Riddle me this: Rugby World Cup reviews – pool C

8 08 2007

France 07The tips we’ve all been waiting for The Riddler to get to… I told you he was a one-eyed All Black fan… but I have a foreboding feeling that this is their year…

Rugby World Cup reviews – pool C

New Zealand

The Mighty All Blacks An absolute lock to take Pool C. This is not because I am a one-eyed Kiwi supporter. You could shove France, Ireland, Argentina, South Africa or Australia in this group and they would be still be a lock too. Outside of the All Blacks this group is a pretty sad bunch. Scotland and Italy might get within 50 of them, Romania 100 of them and the sort of score-line to expect in New Zealand/Portugal is scary. Could be 200 points here.

Pool play aside, what I like about this All Black squad is that it is by far the most thoroughly primed squad the All Blacks have ever prepared. In the past they have just rocked up to World Cups knowing they can field highly competitive sides but this time around, instead of using that attitude they have formulated a three year plan similar to England’s in 2003 that have developed astonishing depth. No side can boast the amount of depth and talent they have. They have easily the best scrum in world rugby, outstanding loosies, quality and depth in the halves and a brilliant interchangeable back three combo.

However they have one weakness and that is in the centres. Australia exposed it to great advantage earlier this season but aside from that they have been almost flawless. They have not lost a game in the northern hemisphere since 2002, have been unbeaten against northern hemisphere opponents since the last world cup and have won 32 of their last 35 games averaging 20 more points a game than their opposition.

It’s hard to pick holes in the All Blacks but the detractors have. They say they aren’t playing as good as they were last year. Maybe so, but they are still winning and the scary prospect here is people know they can get a lot better. The old choking rumours are rife but really, only one game was a choke. 87 they won. 91 they lost to Aussie to where the favourite in many eyes, including some bookies. 95 they lost in the final to South Africa in South Africa. Beating South Africa at home is no mean feat. Just ask the Wallabies who boast 1 win from their last 13 visits there. 99 against France they choked. No denying that. One of the darkest days in NZ rugby. 03 they lost to Aussie in Aussie. Sure NZ were favourites in the game but Australia at home is the second toughest trip in World Rugby in recent years, behind playing the All Blacks at home.

No surprise that New Zealand is my tip to take the lot here. They have destroyed all their main competitors on their competitors home turf in the last two years and although they may have a weakness or two, their strengths far outweigh them and they look more balanced than any other side at the tournament.

They call them Scotland the Brave and they probably will be. They shouldn’t make it past the quarters and even getting to the quarters will be a tough effort. They lack the class of the main teams and will be brutalised by the All Blacks in pool play but they have what it takes to win the other pool games. Biggest danger will be Italy who surprised them in the six nations. They have a 50/50 chance of making the quarters and about a 1% chance of going further than that.

This team was the surprise packet at the six nations this year. They beat Scotland away and Wales at home. Given Scotland is their main rival for the runner up spot in the pool, they must be brimming with confidence. They are more than capable of winning this clash if they play to their six nations form. As with Scotland they have a 50/50 chance of making the quarters and about a 1% chance of going further.

They are developing as a rugby nation but not enough to be given serious
contention here. They should get up over Portugal but will struggle against Italy & Scotland and destroyed against the All Blacks.

Not known as a rugby nation. They are still in their infancy and although qualifying for the finals will be a boost for them, they should be cannon fodder for their more experienced rivals here. Only game of interest will be against the All Blacks and that will be for whether they can avoid a World Cup record defeat against themselves.Riddler?  One-eyed All Black fan!

All Blacks will win this pool and do it in an absolute canter. Second place will come down to the Scotland Italy game. Going on what I saw in the six nations and the fact that Italy are still a developing nation and would have got a boost from those results, they get my nod here. Romania should beat Portugal while the Portuguese will be lucky to score a try.

New Zealand 4 wins

Italy 3

Scotland 2

Romania 1

Portugal 0

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank




6 responses

8 08 2007
Brock Samson

They really have to rethink the qualification process when Portugal gets in. Is it really in anyone’s best interest to have them play the All Blacks?

8 08 2007

I agree with the one-eyed tipster. The World Cup is for the All Blacks to give away. They are by far the best side in rugby at the moment.
The only challenge is of course not to fall asleep during the pool games. Maybe they can take a kindergarden second string with them to play the first few matches. And rest the main boys.
And I would love them to win it. It’s time.

9 08 2007
Mark Logsdon

Brock: You are spot on. But Portugal are not the only ones. The only positive purpose this structure serves is to make more money for the tournament by increasing the number of games. The negative outcomes are risks of injury (and not only to the minnows). [These risks are hugely greater than in association football, basketball, volleyball etc.] NZ have nothing to learn from playing Portugal, and vice versa [having been on the thrashed side of 70+ losses, I can attest to this personally]; such games are not in the interests of the sport.

A much more sensible route (used very widely in many sports) would be three tiers of 8 teams each, with promotion/relegation for the next tournament. Selections and seedings would be quite straightforward. Better (and safer) competition; incentives for performance. If the tiered competitions were held in locations suited to the teams in the tiers, there could be good opportunities for growing rugby worldwide. But it will never happen.

9 08 2007

The All Blacks to cruise through this pool and Scotland to make up the numbers.

Mark Logsdon:- I’m not normally one for changing rules or the way things are played/played out. However your idea of a relegation system for the World Cup Tournament, has much so much merit that on this occasion I must agree.

I concur with all your comments.

10 08 2007
The Riddler

Regarding the promotion/relegation thing I think it’s a bad idea. What’s the point in having a world cup if you are going to say to a bunch of teams that you won’t be able to compete for the main prize because we don’t think you are good enough. Kind of a slap in the face isn’t it.

Every team should be afforded the same opportunities. Sure, you can say little to be gained from a NZ Portugal clash but what other occasion will the Portuguese have to play the All Blacks.

Imagine if soccer took that stance. You would have never seen the rise of some of the African & Asian nations. Rugby World Cup is still in its infancy compared to something like the Soccer World Cup. Back when they had the sixth world cup I am sure there were a few weak teams around that are now powers today as they strived to improve their records at these tournaments.

11 08 2007
Mark Logsdon

But the point is Portugal should *not* be playing the All Blacks. If the IRB wanted Portuguese rugby to benefit from connection to the ABs, then Portugal should be accorded a two-week training session with the ABs – maybe week one with the AB staff working directly with the Portuguese, followed by one week of joint training. That would be valuable at many levels.

A game between Portugal and the ABs is a waste of space and time. And physically dangerous to boot. For example: what is the referee to do if the scrums cannot be managed safely? He has a *legal responsibility* to protect the safety of the 30 players on the field. So we’ll have 60-70 minutes of uncontested scrums? Might as well play league.

(A game between USA and England is hardly better: see the thrashing USA had this summer from England A. Only now its Johnny Wilkinson who is at risk of a career-ending injury in a game that means nothing.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: