Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's going to be Ireland, England, South Africa, New Zealand

All the warmth and compassion of Kim Il Jung (picture )

Saturday , October 8
Ireland vs Wales 06:00
England vs France 08:30
Sunday , October 9 South Africa vs Australia 06:00
New Zealand vs Argentina 08:30

The action this weekend kicks off at the indecent hour of 6.00am with a mouth watering contest between Ireland and Wales. Mouth watering because they are arguably the two form Northern Hemisphere teams, and are evenly matched in strengths. They both have  ultra competitive tight fives, young talented and mobile loose forwards, and exciting dynamic backs. Could it come down to coaching then?

 Both Gatland and Kidney have coached Ireland, both are not entirely comfortable in media interviews, but that’s about where the similarities end. Kidney is a kindly self effacing man who comes across like everybody’s favorite uncle.  Gatland has a less friendly demeanor and has been said (not by me I might add) to exude all the warmth and compassion of Kim Il Jung. Kidney comes across as somebody who really doesn’t like the attention, and who’d prefer not to be there. Gatland’s media tactics are constant ham fisted attempts to wind the opposition up. He should really save his breath as based on his previous utterances, the biggest motivation for the Irish team, never mind progressing to the semis for the first time, never mind the pinnacle of careers in the offing, no the biggest single motivator for them will be spoiling his day on Saturday.

Kidney is a good man manager, developing players and bringing out the best in them, and getting the Grand Slam for Ireland in 2009. He makes tough decisions easily though, if he made decisions based on sentiment he would have brought Stringer and O’Leary along with him. Gatland has brought the Welsh along in fits and starts, they got the Grand Slam in 2008, but in the meantime he’s dropped his captain Ryan Jones and had to discipline various players for off field drinking offences.In fairness he’s brought a young keen team to this Cup.

It’s going to be a tight tight match, but I’m backing Irish experience and Declan Kidney to take them through to the next round.

England France Neither team is much burdened by the weight of expectations for this fixture. England have the better form but have looked pretty lackluster so far. Paper thin wins over Argentina and Scotland hardly mark them out as tournament favourites at the moment. They are certainly not playing to their potential, which saw them claim the 6 Nations title and score a shed load of tries in the process. They’ve been disappointing so far to me anyway, pre tournament I thought they possibly had the best chance in the NH of doing something this World Cup. Speaking of disappointing, France’s campaign has degenerated into the same sort of farce that their soccer team put up last year. Marc Lièvremont is the new Raymond Domenech. He hates the players, the players hate him. France have the talent to win the whole thing, but barring a French style miracle they’ll be on the plane home on Sunday.

Australia South Africa. This should be the most competitive match after the Ireland Wales match, as the two Southern Hemisphere giants lock horns. Australia’s form has been moderate, king of the Southern Hemisphere teams they may be, but when they came up against a quality side like Ireland, then we saw what they made of. They really seem to have their tails between their legs now. The Boks have also been in so so form, scraping past Wales, and not looking too flash against Samoa either. Confidence seems high in the Bok camp, and I think they’re going to bully their way past a talented but erratic Australian side.

New Zealand Argentina. Now I’m expecting the AB’s to win this one. But then me, them, the whole world expected them to thump France in the last World Cup. This is just the sort of block they tend to stumble on in the World Cup and theyno Carter to steady the ship. Plus the field is going to going to be full of white and blue missiles on Sunday as Argentina, in fairly literal terms, lay their lives down for their country. There’s a Latin drama about everything they do. But the Men in Black are big enough, bad enough and street wise enough this time not to make the mistake of previous cups and underestimate the men for the land of the Pampas, so I’m expecting a close match, but a win for New Zealand.

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