Student Writer | Annabel Drugan
Friday the 20th of September sees Japan host the first game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a fixture against Russia at the Tokyo Stadium. It is the first time this competition is to be held in Asia and is set to be, arguably, one of the closest Rugby World Cups in its history with several countries similarly matched competing for the honours.
There are four Pools which are grouped in the following manner:
Pool A: Ireland, Japan, Russia, Samoa, and Scotland.
Pool B: Canada, Italy, Namibia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Pool C: Argentina, England, France, Tonga, and the USA.
Pool D: Australia, Fiji, Georgia, Uruguay, and Wales.
In the first weekend of action the closest game is expected to be France vs. Argentina where there will be rife competition between similar sides, and another interesting game being between the Home Nations of Ireland and Scotland.
The bookies favourites of the competition this year are New Zealand, who are also the current titleholders and have won the competition three times, more than any other country in the world. The other teams in with a chance and liking to take home the title include England and South Africa alongside the current Six Nations Champions, Wales and the current world number one team, Ireland. Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side at this point having only recently gained their spot at the top of the World Rugby Rankings following a 19-10 win over Wales in the World Cup warm up games earlier this month. During the warm-up games, Wales spent two weeks as number one ranked team after beating Eddie Jones’ team by 13 points to 6, giving the title back to New Zealand shortly after.
New Zealand, Ireland, England and Wales are all expected to come top of their respective groups. South Africa, having been drawn pool B alongside the favourites, New Zealand, are predicted second place in their group. This would then mean South Africa would play the winners of Pool A, a group containing Ireland, Japan, Scotland, Samoa, and Russia.
Pool C, aptly coined the ‘pool of death’ by pundits is, as expected, the one England was unfortunate enough to be drawn. Argentina and France are both sides which could prove to be a struggle for England after strong recent performances. It is still most likely at this point for England to prevail. This means that the second-place spot is up for grabs and is one of the more contentious predictions in the competition with Scotland having a fair chance of beating the arguably stronger Argentinian side. This is as Scotland hopes for Russell and Laidlaw to bring back the energy displayed in the second half of the Six Nations draw against England.
This World Cup will fill our screens and have us hovering on the edges of our seats until November. After all that’s been said, it is sure to throw us some curveballs and there’s even a chance that we could have a dark horse in the competition. With all members of the home nations competing, it is sure to fuel some tensions left over from the Six Nations results, and is sure to have us fixated to the screen for every minute of it.