World Cup Thoughts and Kiwi Pre-Tournament Build Up

4 09 2011

The news that the NZRFU (the Kiwi’s board of control for the uninitiated) has been going door to door in the Land of the Long White Cloud asking people to remember that rugby is ‘only a game’ has finally compelled us to take up pen (or keyboard) and put our thoughts to paper once more with specific regard to this upcoming World Cup.

Quite apart from the obvious chokes – sorry jokes – that could be made about that – it does seem to suggest that Graham Henry and his team might need extended breaks/jobs in the Northern Hemisphere should the All Blacks fail. Fortunately for them they would probably be welcomed with open arms – a top kiwi under that amount of pressure might even be cheap enough for the Aviva Premiership clubs!

We don’t think that this is likely to happen though given that under Graham Henry the AB’s win percentage is somewhere around 90%. Simply by the laws of averages the All Blacks are likely to win their next 8 or 9 games which, by our reckoning, takes them all the way through to World Champion status. Factor in that several of the opposition in these games are way below even the worst team in the Six Nations and suddenly you have, statistically anyway, something that is almost a certainty.

With this in mind, during the Tri Nations we actually found ourselves in the unusual position of supporting New Zealand based on this very reasoning; if they had swept all before them, the rest of the world would have had to deal with possibly a more complacent side.  Simply put, New Zealand, despite their losses, are certainly still the best side in the world and one against whom any victors would have to play out of their skin. Australia included.

This obviously does not mean that another side couldn’t win it and, say it quietly, we think England or France have a very reasonable shot – more so perhaps than South Africa. Assuming that as threatened Lievremont puts out a weaker side against the AB’s in Frances group encounter they should finish second in their group. England by contrast should win theirs meaning that it will be a quarter final between these two old enemies with probably Australia standing in their way in the semi finals. Both England and France aren’t scared of the Aussies with England in particular having an excellent record in knock out situations against them.

Looking purely at the form book it should be a New Zealand vs Australia final but we have sneaky feeling that a northern hemisphere side might upset the odds. If you can get to the final then anything can happen.

With regards to the other sides, none of them apart from perhaps Ireland or, less likely, Wales look to have the quality to cause any serious upsets. Scotland must realistically be happy with a quarter final berth – something that is not even close to being assured with Argentina and England as group mates and Italy will struggle although they will be eyeing up their fixture against Ireland as a potential route to the quarters.

Ireland’s campaign hinges on their game against Australia in the group. Win the group and they probably face Wales. Lose they’ll probably play South Africa with New Zealand to follow if they cleared that hurdle. We don’t think it that unlikely that Ireland could beat one Tri Nations side but more than that is pushing it. They have been exceptionally poor in the warm ups and must be thanking their lucky stars they have the USA up first before the newly crowned Tri Nations champions. However, dig deep, play like they did against England at the end of the 6 Nations and suddenly they have a real chance of a semi final match.

Whatever happens, we can’t wait.

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7 responses

4 09 2011
Jon

Ireland cannot play like they played against England in the 6N. Like Scotland they don’t hate anybody as they do England, and their ability to get up for other games is virtually impossible; they would be great sides if they applied that across all opponents.

If NZ fail to win this year, I will eat my shorts. I don’t see them losing but stranger things have happened haven’t they.
Oz, look a good bet for the final. I think SA team is lacking merely because of the age of some players; I also do not see how a team can carry the third best hooker in South Africa right the way to a final.

PDV and Martin Johnson seem to have a habit of clinging to players past their prime, especially captains, Smitand Borthwick

As for our ENgland boys, any hope that we can pull off a run like 2007 seems a little bit of a stretch to me. We know they will give it a go, but our backline needs to gel, and it hasn’t done so in a long while, and what is up with the back row injury jinx at the moment? I think we have the best front 5 in the world at the moment, but we need some health and consistency in the back row.
A fit Lewis Moody is needed too, always a difference in the team when he is on the field.

5 09 2011
Bradders

The only thing I would say Jon, and the reason why I wrote it, is that I think we’re in better shape now than we were in 2007 and as such – particularly given the draw – a semi final/final is far from out the question. Same goes for France though I would say.

We’ll see about Ireland – maybe its wishful thinking on my part as the second team i support – but I think they may surprise and whilst Australia would obviously start heavy favourites, the irish aren’t scared of them in the same way they are of the AB’s for example.

Think the Boks are semi finalists at best but likely to be quarters in my opinion.

17 09 2011
Jon

Well, I guess I’ll get my coat then!

Good day for you Bradders.

7 10 2011
Bradders

haha – i’ve had plenty of bad ones in the past two years so need to get some right eventually!

4 09 2011
eyeonwales

Can’t really see the Irish doing anything like that, they seem like a team bereft of confidence and ideas. An extra warm up win over USA is unlikely to change that, while Italy must be bouncing in their plane seats at the prospect of taking Ireland on. A semi final? They would need a collective ‘bend over’ team tactic to be applied by all major opponents!

Jon – couldn’t agree more regarding health. Coming through the group should be more than dooable for England, coming through it without losing key personal seems less likely. As seen in the warm ups, England’s strength in depth does not seem to be what it once was, and nursing key figures through challenging games against the Scots and Argentina, both of which will be fancying their chances and giving it a crack, will be key to long term progression.

5 09 2011
Bradders

You could well be right but I don’t think they’re a bad side, despite recent results, and they have a reasonable record to draw on against Aus and SA in recent years so at least they’ll go in knowing its possible…

17 09 2011
eyeonwales

Ooph, Ireland slap me in the face!

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