Monday, December 3, 2012

Argentina drawn with New Zealand and Tonga for RWC 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 Official Draw

In keeping in the tradition of Rugby World Cup planning the draw for England 2015 has been made well in advance. The use of IRB World Rankings to determine the draw has given a genuine Pool of death with the host nation being drawn with Australia and Wales. But the complications do not end there as Fiji will also be in the pool as Oceania 1 was drawn in the group. The fifth team will be the final team to qualify - the playoff winner. This team will be determined based on repercharge. The runners-up from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe will compete for the right to play at England 2015 as the playoff winner. The prize for the qualifier is a catastrophic scenario. It is very close to being the draw from hell with it going to contain two previous World Cup Champions, a Semi Finalist from 2011 and a Quarter Finalist from 2007. No other pool has such a scenario.

Pool A brings into question the plans of utilizing the Millennium Stadium for pool matches. With Wales being drawn together with the host nation, England, it is not going to be easy to now have Wales play matches in Cardiff. Australia will certainly not want to play there as the 2007 Wallabies were very critical of having their World Cup match there rather than in France. Wales´s other home match during that World Cup was against Japan and was played in front of a good crowd but one that was far from full. Should the plans to use the stadium continue then it is likely that it will need to be used to stage key matches involving Tier One nations such as Pool B´s South Africa v Scotland, Pool B´s New Zealand v Argentina or Pool D´s Ireland v Italy. All these matches can, nonetheless be played at similar venues in England.

While Pool A is clearly the Pool of Death Pool B is nonetheless a very interesting one with a number of possibilities. South Africa should far no problems in winning the group. It will face Samoa for the fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup and the fifth out of six Rugby World Cup´s since South Africa participated for the first time in 1995. Samoa was unlucky to be drawn with South Africa and England in 2003 and 2007 and then South Africa and Wales in 2011. The Pacific Island nation will now be very satisfied with the comparably easier task of winning three matches against Scotland, Asia 1 and Americas 2. However with Japan and the USA being the likely qualifiers the pool could go down to the wire with the USA almost defeating Samoa at Rugby World Cup 2007 and defeating Japan at 2003. Furthermore Japan defeated Samoa in 2010. Despite Japan and the USA (or Canada) having great chances of winning two matches in this pool all the talk will inevitably be about the Scotland v Samoa match. The Northern European nation was the bottom qualified team of the twelve automatic qualifiers and has completed the coup d´etat of being draw with Samoa, the side deemed to be the most desirable to face out Band 2 which also included England, Ireland and Argentina. The organizers ought to use this pool to its advantage by having Scotland v Samoa at St. James Park in Newcastle.  

The easiest pool is Pool C in which there are only two previous World Cup Quarter Finalists. New Zealand and Argentina have been drawn with Tonga, Europe 1 and Africa 1. The All Blacks and Pumas should advance to the Quarter Finals safely with the real question likely to be based on who out of Tonga and Georgia can finish third in the pool. Both are very physical teams. The record of Africa 1 competiting at every World Cup without registering a victory looks certain to continue as Tonga and Europe 1 should be too strong. The match between Argentina and Tonga will be a first. Not only have they never faced each other at a Rugby World Cup before but they have, in fact, never played a match of international rugby. Argentina will not be taking anybody lightly and Juan Manuel Leguizamón said on twitter that Argentina have a tough draw against New Zealand, Tonga and possibly Georgia. The clash between New Zealand and Africa 1 could be crucial in ending Africa´s automatic qualification ahead of South America.

Pool D is a tough pool for the Italians. It is a very unlucky draw but it is also a chance at redemption. Italy was badly beated by Ireland to be eliminated from Rugby World Cup 2007. Italy will not be happy but it could be worse as illustrated by Pool A. Italy will have tough matches against the Americas and European qualifiers who could well be Canada and Romania but it should be able to collect bonus point victories against both. Facing Ireland in England is also a better deal than facing England in England. Italy should be well supported by the neutrals against both Ireland and France. France look as pool favorites and the form of France has been revolutionary since June with les Bleus completing impressive victories. Ireland are also favorites to advance which means Italy´s long wait to qualify should continue in theory. A lot can happen however and Italy´s game plan in 2012 was  superior to that of 2011 as solid ball retention and increased width saw Italy look much stronger than the side from a decade earlier.

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