Rugby World Cup 2011 Preview

Tomorrow sees the start of one of the greatest events on the sporting calendar. The rugby world cup kicks off when the Mighty New Zealand All Blacks take on Tonga in the opening game of the tournament. Don’t expect any diving, play acting or players swearing at the referee here, instead expect passion, heartache, pain and elation in equal measure as 20 teams from around the world compete to win the coveted William Webb Ellis Trophy, or ‘Bill’ as its known. Lets have a run down of each pool.

Rugby World Cup Preview

Tomorrow sees the start of one of the greatest events on the sporting calendar. The rugby world cup kicks off when the Mighty New Zealand All Blacks take on Tonga in the opening game of the tournament. Don’t expect any diving, play acting or players swearing at the referee here, instead expect passion, heartache, pain and elation in equal measure as 20 teams from around the world compete to win the coveted William Webb Ellis Trophy, or ‘Bill’ as its known. Lets have a run down of each pool.

Pool A

New Zealand
The hosts and everyone’s favourites to win the prize that has alluded them since the inaugural world cup in 1987. Coach Graham Henry will be under immense pressure to succeed infront of the home crowd after failing to bring home the goods back in 2007, when they were again favourites. Much will rely on keeping Dan Carter and Richie MacCaw fit, but even so, I can’t see them being beaten by ANYONE…

Prediction – Winners

AJB Star Man – Dan Carter The kiwi fly-half, who has scored more points in test rugby than any other player in history, is the complete package. New Zealand fail to function without their lynchpin, he gets the best out of their backline and without him, the All Blacks may struggle.

France
Like many teams here, capable of beating any side in the world on their day, no side likes facing Les Bleus, Coach Marc Lievremont has toned down the French flair, and turned them into a workmanlike outfit. However I don’t see them causing any upsets this year, losing to New Zealand in the group stages means they will meet England in the last eight, and the end of their tournament.

Prediction – Down and out in the Quarters

AJB Star Man – Thierry Dusatoir Much is said about Imanol Harinordoquy & Maxime Medard being France’s top performers, but Les Bleus talismanic captain is the man they need to rally the troops, tireless workrate and fearless in the tackle, he is a flanker all number 10s fear.

Tonga
The Pacific Islanders will ruffle the feathers of New Zealand and France, but will have to settle with 2 wins in the group against the smaller teams unless they can cause a huge upset.

Prediction – Off Home after the Pool stages

AJB Star Man – Soane Tonga’uiha The Northampton Prop has been destroying people for fun in the premiership last season, can he take his awesome club form to international level?

Canada
Canada are improving all the time, but will struggle to scrape a win this year. Their game against Japan could actually be a great one, deciding who will go home without a win.

Prediciton – 1 Win, out in the Pools

AJB Star Man – Chauncey O’Toole Exquisite backrower has just grabbed himself a contract with the Ospreys with some neat skills in the Churchill Cup, should do well.

Japan
Might sneak a win against Canada, but I doubt it. They just aren’t strong enough up front and will be shunted all over the park by all sides in the group stages.

Prediction – Whipping Boys of the Pools

AJB Star Man – James Arlidge New Zealand born fly half qualifies on residential grounds, plays for Nottingham in the RFU Championship

 Rugby World Cup Predictions

Pool B

England
The Red Rose seem to be coming along ok, a half decent six nations campaign and two good wins against Wales and Ireland in the warm up games. Expect Jonny Wilkinson to reclaim his no.10 Jersey in the first game against Argentina, and young guns like Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs have a chance to light up the big stage. Could they make it a record breaking 3 finals in a row?

Prediction – Group won, hard fought win over the French in the last 8 only to succumb to some Quade Cooper magic in the semis.

AJB Star Man – Ben Youngs The Norfolk born youngster has just returned from injury and is vital to England’s progression this year, he gets the forwards moving hard and gets the 10 on a good platform, which Mr Wilkinson would like for more drop goals – yes please. He could well be one of the future greats if he continues his form for club and country.

Argentina
If anyone is here to upset the party it’s these guys, Argentina always play an abrasive style of game which some sides find hard to deal with, shouldn’t be a problem for England, but if they switch off the Argentines will capitalise and will grind you down. There’s also an added incentive, winners of the group avoid playing the All-Blacks which England need to be wary of.

Prediction – 2nd in group then a spanking by the men in black, Quarter Finals

AJB Star Man – Felipe Contepomi With the Argentine scrum providing this man with clean ball, Contepomi should get the backline moving and kick points.

Scotland
Unfortunately I don’t think this will be Scotlands year, they have never failed to escape a group stage of a world cup, but the emergence of Argentina will see them off earlier than normal. Disappointing for a home nation, but we can’t help that, best the scots start cheering Andy Murray (LOLs!).

Prediction – Out in Group stages

AJB Star Man – Richie Gray The 6ft 9in Second Row is a fantastic footballer, with great handling skills and athleticism, will be a British Lion in 2 years time and one to watch.

Georgia
The Georgian national side will be one to watch in the future, ever improving, they narrowly lost to Ireland 14-10 in the last world cup, would be good for world rugby if they upset one of the bigger sides in the group. But it may be a little too soon.

Prediction – Valiant effort but on the plane home after the group stage

AJB Star Man – Irakli Abuseridze The Georgian captain will be after a monstrous effort from his pack to allow him to thrive at scrum half.

Romania
Once a fairly strong force in European rugby, the Romanians are a shadow of their former selves, however they have a few shining lights in their side and might provide the odd upset with luck on their side.

