Rugby World Cup Pool D Preview

Ireland and France headline Pool D at the Rugby World Cup in England with both sides capable of topping the group and likely avoiding New Zealand’s All Blacks in the quarter-finals.  Italy will have something to say about that though with the Azzurri aiming for a first-ever knockout place.

IRELAND

The Irish have not been in the best of form coming into the tournament but Joe Schmidt’s master plan is apparently geared towards peaking in the last pool fixture against France.  The Shamrocks should not have too much difficulty winning their other group matches and then it will all come down to the meeting with Les Bleus.  Schmidt’s approach might be risky but he has led Ireland to two Six Nations titles in the last two years and this has included two wins and a pair of draws in the last four outings.

Prediction: Semi-finalists

CANADA

A nation left behind in the professional era.  Canada reached the quarter-finals in 1991 but have dwindled since then and have even been overtaken by neighbours, USA in the North American hierarchy.  That said the Maple Leaves did not come to England to lay down before their more fancied opponents.  They will make life hard for some teams but only for a while.  The fixture against Romania is the one that the Canadians will target for a World Cup win this time around.

Prediction: Group stage exit

FRANCE

The enigma of world rugby.  Just when you think they are down and out they surprise all and sundry.  In New Zealand in 2011 they were beaten by Tonga in the group stages and snuck into the quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth before going to lose in the final by just one point.  Philippe Saint-Andre has problems no doubt about that but provided they do go through to the knockout stage and meet the Kiwis in the quarters, would you be brave enough to bet against them?

Prediction: Quarter-finalists

ITALY

A nation on the rise and improving all the time but they are not catching up quickly enough.  The Italians certainly have the ability to trouble Ireland and France and cause and upset.  Patchy form leading up to the event, injuries to key players like captain Sergio Parisse, and history itself suggest that Jacques Brunel’s boys will come close but not close enough.

Prediction: Group stage exit

 

ROMANIA

If Canada has been left behind in the car park by pro rugby, then Romania must be wondering what planet they are on.  Never a top tier nation, but always a side capable of pushing hard, the Oaks are languishing in the world standings these days.  Like Canada as been usurped by the United States on their continent, the Romanians are second-best in eastern Europe to Georgia now.  The Canada clash will be the one that these men will want to win with all their hearts and they have a great chance.  In the last two years the sides have met twice and on both occasions the men in yellow triumphed.

Prediction: Group stage exit

Photo credit: Prensa UAR