Posted by: Gerry | September 6, 2007

How I See It Unfolding…

OK. Here we go. My prediction as to how the tournament will go

(Numbers in brackets indicate current IRB ranking.)

Pool A
South Africa (4)
England (7)
Samoa (10)
Tonga (14)
USA (15)

This is a straightforward enough group, with two “elite” teams and three also-rans. South Africa and England, who also met in the group stages in 2003, will joust for the top spot. However this time around, it looks like the Southern Hemisphere team that will come out on top. Since their triumph in Australia four years ago, England have shown nothing to suggest that they are in any position to successfully defend their title. Until the day comes that the Pacific Island nations can hold on to their best players from the lure of New Zealand and Australia, they will struggle to compete in tournaments like this.

Winners – South Africa
Runners-up – England

Pool B
Australia (2)
Wales (8)
Fiji (12)
Canada (13)
Japan (18)

Possibly the softest group in the competition, this is an easy enough one to predict, so I won’t go into any great detail. Australia will win the group and Wales will comfortably take second spot.

Pool C

New Zealand (1)
Italy (9)
Scotland (11)
Romania (16)
Portugal (22)

At last we’re seeing a bit of competition – but not for the top spot. New Zealand will win this at a canter. Fate has dictated that the tournament favourites end up in the same group as the lowest of the minnows – Portugal. Hopefully, no-one will get seriously hurt in that one.

The interesting tussle here is for second spot. Italy have now completed eight seasons in the Six Nations and at last are starting to gain some momentum. Ranked two places above Scotland in the IRB rankings, they have to be fancied to take second spot in the group. The Scotland-Italy head-to-head in St Etienne on 29 September could be a cracker.

Winners – New Zealand
Runners-up – Italy

Pool D

France (3)
Ireland (5)
Argentina (6)
Georgia (17)
Namibia (24)

D for Death. Ireland and Argentina are sick of the sight of one another by now, as this is the third time on the trot that the sides have met in the pool stages in the World Cup. In 1999, Argentina’s win over Ireland in Lens sent the men in green home prematurely. We exacted revenge in a buttock-clenching early morning encounter four years later.

This is by far the most competitive pool in the competition. Three world ranking places separate the top three teams in the group, which means that at least one team deserving of a quarter-final place will be going home on Hallowe’en 1 October (edit: see comments below).

Being Ireland’s group, this is also the pool of most interest to this blog. So much Irish hope depends on variables. Can our lads make it through relatively unscathed? I reckon that Ireland has the best fixture path of the three contenders. We will see off Namibia and Georgia with some ease, giving our key players valuable game time together and hopefully avoiding injury. In addition, once the initial resistance has been broken down, the tries should come, giving us a decent first innings total for the others to chase.

France and Argentina is the curtain raiser for the tournament, and it will be a bruising encounter. Whoever loses will be have to play catch-up for the rest of the group stage. It will be a tough, physical match, and key men could be lost to injury. France should hold out in this one.

We meet the French on 21 September. Our lads need no motivation for this one. The last time the teams met was in the Six Nations, at the first rugby match ever to be played at Croke Park. It was an historic occasion and they pissed on our parade, undeservedly winning 20-17 (and going on, even more undeservedly to win the Six Nations itself.) So now it’s time to piss on their parade. If all our first team players are fit and ready, you can expect as intense and passionate a performance from Ireland as that which annihilated England in Croker two weeks after the French debacle. I’m sticking my neck out here and predicting an Irish win. The momentum from that should see them send the Argies home a week later. However, by this time, we will have picked up injuries to at least two key men.

Winners – Ireland
Runners-up – France

Quarter-Finals

QF1 – Australia v. England. The match where the Champions give up their title. Australia should have little difficulty getting past an ordinary England.
QF2 – New Zealand v. France. It could of course be us, or even the Argies, but it doesn’t matter who, because the All Blacks juggernaut will prevail. France will be desperate to avoid this match as it will be played outside of France, in Cardiff.
QF3 – South Africa v. Wales. Can’t see the Boks lose this, to be honest.
QF4 – Ireland v. Italy. We will get through this, even if we are missing a few sharp-shooters.

