The 2019 World Cup draw appears to be a blessing for the Wallabies, as they managed to avoid the pool of death.
If teams perform according to their seedings – as a tennis fan, I can say this is a very dubious assumption – Australia should avoid England and New Zealand, the top two teams in the world, until the final.
However, the draw is an equally excellent opportunity for both South Africa and Ireland.
Australia’s main threats are Georgia and Wales. Georgia are a much-improved side, a fantastic rugby success story, and may well challenge for a spot in the knock-out stages in a few World Cups time.
However, I do not see them as beating Australia by 2019.
Wales is the one team who Australia has consistently beaten without much trouble since 2007. However, the Wallabies are capable of losing to anyone on their day, and Wales lifted strongly against both England and Ireland in the Six Nations this year.
Ireland’s pool features Scotland and Japan.
Scotland beat Ireland in the Six Nations and are much better than previous years, while Japan proved in 2015 that they can beat anyone, and with a home crowd behind them, should be dangerous in 2019.
That said, Ireland should top their pool, which would mean they will likely face…
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In a pool with the All Blacks and Italy, South Africa’s results since 2013 have been less than stellar, and Alistair Coetzee taking the reins has seen their run of results turn downright disastrous, including a loss to Italy.
If Coetzee is retained as coach, it is difficult to see them beating the All Blacks, given the trio of poor coaching, player drain to Europe and internal South African rugby politics. Being in the same pool as the New Zealand though, means they won’t have to play them again until the final.
Despite the 2016 loss, the Springboks should beat Italy, and then anyone who plays them in a quarter-final or semi-final would be foolish to underestimate them.
If Coetzee is not the coach – say, if someone like Jake White is brought in at short notice to try and fix things – then every team in the draw should be afraid.
Between their players in Europe and South Africa, the Springboks could easily be the second-best team in the world, and a big threat to New Zealand by 2019.
According to seedings, Australia should top their pool and play France in the quarter-finals. France are improving after their terrible form in recent years, but were beaten by Australia’s up and comers in 2016, so the Wallabies should win that match and likely play whoever wins out of Ireland or South Africa.
Both Ireland and South Africa should be confident for this quarter-final, and likewise see the semi-final as winnable. Likewise, Australia should view an out-of-form South Africa and Ireland as an equally winnable semi-final.
England and New Zealand drew the short straw, which of the others will make the dream draw count?