Thursday, September 8, 2011

So I pick NZ, Australia, Ireland, England and South Africa for this weekend

Here’s a look at the big matches this weekend

Ireland vs the USA

Ireland come in to the tournament on the back of a less than impressive build up, with a 0 from 4 record in the summer internationals. You’d have to qualify that though by looking at the stern opposition in the last 3 matches, England and France. And coach Declan Kidney took the opportunity to do some tinkering and try out a few combinations instead of just putting out his strongest side each time, mindful of the fact that we might not win. Were they hiding their light under a bushel, or managing expectations of their World Cup chances, or a bit of both? On Sunday we start to find out.

We got a Grand Slam in 2009, and a couple of Heineken Cups and Magners’ League titles with the provinces  in the last few years so the talent is there, just a matter of it all clicking for us to have a good run in this tournament.  For the USA, the fact the match takes place on September the 11th gives them extra motivation, but they just don’t have the player resources to mount a serious challenge. So this game for Ireland is all about performance, starting the build up for bigger games. We should get out of our group, and when it gets to the knock outs, anything can happen.

New Zealand Tonga

Picture from

This is the opening match. The All Blacks are, as always, No 1 in the World leading into the World Cup. They slipped up in their last match, losing to Australia, and conceding the Tri Nations title at the same time. Is that the sound of the All Blacks clearing their throats for another choke? They are always the team to beat anywhere in the world, and at home they are just about unstoppable, so this tournament is theirs to lose. Tonga are unlikely to be competitive apart from in the physicality stakes.

Argentina vs England

England arrive with pretty big expectations, based on an improvement in form over the last few years. From bitter experience in the last World Cup , Ireland and France could tell them not to underestimate the Argentineans. I don’t get the sense that they see Argentina as a serious threat, but with a constant focus on size size size they should be able to steamroller the South Americans.

Australia Italy

This is one for Irish fans to watch (not literally as it’s on at 4.30 in the morning but we’ll be there in spirit). A win for Italy would leave us well poised to top our group and meet up with probably Wales or Samoa in the next stage.  Now I know we basically picked Italy’s pocket in the 6 Nations with a last gasp win, but surely this is a time for us Europeans to stick together  and stand up to this Southern Hemisphere giant? Italy probably only have a small chance of beating Australia, but they have beaten France this year so you never know. Australia are in good form, probably not consistent enough to go all the way but they should have a good run. Forza Italia!

South Africa  Wales

South Africa are the current holders of the World Cup. However, they arrive at the tournament with pretty much the same model that they used in the last World Cup, only with a lot more mileage on the clock, and various dents scrapes and a dodgy head driver in coach Pieter De Villiers.  So while they probably won’t disgrace themselves I couldn’t see them going all the way. Wales are on a bit of a roll recently, but I don’t think they have quite enough in the tank to take out the Boks in this encounter. Warren Gatland's typically ham fisted attempts at stirring things with the Boks, and half the team saying 'The Boks don't scare us' = 'The Boks scare us a lot.'

Fri - 9th Sep 11   09:30 New Zealand  vs Tonga

Sat - 10th Sep 11  
07:00 France  vs Japan
02:00 Scotland  vs Romania
09:30 Argentina vs England
04:30 Fiji vs Namibia

Sun - 11th Sep 11  
04:30 Australia  vs Italy
07:00 Ireland  vs USA
09:30 South Africa  vs Wales

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