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Sep 21, 2011

RWC update

As I mentioned in my previous rugby post, teams are currently working their way through the pool stage, and each of them have to face four opponents. All teams have now played their first two games, while Japan and Tonga are playing their third tonight, so we are just past the half-way point of this pool stage.

As a reminder, the pools are organised as follows:
- 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.

In short, the only surprise to date was Ireland winning against Australia, 15-6. If you remember my first post, I mentioned that it would take something special for Ireland to achieve this, and they did just that. In the comments, I explained that my wish, for this World Cup, was for Ireland to finally reach the semi-finals and that it would take at least one upset (against Australia in the pool or South Africa in the quarter-finals, or Wales winning against South Africa in their pool). Wales almost did it against South Africa, but lost 17-16.

In pool A, the games to watch are Tonga-Japan (currently under way as I am writing this post), Canada-Japan (next Tuesday) and of course New Zealand against France on Saturday. The first two games will decide the 3rd place in the pool (and I still think Japan has a decent chance of winning at least one, maybe two), and the third one will decide the pool winner. Now that the team selected to face the All Blacks has been announced, France are looking even less likely to win this one. It might actually be good news for them, as it would likely mean avoiding any Tri-Nations team until the final.

In pool B, England is still on course to finish 1st, and the match between Scotland and Argentina, on Sunday, will decide which of these two teams reaches the quarter-finals. It will probably not be the prettiest game of the World Cup, but it should still be a very interesting one, and I will be rooting for Scotland.

In pool C, Italy has shown good form, but now that Ireland has an opportunity to top their pool for the first time in a World Cup, I think Ireland will come ahead on Sunday week. Australia's last two games are against USA and Russia, and they will certainly cruise through these two and grab second place.

Pool D is currently fairly tight and there are three big games left: Fiji-Samoa on Sunday, South Africa against Samoa on Friday week, and finally Wales and Fiji the following Sunday. For the last two, I would go with South Africa and Wales, which would mean them getting first and second, respectively. The first one is difficult to call, but Fiji have not been very impressive so far, so I think Samoa can win it.

This would give:
- QF1: Ireland against Wales.
- QF2: England against France.
- QF3: South Africa against Australia.
- QF4: New Zealand against Scotland.

This could result in Ireland against England in the first semi-final, South Africa against New Zealand in the second, and a very interesting final between England and New Zealand.

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