With the 2019 Rugby World Cup officially getting underway on September 20, we’ve arrived into the final stretch of preparations for the tournament. The exhibitions are done, the try-outs have been completed and now we’re almost ready for the big lights and international television broadcasts.
With the amount of talent in this year’s World Cup, a lot of pundits are expecting this to be one of the most open versions of the tournament in the history of the event. However, when you ask the people of New Zealand (where my wife is from), they’ll have a completely different opinion for you.
So, what exactly are we looking at here for the 2019 Rugby World Cup? Will the Kiwis be correct in seeing their All Blacks win a third straight championship? Or will we have an upset on our hands that could hand the trophy over to South Africa or Australia?
There’s a ton to break down here, so let’s go over everything pool-by-pool. Afterwards, I’ll hand you the betting odds, as well as my winner prediction and long shot pick. Remember you can check our betting guide on how to bet on rugby.
This is certainly one of the toughest pools to forecast, and not because of how elite it is, but it’s because the best teams in the pool such as Scotland and Ireland will give you good-quality rugby, and then will turn around for a dismal performance. Needless to say, it’s hard to tell what you’re going to get, so be prepared for some unpredictable rugby in this pool.
They would lose to France back in August, and not just lose to them, they would get smacked in the face by a 32-3 score. However, the very next week, they would then turn around to defeat them, 17-14. Another example is their final fixture of the Six Nations when they faced off against England. Starting out, they would be getting thrashed, 31-0, but the game would end up being a 38-38 draw after the Scots would get it together.
Despite all of the inconsistency, there is one consistent trait that is in Scotland’s DNA, and that’s being good at their home stadium. Another thing that their consistent at is being really bad away. When you mix those two performances together, well, there’s another sign of inconsistency — can win at home, but can’t win on the road. You can say that maybe Scotland playing in another team’s atmosphere hurdles them, but fortunately for the Scots, their matches will be on neutral territory. Well, except for Japan who happens to be the host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and also happens to be in Scotland’s group. As a result, you may want to place the Scottish on upset alert when they play the Japanese, there’s some potential there.
A year ago, Ireland was sitting among the cream of the crop, and would do this with a Six Nations grand slam and win over the top team in the world in New Zealand a.k.a. the All Blacks. However, they’ve been pretty lousy since then, struggling in the Six Nations and they’ve been lowly in exhibition fixtures.
Despite the dismal play, they still have both the talent and veteran-ship to make a deep push in the tournament, but if they hope to have a legitimate chance of winning the entire thing, they’ll need to get their form in check. The last time they would meet Scotland, they would end up winning the game 22-13, but it wouldn’t be their best performance. In the Six Nations, they were hammered by Wales and were actually thrashed so bad by England in an exhibition that it broke records. Strangely enough, though, Ireland is still entering the World Cup as the No. 1 ranked nation despite their struggles, and they would top the rankings after their 19-10 victory over Wales.
Japan, the hosts, are becoming competitors in the sport of rugby. As far as how deep they’ll go, we’ll get a much clearer look at that situation after the last pool fixture against Scotland, and an upset can realistically happen here. One of the tell-tale signs of that is the fact that the match between the Japanese and Scottish is already sold out, and it sold out quite fast, and what this means is that Japan’s fans want a taste of upset, and they know they can make it happen. And my oh my, how typical of Scotland would it be if they beat No. 1 Ireland and then turned around to lose to Japan.
With that being said, it’s hard to exactly tell where Japan is right now with their lack of tier-one fixtures. Remember what I mentioned earlier though, the Scots tend to struggle at home, and with the Japanese sure to provide an intense environment, they may be able to exploit them for a victory. At the same time, the minimal experience that Japan has may have them exhausted before that match even comes around. Needless to say, we have a massively interesting contest on our hands with this game.
They may have gotten drawn in the same group and guaranteed to play each other, but I have a guarantee of my own for you, and that’s the fact that New Zealand and South Africa couldn’t be happier about it. And the reason why is because, coming in as the two top-form teams, them playing each other early on means they then don’t have to compete against one another in the knockout stage. This is also good for us because of the entertainment value, but it’s also bad for the rest of the teams outside of NZ and SA, because it means one of these powers most likely won’t be knocked out until the final, with the other holding up the trophy.
From now until, well, forever, you can always expect New Zealand to be the odds-on favorite to win every World Cup — don’t ever expect anything to change with that one. However, even though they’re once again the favorites to take the cup, the team has a lot of weaknesses that are exploitable, and honestly, this is one of the most vulnerable teams with seen with the All Blacks in recent history. Just recently, they would suffer a 47-26 smashing to Australia, and would also be forced to settle for a 16-16 draw at home to South Africa. They would also take a 16-9 loss to England, and would struggle to beat England in a 16-15 victory and Argentina, 20-16.
In their defense, however, they were consistently trying new things with their game plan. For example, they were playing their main star Bauden Barrett at full back during the Rugby Championship and they were also taking drop goals last year in November. You can expect both of those examples to not happen in the 2019 World Cup.
Let’s just be honest here: If New Zealand has their full squad out on the field and in their correct positions, they’re going to be incredibly hard to beat. Like, remember when I mentioned that Australia would take out the All Blacks, 47-26? Yeah, they would recover the very next week by defeating the Aussies, 36-0, giving them an even worse thrashing.
