The ninth World Cup event is right around the corner, and rugby fans will already be intrigued to see how teams can stop New Zealand from repeating their achievement from four years ago. This year’s event will be the first time that it is held outside of the heartland of the sport, as it will come from Japan. The competition will kick off in Tokyo before the showpiece event of the final takes place in Yokohama on the 2nd of November.
Rugby World Cup: Pool A
The game of the World Cup will see the hosts Japan take on Russia. Both countries are somewhat untested on the global stage, and the match will be unmissable to see how Japan can perform at their home event. Ireland and Scotland will lead the sides looking for a top-two finish, while Samoa will also present a stern test. Ireland and Scotland also meet each other on the first matchday, and neither of the sides will want to lose the clash and be playing catch up.
The preference to top the group is undoubtedly the Irish. Ireland have endured a challenging year with a disappointing showing in the Six Nations. However, Warren Gatland referred to them as the most complete rugby team on the planet prior to their fixture with Wales. Ireland have had another set-back in their preparations for the competition after being beaten by England. However, the fact remains that they will likely top this group and the rest of the sides will be battling for a second-place finish. Should Ireland finish top, then a potential clash with Wales could stand between themselves and a place in the World Cup final.
STS Tip: Ireland top Six Nations side at 3.00.
Rugby World Cup: Pool B
Two-time reigning champions New Zealand can be found in Pool B, and they will likely lead the group that also contains Italy, Canada, South Africa and Namibia. The latter of the countries will be a welcome addition to the world stage but will likely not offer much in terms of quality against the other sides in the group. A fixture between Italy and Canada will be intriguing, with the winner likely to occupy the third spot which could offer a route into the later stages.
South Africa came the closest to beating New Zealand in the previous World Cup, with their semi-final 20-18 defeat an agonising close call to making it to the final. The Springboks look to be in fine form ahead of the competition after winning both their warm-up games against Argentina. However, whether they will be able to pose a threat to the top spot remains to be seen. New Zealand will capture the imagination of the Japanese fans when they take to the field, and it would require a superhuman effort from a team to stop them from creating history and winning three World Cups on the bounce. Australia recently beat the All Blacks in a warm-up game, but they bounced back from that defeat by beating the Aussies 36-0.
STS Tip: New Zealand to win the World Cup at 2.25.
Rugby World Cup: Pool C
2011 World Cup finalists France and 2003 World Cup winners England can both be found in Pool C, and the two Six Nations countries will likely be the two to progress in the top two. Argentina will pose a serious threat to that if either of the sides get off to a slow start, while the USA is a country that are slowly taking in their love of the sport. Tonga could be the beating boys in this group and will be hoping to avoid the embarrassment of finish with the wooden spoon in this group.
England were embarrassed in the last World Cup as they finished third in the group stage despite hosting the competition. They were only able to beat Fiji and Uruguay in that competition, while the defeats to Australian and Wales left them hanging on in third spot. The Red Roses have lost twice this year, with both results being significant in their own way. Both defeats came against Wales, and the first of which meant that they finished second in the Six Nations, while the second derailed any hope that they may have learned their lessons. England and Wales met twice in warm-up fixtures and a week after England beat Wales they met again, and the Welsh ran out winners. There is a sense that Eddie Jones’ job hinges on them doing well at this competition, especially given the fact that he has left out Danny Cipriani who has enjoyed an excellent season. Jones will need to achieve at least a semi-final appearance, but a tricky run to that stage means that they may not accomplish that.
STS Tip: England to win Pool C at 1.36.
Rugby World Cup: Pool D
The most intriguing of all the World Cup groups features Australia and Wales. The other three sides in the pool are Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay, but none of them would seem as credible challengers to the higher-ranked sides in the group. Fiji will likely lead the challengers for a third-place finish, and it would seem that there hopes will hinge on their result against Uruguay. As for Wales and Australia, there is a feeling that the side that finishes top of this group will have a high chance of reaching at least the final as the bracket would open up for them.
Wales have enjoyed an excellent 2019 and will be looking to become only the second team to win both the Six Nations and the World Cup in the same calendar year. The only team to have achieved this was England in 2003. The competition will also mark the final campaign under Warren Gatland, and the coach will be hopeful of going out in a blaze of glory. Australia have endured a difficult year with the stories off the field dominating their preparations. However, Michael Chielka has installed a feel-good atmosphere in the camp, and a recent win over the All Blacks shows that they are still contenders. However, there is a feeling that Wales could achieve something special in Japan, but whether they can pose a threat to New Zealand will remain to be seen.
STS Tip: New Zealand/Wales straight forecast at 11.00.