The eighth Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday at Twickenham and the host nation England is fancying its chances. However the English are in a difficult group of death and must first secure progress from their pool before thinking of glory at the end of the event. Here is our preview of Pool A:
The hosts have won the World Cup before, back in Australia in 2003. In 1991 the Roses reached the final only to lose at Twickenham. Stuart Lancaster’s lads will be looking to go one better this time around. The side has been building steadily towards this event but the side’s form coming into the tournament has not inspired supreme confidence. England suffered a defeat at the hands of France in a warm-up match in Paris and the English can ill-afford a slip-up in this pool where even one defeat could mean an early exit – a disaster not yet suffered by an outright host.
The two-time champions have been flying under the rugby radar for a long time but have always hovered in the top five of the rankings. The Wallabies are underestimated at one’s peril and Michael Cheika has brought about a fresh zest since he took charge about a year ago. Cheika’s charges are the reigning Rugby Championship crown holders but no southern hemisphere champion has ever gone on to win the World Cup in the same year. Could that change this year? If the Aussies win this group, the road to the final is far more favourable than for the team finishing second.
The Aussies are masters at burgling victories and playing street smart rugby. England and Wales will be the more traditionally structured sides and the Flying Fijians will provide exactly what their nickname suggests. They will be hard and physical while being attacking and adventurous. The draw has been unkind to the Pacific Islanders, who in another pool, might be quarter-final contenders. They could cause an upset against Wales, as they did in 2007, but more than two wins in this group is unlikely.
Prediction: Group stage exit
One of the amateur success stories, along with Namibia, at this World Cup. The South Americans will almost certainly lose all four matches and their victory is being at the tournament itself. Nevertheless, Los Teros are a proud team and will not just lie down. While they will fight, expect at least one team in this group to put 100 points or more past them.
Wales will feel aggrieved by being drawn in this pool. The Dragons have had bad luck at World Cups, with three group stage exits in the past and sadly they are the odds-on favourites to be the odd-one-out with three of the top five-ranked sides in this pool at the time of the draw. Warren Gatland’s men certainly have the ability to defeat Australia and England, but history suggests the Aussies and home side will have just that little too much firepower for the Welsh.
Prediction: Group stage exit
Photo credit: RFU Collection