Prediction – Group stage

AJB Star Man – Ovidiu Tonita Currently plays for Perpignan in the French top 14, hard working player that will keep on running.

 Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand

Pool C

Australia
The Aussies always seem to get things right, they are peaking at the right time, beating the All-Blacks to win the tri-nations, their pack for once seems to be able to hold their own to release the most talented backline probably ever to grace a wallaby side. I think their average age will be about 23, which is young for a world cup. Just wonder if they can hold their nerve on the big stage?

Prediction – The Aussies will probably stick it to the Poms in the Semis, but fall short in the final.

AJB Star Man – Quade Cooper Who else? The George Best of rugby is most probably the hottest player in the world at the moment, with deft kicks, massive side steps and audacious offloading skills. Not quite a great on a par with the all round game of Wilkinson or Carter, but he is certainly more exciting.

Ireland
Declan Kidney will be under immense pressure for his side to perform in this world cup after Ireland crashed out in the pool stages last time around. With numerous injuries hampering the squad I can’t help feeling it may be another tough ride.

Prediction – Controversial? I think the Italians will sneak a win and send the Irish back home early – Out in the group stages.

AJB Star Man – Brian O’Driscoll England showed last week why they need their talismanic captain in the Outside centre channel, Manu Tuilagi exposed Keith Earls for their first try and they will need his stoic resistance and leadership in the tougher games. Key if Ireland are to progress

Italy
The Azzuri have the ability to reach the Quarter finals for the first time this year, with Martin Castrogiovanni anchoring their scrummage they will be formidable opponents for any side. I expect them to beat a floundering Irish side.

Prediction – Quarter final spot beckons

AJB Star Man – Sergio Parisse The Stade Francais no.8 would walk into any national team in the world, is prowess at the back of the scrum is second to none, the Azzuri are very lucky to have such a leader.

Russia
Rather an unknown quantity, their first time in a world cup and I would say are probably the weakest side in the tournament. Will struggle all the way through and not come close to a win.

Prediction – No wins, out in the Pools.

AJB Star Man – Vasily Artemyev Winger has just signed for Northampton, he is rapid, but I don’t know how he will perform at the highest level.

U.S.A
One of the sleeping giants of the world scene, if only they could convince more sportsmen to participate, everyone knows they could be great. Will get one win against Russia, and did you know, they are reigning Olympic Champions (Last time rugby was held at the Olympics it was 1924…)

Predictions – 1 Win in pool stages

AJB Star Man – Takudzwa Ngwenya The Biarritz winger probably made the highlight of the last world cup when he absolutely smoked Brian Habana on the outside to score a memorable try against the eventual World Champs. Would like to see more of the same this year.

New Zealand Rugby World Cup

Pool D – The Group of Death

South Africa
The boks are the same side that won the world cup 4 years ago, and that is their underlying fault, they haven’t moved on, they don’t have much imagination any more and they are very easy to read and defend against. However they will batter the opposition into submission. Interesting how they will fare against Samoa, who look strong.

Prediction – Will top the group to leave Fiji, Samoa and Wales to fight out the last spot.

AJB Star Man – Fourie du Preez The man behind the bok’s triumph in 2007, when they have lost him to injury they have had no direction, he brings them stability and a good platform when fit.

Wales
Wales face a tough time this year as they scrap it out with Pacific bruisers Samoa and their old Nemesis’ Fiji, who knocked them out of the 2007 tournament. It will go down to the wire, with the runners up going through on points difference, this is where the try scoring ability of the south sea islanders may well see Samoa through.

Predictions – Out in the group stages will leave an unsightly cloud over coach Warren Gatland’s head

AJB Star Man – George North Much is said about the dazzling feet of Shane Williams, but North is a perfect foil for his fellow wing, he brings power and a genuine eye for the tryline. He has slipped under the radar for many southern hemisphere teams and may surprise a few people.

Fiji
These boys are the French of the southern hemisphere, throwing the ball about like it’s a game of sevens. The only difference is they tackle like men possessed. Showed when they defended with their lives to dump Wales out in 2007. Will be a valiant effort but will just fall short in the groups

Prediction – Excitement but out in the group stage

AJB Star Man – Napolioni Nalaga Top scorer two season in a row in the French top 14, can score tries out of nothing for fun.

Samoa
Samoa made the world sit up and take note when they gave Australia an absolute battering a few months ago, big hits and abrasive action a plenty, expect more of the same, when they bulldoze their way into the quarter finals for the first time since 1995.

Predictions – Quarter finals, with some broken ribs along the way

AJB Star Man – Alesana Tuilagi Lots has been said about his brother Manu being included in the England squad, but some may forgotten the 18 plus stone Leicester winger is a beast. Have fun trying to tackle him!

Namibia
Poor Namibia, unfortunately they are in a group where the 4 others are in contention for two spaces, they may feel like they wished they had never come.

Predictions – Sorry but an absolute hammering in every game

AJB Star Man – Jacques Burger The Saracens flanker will have to be on top form to elevate his side. Won’t make much difference though.

 Rugby World Cup Preview and Predictions. September 2011

So there we have it an in depth run down, and a final to savour. No England there in my opinion, but would pay good money to see Quade Cooper vs Dan Carter on the biggest stage in World Rugby. All the games will be in the AM, and we suggest you don’t miss a minute!

Don’t forget you can also check out the exclusive chats with Toby Flood and his thoughts on this years RWC.

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