Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In the big games I'm going Wales, South Africa, England and Ireland!

 Robbie Henshaw

Things get real at the World Cup this weekend, two matches down, no more slip ups allowed from anyone who has serious ambitions of winning the thing.

First up on Thursday is Wales v Fiji. Wales are down to the bare bones now, Warren Garland has picked himself at eighth man, the orange peeler is on the wing, and at full back is a fan who came to an autograph session with his boots. Meanwhile, Fiji are punch drunk and this stage, it’s like old skool tag team, first England gave them the works, then Australia put them through the mangler, now they stagger into the ring to find Wales cracking their knuckles. Fiji were the hot tip to make it out of this group, it hasn’t worked out, but they’ve been competitive at some stage in each match. Do they have enough to beat Wales?  Probably not, but they might give them an almighty scare.

France will at last be able to insult someone in their own language, as they no doubt trounce Canada.

On Friday, Georgia provide the cannon fodder for the All Blacks – if they can keep the score under 50 that will be a victory for them.

Satrurday is crunch time in a number of pools. First up is Japan v Samoa – the Japanese have been on a rollercoaster, riding the crest when they beat the Springboks, then brought back down to earth by Scotland. Samoa beat the USA then came unstack against the Springboks. Neither team can afford another defeat. On balance, I think Samoa will take this, the emotion of the victory over SA has weakened the Japanese.

Unbeaten Scotland take on the resurgent Springboks next. This is probably going to be very close, and a real test for the discipline of the Scottish defence. However, I think the Springboks are in the mood to blow holes in any defence, they can go blow to blow if they need that, and bring some of the finer skills as well.

That match pales into comparison though as next up it’s England enter the last chance saloon with Australia. Losing is one thing, conceding a lead and losing is another, and doing it against Wales is the worst of all.  Australia have looked impressive but haven’t been tested at all. I think a lot of people are expecting England to lose and go out of the tournament. But as England showed in the six nations against France, they’re not afraid of a scrap, they play best when their backs are against the wall,  their minds are focused now, they have to beat Australia, and they will, and the whole country will breathe a sigh of relief.

On Sunday the Argentines will open proceedings by thrashing Tonga.

Then Ireland’s World Cup really gets going, after two soft enough matches. The Italians have Parisse back, but frankly they need 15 Parisses back to mount a serious challenge in this match. They offered very little against Canada, less against France, and bravery aside, I can’t see them getting anything out of Ireland. For Ireland, Rob Kearney is out, but the near mythical at this stage Robbie Henshaw is apparently primed to make his first appearance. I think we’ll win, win well and set up the decider with France perfectly.

Rugby World Cup
Thursday, October 01
Wales vs Fiji    15:45
France vs Canada    19:00
Friday, October 02
New Zealand vs Georgia    19:00
Saturday, October 03
Samoa vs Japan    13:30
South Africa vs Scotland    15:45
England vs Australia    19:00
Sunday, October 04
Argentina vs Tonga    13:30
Ireland vs Italy    15:45

Sunday, September 27, 2015

England lose to Wales, the Springboks are back, and Ireland are cruising along.

 Jean de Villiers ( picture )

Argentina got the weekend action going, flattening Georgia and scoring 7 tries. The Pumas are in some form and are going to be a horrible team to meet in the next round – and if Ireland win their group, that’s who they’ll meet. But still not as horrible as facing the All Blacks, and one thing at time.

Italy had to work really hard to beat Canada – amazing when you think that the Italians are professionals, and get regular top class rugby in the 6 Nations. Canada, meanwhile, still have a few amateurs, who will have taken time off work to be at the World Cup, and get to play in bits and pieces tournaments.

South Africa got their World Cup back on track with an impressive win over Samoa. It didn’t disappoint in the quality of the collisions, but it was pretty one sided in the end. South African captain, former Munster man and all round gent Jean de Villiers, just recently back from a long injury lay off, broke his jaw but played on for another 10 minutes. He’s just announced his retirement from the game as a result of the injury, with over 100 caps under his belt for the Springboks.

The England Wales match was World Cup final intensity, which England came out just the wrong side of. Wales are continuing to ship injuries at a rate of knots, but manged to get their two scrum halves to produce a bit of magic for the win. I was hoping for a draw, which would have been affair result, and increased the chances of them both making the next round. The Wallabies have already won it twice, so I’m not going to be gutted if they drop out. And I really hope England make it out of the group, you’d be really hard hearted not to acknowledge what a fantastic job they’ve done with the tournament, and how the English crowds at the matches have really got behind the teams.

