Sad to see the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup 2015 come to a close. Big shout out to the minnow nations for making up the numbers (like Japan, Namibia, Romania and England!). Time for the tier 1 nations to play the real Rugby World Cup.
The quarter finals are just around the corner and I am excited to see both the Wallabies and Wales in the hunt. Jeff wants to stay up on Sunday night to watch the Wallabies (2am game), he says he can skip school, hmmm tempting, I could skip work too. But too much on so I will avoid all social media, news and corridor conversation at work on Monday and sit down with Jeff and watch on Monday evening instead.
Pity about the English not getting through, never nice to get kicked out of your own party! Then again we couldn’t let them win! That was the pool of death with only the two top teams able to advance, C’mon Wallabies and Wales. That reminds me of an old joke…. An English player walks into a bar. There is normally a Scotsman, a Welshman and an Irishman as well – but they’re still playing at the Rugby World Cup.
Anyway onto the matches….
First up South Africa will take on Wales. The Boks will be fired up, having finally starting to show some grit in their last two games. Their start ignited a fairy-tale start to the world cup (and all before them) as Japan showed great courage and determination to steal a hard-fought win in the first round. The proud Boks would have been embarrassed to have lost to a team they were expected to knock up a cricket score against. Fair play Japan were great playing fast paced open rugby but also physically holding their own against the bigger Boks. 20 million people tuned in to watch them back in Japan! 20 MILLION! While Rugby has a good national competition, World Rugby will be looking with anticipation to the 2019 RWC in Japan. Pity the Olympics are the following year in Japan as well and are expected to take potential ticket sales. But back to game…. Wales threw everything at the Wallabies in an amazing 10-15 minute passage of play with two Wallabies players in the bin. Unfortunately Wales played into the Wallabies hands by continuing to play close between the 22 and try line, with only 13 men the Wallabies were able to contain the red storm by keeping it tight. If Wales had taken the points in one or two of the nine penalties and returned for the restart, taking play back to open expansive running rugby with 15 against 13, they may well have won. Warren Gatland, the Welsh coach, will have been taking the team through the match frame by frame. I am expecting a much stronger Welsh showing. South Africa are looking ominous and have a slightly easier run to Wales, with an injury list longer than Santa’s naughty list.
Tipping: My heart says Wales by 7 but my head says South Africa by 10.
Current world champs New Zealand face their bogie team France in a repeat of the 2007 Quarter Final (also played at the Millennium Stadium). New Zealand choked in 2007. All Kiwis will claim Wayne Barnes blew the pea out of whistle and missed a forward pass (that gets longer each time!) which sunk them. World Rugby doesn’t seem to have a complete sense of irony, they could have allocated Wayne Barnes to referee the game but have opted to ease the collective nervous tension of Kiwi land by giving them quick-witted and stand-up comedian Nigel Owens. I kinda hope New Zealand beats France, but not too much, as the Wallabies will have to play them later! New Zealand had a pretty weak pool to play in and this may be their undoing. But look what happened to the Wallabies at Eden park after beating NZ in Sydney.
Tipping: France will be French-fried by a strong NZ outfit by 15 points.
Ireland v Argentina, don’t cry for me Argentina. The Irish will be hard to beat, but Argentina did beat South Africa at home so the Irish will be wary. Ireland have lost their captain to injury and Sean O’Brien to suspension. They may also be without their key fly half Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls. Having beaten France in the pool rounds Ireland have risen to third in the world rankings. However Argentina are looking like the dark horses, just as they were in 2011.
Tipping: Argentina by 3.
Finally the big one for Oz!! The Wallabies take on the Scots. Scotland have the run on the Wallabies having won two of the last three. However the long-term head to head is Wallabies 19 to Scotland 9. Scotland have lost two key players to suspension while the Wallabies are looking up with both Israel Folau and Matt Giteau back in training after recovering. The Wallabies will be sweating on Pococks calf, although late mail indicates he will be ready for Sunday, so it’s coming together for the Wallabies. Finally after a decade of Scrum Jokes the Wallabies scrum is looking strong as they out scrummed England, their defence against Wales showed as a solid gold brick wall, and in attack Stephen Larkham’s influence is starting to show with great attack on show against the minnows (England!). As always, any Wallabies fan will tell you, as soon as things are looking up the Wallabies have a habit of imploding. Hopefully the key to stopping this is hard-nosed Michael Cheika keeping a lid on things with plenty of replays of their loss to Scotland in Newcastle. They won’t be letting themselves get to cocky, any chance of that would result in more blood soaked training runs. Australia should win but if they don’t only hard-core rugby die-hards will watch the Wallabies again (yes that’s me) all you fair-weather supporters go back to League!
Tipping: Sorry Scotland, Wallabies to win by 15.