Semi-Finals

SF1 – Australia v. New Zealand. A tough bruising encounter, and likely to be the best match of the tournament. New Zealand desperately don’t want the Aussies to win three World Cups, as it would underline Australia’s place as the pre-eminent rugby nation, something the Kiwis believe is theirs, even if their World Cup record doesn’t reflect that. New Zealand by a whisker.
SF2 – South Africa v. Ireland. This is where Ireland will make their exit, as by this stage the first choice XV will be carrying too many injuries and will be utterly knackered.

Final – New Zealand v. South Africa. It could go either way. It won’t be pretty, and it could well end up like the ’95 final and be decided on kicks. But I have to call it, and I will call it for the men in black. New Zealand to be crowned World Champions twenty years after their triumph in the inaugural tournament in 1987.

3rd place play off – Ireland will have one foot on the plane by then, having achieved their goal of a semi-final place, so the Aussies should have little problem with this one.

There you go. What do you think? Am I looking too much through green-tinted glasses? Give me hell in the comments.

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Responses

  1. “at least one team deserving of a quarter-final place will be going home on Hallowe’en.”

    Crikey, what happens with their plane? 30th September is a good month before Hallowe’en!

  2. *Note to self* – ease up on the wine while writing posts. 🙂

  3. Gerry, I hope those green tinted glasses turn out to be right!! Unfortunately, I disagree that our fixtures are the best of our group. I would much prefer if we had one difficult game followed by an easy one and so on. By the time we get to the quarters (when we qualify I might add – we won’t lose to those Argies) we could be goosed after playing two stinkers of games at the end of the group.

    Our destiny all rests on the French game. If the whole team play as they know they can, there’s no reason to say we can’t beat the French in their own backyard. Also, it won’t be a total partisan home crowd in attendance – if rumours are to be believed it could be that 50% of the crowd will be Irish. That will be a great help to our lads and a strange sensation for the French in Paris. It’s so close I can’t call it at the moment.

    They way I see it is there are two scenarios for Ireland. Beat the French, win the group, go all the way to the final beating the Azzurri and the Boks en route.

    Lose to France, nation depressed before Argentina but struggle towards quarter final.

    One way or the other, we will be well beaten by the All Blacks. Hopefully, it will be first option though. This team deserves to go further than any of their predecessors. Come on Ireland!

  4. I think Ireland, France and Argentina will all win one lose one, so it’ll come down to who notches up the biggest cricket scores against the plucky Namibians and Georgians.

    One factor in Ireland’s favour is that their last game is after France’s, so if it does come down to points difference they’ll at least know what they have to do.

    I think a key factor will be the Munstermen’s ability to grind out a win when they’re up against it.

    The team should watch the Ulster Toulouse match from the Heineken Cup last year – they didn’t like it up them and neither will the French, especially when they’re expecting everything to go their way.

    Go Argentina!

  5. Those tinted glasses of yours have indeed a green haze,but the significant word is HAZE.If big John is able to survive the tournament, he more than anyone else will enable Ireland to progress.He has been much maligned for his role in the front row,I believe undeservedly,and his contribution,lifting in the lineout gone largely unseen,except by his fellow forwards.
    Stay in rude health John,and the tinted glasses will reflect a golden hue from the Webb Ellis trophy!!

  6. […] propos je voudrais bien connaître la traduction exacte de “to piss on their parade”, employée ici). Signaler cet […]

  7. Eh – you might want to change your assessment of Irelands’ envisaged progress through la Groupe du Mort ??

  8. […] came to this World Cup with plenty of hope, and indeed expectation. A couple of under-par warm-up matches did little to perturb us, as we all felt that the form […]


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