Riddle me this: Rugby World Cup reviews – pool A

3 08 2007

France 07So… I know this guy who is perhaps the most one-eyed All Black fan ever. I swear, he cannot see to his left, he’s so one-eyed. Guy does know his rugby tho’, and that’s no joke. So, I asked him to write some stuff for the site – in my attempt to provide an *extensive coverage* of the Rugby World Cup – and he said sure.

So, from the pen of a one-eyed New Zealand fan, here ’tis (be warned tho’: this guy does not pull his punches! And we wouldn’t want it any other way)…

by The Riddler…

World Cup Pool A Rundown

England
Seeded top side of this pool is the defending World Cup champions England. Although they were world beaters in 2003, they have been beaten by the world since then, losing to no fewer than 8 different nations. Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa & Argentina have all claimed the English scalp – many on multiple occasions. Going into the last world cup they had an imposing record winning 31 of 34 games in the lead-up to it. This time around they go in with a 15 of 37 record.

Is this a cunning English ploy of lulling their opponents into a sense of false security?

Not bloody likely. They are as terrible as their record suggests and to compound their woes their coach has one of the worst international records going around, doing poorly as an Irish coach and not much better as English Coach. The small glimmer of hope for them is Johnny Wilkinson, but he will not have the support he had back in 2003. Given their form away from England (where they have only managed just 3 wins – against Italy & Scotland) from 17 they might find it tough on the road, even though it is only a short swim across the English Channel. They will likely qualify for the quarter finals although they are no certainties of this. The quarters look like their limit and they will be easy fodder for the more in-form sides at that stage.

South Africa
berger.jpg The obvious favourite in this group. They performed with distinction in the Tri-nations and showed depth in their squad – something found in very few of the sides competing. After decimating England twice earlier this year and once last year in England, and then destroying Samoa, they will be brimming with confidence.

In this group, hey should have too much power for all their opponents in the forwards and too much class in their backline. They should win this group and win it well, with their likely challenge to come from England. Of concern though will be the Springboks poor travelling record, winning just 7 of 21 games. They have the depth and talent to go very far in this tournament. The major challenge for them here will be to emulate their impressive home form on the road. They should make it to at least the semi finals and have the potential to make the final and even win it.

Samoa
The tiny island nation of Samoa is loaded with many classy players. They have plenty of flair, as anyone who’s watched the sevens will testify to.

However… this is not the sevens, and despite having the talent and potential to get out of the pool stage, they lack the technical prowess and structured game plans of the two big guns in South Africa and England. Although it is hard to see them troubling the South Africans, they definitely have a shot at upsetting English in the right conditions. They will be fully aware of this and that clash will be a very interesting one.

Tonga
A lot like Samoa in many ways, except a smaller nation and thus with less talent to call upon. They will be tough and honest, and their opponents will know they have been in a game when hit by one of the ferocious Tongan tackles, but technical skills and structured game plans let them down. Might upset Samoa and should account for the US.

USA
The whipping boy of pool A. Despite boasts that they are the greatest country on earth :p, the Yanks are anything but on the rugby field. They will be brave and put up a fight… but at the end of the day their lack of technical skills will let them down. Best shot at victory will likely be the Tongans, but odds are they will be lucky to win a game.

Prediction:
Well… South Africa all the way in this pool for me. They have a distinct mental advantage over their two major rivals, having inflicted severe beatings to them as recent as May/June. They have depth across the field and can fill most holes if unforeseen events happen. Their scrum should dominate all their rivals in this group with only the English scrum posing any real challenge. Their backs are classy as well, superior to any of the other sides in the pool. England to scrape into the quarters in second place at the expense of Samoa. They will have a torrid time with Samoa but being more technical sound, especially in the forwards, should see England get the edge. Samoa should acquit themselves very well but will likely fall short.

South Africa 4 wins
England 3 wins
Samoa 2 wins
Tonga 1 win
USA 0 wins

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5 responses

3 08 2007
GT

Nice one Riddler … doesn’t sound like you think the World Cup will be going to a team from Pool A.

Probably Pool B hey ? … Go the Wallabies !

Good column .

3 08 2007
Anja

To the one-eyed New Zealand fan.
Great article. Totally agree with your analysis. Although I must say that I didn’t think England had any chance in the last World Cup, and they actually won it. So never underestimate the Poms. Remember also that their team that went to SA was their third string team. It would have been sad for SA if they had not trashed them.

I think SA has the team to win, but I don’t think they will. They crumble under the pressure of the big events.

4 08 2007
mandate

As long as that damn Johnny Wilkinson is playing for england I won’t count them out.As any poor aussie supporter knows..
With my partner being samoan I have a soft spot for them.So hopefully they can pull out an upset..

5 08 2007
Grant Kerwin

I have said it before and will say it again, you know more about rugby and understand the game better than anyone else I have spoken to. (if you knew who I have spoken to you would appreciate the compliment even more) Thank god you are a kiwi.
Cheers
Grant

5 08 2007
withmalice

lol…

Hey Grant… yup – Riddler’s certainly knowledgeable, minus a few biases!
But we all have those, I guess – huh? 😉

Stop by again Grant – lotsa stuff for you to discuss, and disagree with!

And what a win to England over Wales, huh?

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