Michael Cheika has described the Wallabies’ lead-up to the Rugby World Cup as “perfect” but that has only muddied the selection waters for their opening Test against Fiji.
I did one of these six months ago so I thought it would be interesting to see how the Pool D sides have progressed since then.
The Welsh side have gone from strength to strength this year. After losing to England and Ireland early in the Six Nations, they have gone on a nine-game winning streak.
Their November series was impressive with wins over Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa. Warren Gatland’s side have to be firming as favourites to exit Pool D in first place.
They will play in the Six Nations next year before entering the World Cup and will be looking to continue their winning ways.
2018 has been a year to forget for the Wallabies. After starting with a promising win against the Irish it has gone downhill.
They struggled in June, then in the Rugby Championship before limping into the November tour. The tour did not go to plan with a close loss to Wales, an unconvincing win against Italy and a thrashing at the hands of England.
I hope the Wallabies can improve for next year and have a good crack at the world cup but my head says it won’t be that easy. The team is still extremely unsettled and some suspect selections on the November tour didn’t help that.
Staff and players are under a lot of pressure and I fear that the struggle could continue into the world cup.
The Flying Fijians had a good 2018. They were Pacific Nations Champions again but lost to Tonga. They then lost to Scotland by about 30.
The Scotland game was an interesting one. Fiji were in it for 35 minutes before having two players sin binned within two minutes of each other.
From there Scotland ran over them. The Fijians then dismantled Uruguay before beating France in an incredible game to finish the tour.
This final game showed that Fiji can, not just compete but beat the top teams when they have a bit of time together (which they will have prior to the world cup).
The Fijians also convincingly beat two other Pool D sides in Georgia and Uruguay. This along with the French win should give them a lot of confidence of a QF birth next year.
The Lelos had a mixed year. The lost to the ever improving Italy to start the November series but finished but beating Tonga.
The Georgians love to play the tough stuff and when allowed to play this style are tough to beat but as shown in their game against Fiji earlier this year struggle to play sides that play expansive rugby.
While I think they are no walk over I cannot see Georgia getting out of the pool and expect them to finish fourth.
The Uruguay side faced Fiji last week and we saw a result that will most likely be the common one for them in 2019.
They have some decent players but don’t have the experience to compete with the top sides. Having said that they will grow a lot between now and the world cup and the longer the playing group stays together the better they will get.