The Rugby World Cup kicks off in just under ten months and rugby fans around the world are already preparing for what promises to be an enthralling tournament.
These are my way too early predictions for how this tournament will play out. I fully expect some people to disagree with me, so don’t feel bad for ripping on my picks in the comments.
There’s not much to say here, as this group appears to be very straightforward. Expect both Ireland and Scotland to dominate the other members of the group and Ireland to edge Scotland with their depth.
Yeah, I know that Canada isn’t technically the repechage winner yet, but I fully expect them to defeat Hong Kong and beat Namibia to avoid the wooden spoon in this group. Italy will defeat Canada once again, but like they did in RWC 2015, when Daniel Tailliferre Hauman van der Merwe was excellent, it has been proven that he cannot put the team on his back once Canada reaches a certain level of opposition – not even Beauden Barrett could.
In the New Zealand vs South Africa showdown, Beauden Barrett will be able to be a difference-maker in what will be a close match defined by playmaking in the back line.
Argentina always seem to be the dark horse in rugby world cups, but that trend will end here. There’s no Irish team here for them to beat – I say that as an Ireland fan – and France proved themselves to be a better side a week ago in Paris.
Argentina are exciting, but England and France, unlike Ireland, are set up to neutralise the threat they possess. Do not mistake a good match-up for quality – Argentina are Ireland’s bogey team, and that’s it.
I’m fully aware this is an Australian site and that I may not be agreed with here. I don’t blame you at all for that, but let’s be honest – Australian rugby is in crisis mode and the Australian team should be thankful that they aren’t in a group in which they could be left out of the Round of 16. For example, yes, I totally bashed Argentina five seconds ago, but their style puts teams under pressure. Australia, based on current trends, could fall victim to that.
Quarter-final 1: England (winner) vs Australia
England run out clear winners here, confirming how much the Northern Hemisphere has caught up to the Southern Hemisphere since the last World Cup Round of 16.
Quarter-final 2: New Zealand (winner) vs Scotland
One thing I will not do is call this a blowout, because it won’t be. Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Stuart Hogg will help keep things interesting, but ultimately New Zealand’s quest for a threepeat will not end in the Round of 16.
Quarter-final 3: Wales vs France (winner)
I wouldn’t be able to confidently bet anything on this matchup, but I’ll give it to France as I can see them being warmed up better for this game as they’re coming from a tougher group. Some may see this as a disadvantage, but I see the opposite.
Quarter-final 4: Ireland (winner) vs South Africa
No, Ireland will not win this matchup 38-3 like they did in Dublin a year ago, but they will boss proceedings once again and have a decisive victory against the Boks. Welcome to the semi-finals, Ireland.
Semi-final 1: England (winner) vs New Zealand
Yep, you read that right: England will avenge their 16-15 loss in Twickenham a few weeks ago with a semi-final victory in the World Cup. The storyline of this world cup will continue to be the Northern Hemisphere’s rise to dominance in a way rugby has never seen before.
Semi-final 2: France vs Ireland (winner)
At this point in the competition depth will be increasingly prevalent. No team in world rugby has more than Ireland does right now, as they beat New Zealand with a second-choice scrum half and a third-choice flanker.
Bronze final: New Zealand (winner) vs France
New Zealand return after their first rugby world cup loss since 2007 with something to prove and pick France apart.
Final: England vs Ireland (winner)
This Ireland squad is used to winning big games against their neighbours from across the Irish Sea at this point, and Johnny Sexton will out-duel Owen Farrell once again to see Ireland join the illustrious club of world cup winners.