Going to the other power in Pool B, you have South Africa, who is such a strong team. And not only are they strong, but they’re also an extraordinarily young squad that seems to be hitting their peak for the World Cup. What makes SA so scary too is the fact that their youth movement is so forceful, that they’ll be with NZ once again as a heavy favorite to win the 2021 Lions Tour. Back in 2017, South Africa would take a 57-0 whooping courtesy of the All Blacks, but after that, it appears that the Springboks have been on a thoroughbred mission for success. They’ve also played New Zealand four times since that match, and have pulled off one victory and two draws, and barely losing the other. At this point, both nations are incredibly evenly-matched.
For the second consecutive Rugby World Cup, England has been unlucky with their draw placing them in a murderous pool. There are three nations in this pool that are considered international powers in the sport of rugby, which is one more tally than all of the other pools included in the tournament. As far as exits are concerned involving heavyweights, Pool C is guaranteed to produce us our first one.
In the 2018 Six Nations, the English would be forced to settle for a fifth-place result, but it appears that they’re vastly improved since that time. The red rose has power, dynamism, and size, both with their backs and forwards, and it’s all unmatched from any team that you compare them with all across the globe. When their big men get going and they’re able to dominate their competition physically, England is nearly unbeatable at that point.
Despite the physical aspect, however, there are some lingering questions about their mental state, and this is because of all of the remaining names on the team that would suffer a pool stage exit in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. You’ve even got names that still remain from the crushing 30-3 defeat to Wales that messed up a grand slam for them. And then you have this past season, where it seems they can’t maintain a lead, and it’s even worse considering most of these leads were sizeable. If they blow momentum during a match against an opponent like France and their big men, it could be a problem for the English and result in an exit.
Speaking of France though, they haven’t exactly been giving their best performances for quite some time now, especially with their dismal tally on the road. Since 2017, they’ve played a total of 15 away games, and they’ve only won two of those fixtures — both would come over Italy.
With that being said, with the World Cup being held in Japan and most of the games being neutral, they may fare well because of it like Scotland. There’s also another problem that usually hits the French that they might be able to recover from, and that’s the fact that their club rugby massively impacts their international team. With the scheduling the way it is, they don’t get much time to practice together and gel. However, 2019 is a bit different with them having time together here in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup, so we might end up seeing a gelled team make a deep run and do some damage. Keep an eye on France.
Due to playing in the Rugby Championship, Argentina tends to suffer from it as a result. Unlike other global powers, they have no real easy games on their schedule, and they happen to lose a lot with those being the circumstances. The nation’s rugby program has gotten better, and that was proven in a narrow 20-16 loss against powerhouse New Zealand. Another piece of evidence: Their club team, Jaguares, would make it into the Super Rugby final for the first time in history.
With their being no other power teams located in South America, Argentina is forced to travel half across the world for their away contests, and needless to say, it can become a pretty gruesome schedule. The good news for the Argentinians is that they don’t have to deal with the travel stress this year due to the build-up to the World Cup, so the potential for them to peak in this event is certainly there, and they usually do in the WC. When you look at a matchup between them and the French, in particular, it’s near impossible to make a prediction in that game, but with the load of talent that the French have, it’s forced the odds-makers to back the French.
As far as the United States is concerned: Sorry, American rugby fans. I don’t have much for you other than an exit in the pool stage. Not only are we a nation that doesn’t care about rugby, but this pool is the kiss of death.
For Australia, they’re coming off of a power 47-26 win over their rival New Zealand, and fans and pundits across the world were pretty amp’d that the Aussies could be returning as a rugby power. And then the next week came, where they would get smashed 36-0 to the All Blacks. Even though the Wallabies are consistently loaded with talent, they can’t get past their mediocre stretch to put them back up there with New Zealand and South Africa.
On top of that, they’ve also been dealing with drama off of the field. The latest case has been the fiasco with Israel Folau, their best player, which would see him removed off of the team after ‘homophobic’ posts were made on social media. At least with Folau gone now, they can focus strictly on the sport of rugby, and they could also put Kurtley Beale back at the full back spot, the position that he prefers to play. With that being said, we could also see an even worse Australian product if things continue to go south, and that’s also a quite realistic scenario. However, when the lights are bright, the Aussies have a habit of showing up and putting up strong performances, and that’s no matter what their record was prior or what issues they were dealing with. You can always count on Australia to be in the mix for the World Cup.
Before Ireland would knock them out of the top spot, Wales would hold the No. 1 ranking in the globe, and this would come after they would take out England, 21-13. On top of that, they would earn a Six Nations grand slam, and were also riding a 14-game winning streak at one time. The Welsh are sitting pretty for some beautiful results in the 2019 World Cup.
They would take a hit recently though, and that would be in the form of an injury to their star Gareth Anscombe. They do have a solid replacement with British & Irish Lion Dan Biggar, but putting him into the starting lineup will significantly weaken their depth. This is even worse when you consider all of this involves the fly half position, which is one of the most crucial in the sport of rugby. With just Rhys Patchell to cover at that spot now, Wales is just one injury from pure chaos. And even if they have to go to Patchell and he stays healthy, he’s no where as good as Anscombe and Biggar.
Even worse for the Welsh, you have their coach not taking two of their best props in Rob Evans and Samson Lee, and this is because of apparent worries with their “durability”. With the scrum being massively important like the 10 in modern-day rugby, this is a move that could come back to haunt Wales in the tournament. I’m not saying Australia is the best at scrummaging or anything, but things could get bad for the Welsh with their situation when they play a strong team like the Aussies. It’s a massive risk, for sure.
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