland.
- Pool C: Australia, Ireland, Italy, Russia, USA.
- Pool D: Fiji, Namibia, Samoa, South Africa, Wales.

During the pool stage, each team plays against the other four nations in its group. A win is worth four points, a draw two points, and lose none. During each game, teams can also earn one offensive bonus point (if they score at least four tries) and/or one defensive bonus point (if they lose by seven points or less).
At the end of the pool stage, the first two teams go through to the quarter-finals.

Pool A contains two of the tournament favourites, New Zealand and France, and it would be a massive shock if they failed to both qualify. New Zealand is arguably the better team, but France has a history of upsetting them on the big stage so it should be an interesting fight. I would still expect New Zealand to finish first, just ahead of France. Behind them, Japan has a good chance of recording at least one win (against Canada), and it would be nice to see them get two. It would certainly help develop the sport here, (ahead of the 2019 World Cup organised in Japan).

In Pool B, England are strong favourites. They have not been playing really well recently but they still have a strong team. They won in 2003, and reached the final in 2007, so they should still top the pool. Behind them, the second spot should be an intriguing battle between Scotland, who have struggled in recent years but are improving, and Argentina, who were great in 2007 and are now an ageing side. With their best player (Juan Martin Hernandez) missing the competition due to injury, Argentina could very well finish third, and I expect Scotland to go through.

Australia will probably top pool C. Ireland will still be fancying an upset, but would need to produce something really special. They have done so in the past, but rarely at the World Cup. Italy is improving, as highlighted by their win against France last Spring. They will not finish beyond third, but I do not see them going through.

Cup holders South Africa are in pool D. They always seem to save their best performances to the World Cup, but I find them quite poor this year. They should still get three wins against Fiji, Namibia and Samoa, but Wales could beat them. I will take a risk here, and go for Wales first and South Africa second. Behind, it will be a fight between Fiji and Samoa, with the former probably finishing ahead.

In the quarter-finals, we will have the winner of pool C against the runner-up of pool D, winner B against runner-up A, winner D against runner-up C, and finally winner A against runner-up B.
Assuming I have been right above, this would give Australia against South Africa (QF1), England against France (QF2), Wales against Ireland (QF3) and New Zealand against Scotland (QF4).

At this stage, I would expect wins from Australia, France, Ireland and New Zealand. The first two will face each other in the first semi-final, with Australia expected to win it, and New Zealand should cruise through the second one.

France tend to lose 3rd place games, so Ireland would have a chance, and I think that, if they make it to the final, New Zealand will be very difficult to beat and would therefore be crowned champions.

We always see upsets in such competitions (and in my predictions above that would be the good results of Wales and Ireland), but I am quite likely to get it wrong somewhere... Let me know what you think!

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