Australia dispatched Uruguay with ruthless efficiency ( I’m nearly dead cert for worst defeat!) in the first game on Saturday.

Then Scotland took their time to sort out the USA, they got the job done well in the end, after being behind at half time. The USA have some really good players, but can’t put in a team performance for 80 minutes. Scotland are playing well these days, and there are good games ahead when they face Samoa and the Springboks.

Finally, Ireland rounded things off with another good win, this time over Romania. Fair enough, the Romanians had had only 4 days to recover from their defeat to France, but it wasn’t an Irish A team either, with a lot of squad players given a  runout. Earls played really well, as did Zebo and Tommy Bowe, we’re building up nicely, bring on Italy and France!

Friday, September 25
Argentina 54 - 9 Georgia    15:45
Saturday, September 26
Italy 23 - 18 Canada    13:30
South Africa 46 - 6 Samoa    15:45
England 25 - 28 Wales    19:00
Sunday, September 27
Australia 65 - 3 Uruguay    11:00
Scotland 39 - 16 USA    13:30
Ireland 44 - 10 Romania    15:45

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Japan stutter, Namibia surprisingly weren't annihilated, and all eyes on England Wales!

Jacques 'Face First' Burger

Japan’ s bubble was slightly burst against Scotland, the 5 day turn around from their triumph over SA left them tired and not able to cope with a good game plan from the Scots. Nevermind, if they never win another  cup match they will always be remembered for  that famous win, and they have another two matches to try and get in to the quarters. Scotland look well organised and committed.

Australia overcame Fiji, but didn’t get a bonus point. It was good effort from Fiji after their tough encounter against England on Friday. Australia got the win easily enough, but surely wanted a bonus point, and looked a little rusty.

France took their time but ended up with a bonus point over Romania. Romania have a workmanlike team, some decent sized players, but shouldn’t trouble Ireland too much. France looked like they felt like playing every so often but weren’t trying  harder than they had to.

The All Blacks delivered the expected hammering to Namibia led by Jaques - 'Face First' Burger, with some sublime tries. It wasn’t always all that slick though, I think they had their eye on the Australia’s record World Cup victory of 142 – 0 over Namibia a few years ago, and wanted to run from everywhere. Namibia scored one beautiful try, and in their own way scored a little victory in keeping the score from blowing out

Georgia have the unenviable task of facing an Argentinian fresh from giving the All Blacks a good test and eager to get their World Cup back on track. Should be brutal

On Saturday, Italy and Canada are both winless, and we’re ulikely to see any champagne rugby. Italy should win but Canada won’t feel of this contest.

After that it’s going to be gloves off enjoyable mayhem as the wounded Springboks face the mighty Samoans. This match last World Cup was like a fully pitched battle, and it’s unlikely to disappoint this year either. The Springboks want to show what they are REALLY made of, while Samoans will probably top this group if they win. Expect a unusually high mortality rate.

The big match of the weekend is England V Wales, which will be a defining result in this group. And it not like there’s not normally enough riding on this match! The Welsh are slightly weakened without Webb and Halfpenny, while England have gone with a more conservative backline, looking like they want to lock the match down into an arm-wrestle. I’m going with England with their home advantage.

On Sunday, I’m hoping Uruguay will come to the party and enhance my ‘biggest  loser team’ credentials when they take on Australia. I think the Wallabies have it in them to win me the prize!

Scotland v USA should go to plan with a victory for the Scots.

The weekend close with Ireland v Rumania. Expect to see a few new faces as the Irish squad rotates, but hopefully, the quality won’t dip. Robbie Henshaw should make his debut, and a lot is expected from the big talented Connacht player

Wednesday, September 23
Scotland 45 - 10 Japan    13:30
Australia 28 - 13 Fiji    15:45
France 38 - 11 Romania    19:00

Friday, September 25
Argentina vs Georgia    15:45
Saturday, September 26
Italy vs Canada    13:30
South Africa vs Samoa    15:45
England vs Wales    19:00
Sunday, September 27
Australia vs Uruguay    11:00
Scotland vs USA    13:30
Ireland vs Romania    15:45