I’m surprised there hasn’t been more said about the draw for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which was held last week.
Some people might try to tell you that there is still a lot to happen between now and 2011, with qualifying tournaments to be held etc, and lots of time for the form of the contenders to come and go.
But I think we pretty much have the information we need now to guess the likely quarter- and, dear I say it, semi-finalists.
There are basically nine teams who are likely quarter finalists in 2011:
- The tri-nations : New Zealand, Australia and South Africa;
- The home nations: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales;
- France; and
There are only three countries outside of that group who have ever made the quarter-finals at a World Cup:
- Fiji in 1987 (on points difference over Argentina & Italy) and again in 2007 (thanks to an upset victory over Wales)
- Canada in 1991 (coming through a very weak pool containing France, Fiji and Romania)
- Samoa in 1995 (again at the expense of Wales)
Considering possible upsets this time, it would seem Pool D is the place to look. Wales will again need to beat both Fiji and another qualifier from Oceania (I presume Samoa, given Fiji and Tonga are already qualified?) As we’ve seen, they have been known to lose these sort of games in the past.
But assuming that doesn’t happen, we’re left with nine teams vying for eight spots, so only one of those will miss out.
It looks like Scotland is the most likely candidate, as they have ended up in Pool B, with Argentina and England.
So, the quarter final match ups are:
- England v Wales
- France v Australia
- NZ v Ireland
- South Africa v Argentina
Australia has the most difficult assignment here – they have a pretty weak pool, with just Ireland and Italy to beat, and then go straight into a tough semi-final against France. We all know what happened to NZ under pretty similar circumstances in the last world cup.
On recent form, it’s hard to pick a winner from England and Wales. They have three wins each from their last six matches, with all games won by the home team. See: http://www.pickandgo.info/
Either way, it’s hard to imagine either of those teams beating the winner of Australia v France in the first semi-final.
In the bottom half of the draw you’d have to back NZ and South Africa to win and face each other in the semi-finals, with the winner then odds on in my book to win the following week in the final too.
So, there you go … to make the final the All Blacks will need to beat France in the pool match and then get up over South Africa in the semi-final.
It’s not at all out of the question that the final could be a repeat of 1987, with the All Blacks coming up against France at Eden Park.
What do you think?