Rugby World Cup 2019 – Watch Matches Live in Australia
2019 Rugby World Cup Preview by Pete Rowe
Three-peat or another name on the Cup? New Zealand again, or maybe it’s the turn of a northern hemisphere team, or South Africa, the only undefeated side in 2019.
Without doubt, the 2019 Rugby World Cup is one of the most open in decades, with questions being asked of the All Blacks as they got in search of another world crown.
Japan’s hosting of the event, which began on September 20 and runs through to early November, will undoubtably be a sporting triumph off the field, such is their attention to detail, but on it many are predicting some upsets.
The host nation Cherry Blossoms caused an upset in 2015 when they beat the Springboks 34-32 – and interest in the game has grown steadily since. The coach Eddie Jones has moved to London, but the hosts will be no pushovers, a blueprint for rugby success has been paid down, and in true Japanese business-style, they won’t let up until success has been achieved.
Mercurial captain Michael Leitch will lead the squad in their home World Cup, but coach Jamie Joseph has an inexperienced side, which will be their eventual undoing.
Their form in the Pacific Nations Cup was good, victories over Fiji, Tonga and the USA showed they are ready – bit not quote ready for a semi-final spot, yet.
As for the All Blacks, they are The best team at the tournament. But there are some concerns over the fitness of several players, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Brodie Retallick and Ryan Crotty.
Going into the tournament, New Zealand had mixed success. They easily overcame Australia to retain the Bledisloe Cup, after an early loss in Perth. A narrow defeat of a good Argentina side was then followed by a draw with South Africa – which has got ‘experts’ asking plenty of questions.
If they don’t retain the cup, then South Africa are the next best bet.
They are the only undefeated side in 2019 and on form alone, it could be their year.
South Africans won their first-ever Rugby Championship crown earlier this year with wins over the Wallabies and Argentina and a draw against the All Blacks – in New Zealand.
That form tells you there will be no slip-ups this time around and coach Rassie Erasmus’s squad boasts a lot of experience – something that will needed once the group stages are over.
Willie le Roux, Francois Louw, Francois Steyn, Eben Etzebeth and Tendai Mtawarira all have in excess of 50 caps – and mixed with some great new talent. it just may be Springboks year.
Stormers star man Siya Kolisi has overcome injury to lead his country but there are no spots for former skipper Warren Whitely and utility back Damian Willemse.
A Northern Hemisphere challenge could come from ant one of three nations: England, Wales or Ireland.
Under Joe Schmidt, the Irish have looked the best best – until recently – when warm-up games showed up some defensive problems assistant coach Andy Farrell will have to address.
Ireland has won six of its nine Tests this year and are huge contenders, are confident, but there will always be a niggling doubt over their historic ability to stay the distance in a world cup, which is why a semifinal is probably their best best this time around.
Which brings us to Wales – another genuine contender. Six Nations success and a superb buildup to the tournament has seen the men in red emerge from the pack, even though warm-up games have exposed some weaknesses. Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury and coach Warren Gatland will be relying on Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell to drive their attack.
Then there is England. A disappointing Six Nations earlier this year has tempered their hopes. But they looked good in warm-up wins over Wales and Ireland – a 57-15 victory over the Irish very impressive.
Eddie Jones has rebuilt England from the side of four years ago and their attacking prowess will take them to the last eight – it will then depend on who they meet if they are to progress further.
The squad includes eight Saracens players after their recent European Cup win and Jones knows he needs to maintain some continuity if they are to win the Webb Ellis Trophy again.
Scotland and France are the two other key northern nations, Italy might ruffle a few feathers but don’t look genuine contenders.
Coach Gregor Townsend knows there’s still plenty fo work to be done. The Scots won only one Six Nations game this year, although three warm-up victories in recent weeks has renewed their vigour.
Experience counts in world cups and the Scots have 13 players in their squad who played in a World Cup before. Hooker Stuart McInally leads the side, but quarter-finals looks their best bet.
France are another side that has disappointed this year. They looked da shambles for much of the Six Nations, winning just two games as the old guard were dispensed for new blood. Still very much a team in transition, the French found some form against Italy but then lost to Scotland in their last hit-out, Their big weakness, say many, is an inability to close out a game – it will be their undoing.
Italy didn’t need to qualify this year but it is hard to see how they will climb out of the group stages. With skipper Sergio Parisse playing his fifth tournament, the Italians are still in the ‘also-ran’ category.
Argentina could emerge as a real surprise candidate for success at this world cup. The Pumas surprisingly made the semis in 2015 and there is real hope they could upset a few of the big guns again.
Close defeats at the hands of New Zealand and South Africa show they are a threat, but can Mario Ledesma’s team repeat 2015? Their scrum has been identified as a major weakness and it could prove to be their downfall in 2019.
Australia at 20/1 are long odds and there are reasons for that pessimism. A lack of consistency in 2019 has seen an up-and-down campaign. They beat New Zealand one week in Perth, then suffered a thumping loss to them the next week. It was embarrassing to watch. The wallabies have some talent and with flanker David Pocock set to return they cannot be ruled out. They will qualify from the groups, but who they play in the quarters will decide their fate as England will probably await.
Tonga are the best outside best for a shock knockout stage appearance. The Tongans will be competitive, but they will need to improve on a poor Pacific Nations Cup showing if they hope to make it out of a pool that includes England and Argentina, the two pre-tournament group favourites, plus France.
The USA and Canada are still emerging nations and while they will show some strength in early games, they won’t see beyond the groups. Neither will Samoa, another Pacific Island nation whom love to throw the ball around. Watch out for Crusaders Super Rugby-winning prop Michael Alaalatoa in their side.
Fiji have quality backs that could threaten any team but it is in the forwards where they lack consistency and up against Australia and Wales, it would a major seismic shock if they were t make through the pool stages. Canada had to rely on a repechage tournament to make it to Japan but their form is poor against all nations this year, having lost to the USA, Tonga and Fiji, so expect any miracles here. Russia, who made it through in 2011, qualified for the World Cup in bizarre fashion. Spain, Belgium and Romania were all found to have used ineligible players ion qualifying rounds. The Bears will be there for experience. As will Georgia, Uruguay and Namibia, the latter always capable of a minor upset, given their South African influence.
So to predictions:
- Ireland, Japan
- New Zealand, South Africa
- England, Argentina
- Australia, Wales
The semi-finals will depend on who is matched up against who, but on form, there are only two teams in with a shout of winning the 2019 tournament: New Zealand and South Africa.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Rory Arnold – Australia
The big back-rower has been superb all year for the Brumbies and was the Wallabies most consistent throughout the Rugby Championship. Superb in the line-out in attack and defence with other skills including the ability to disrupt opposition mauls.
Faf de Klerk – South Africa
de Klerk follows a distinguished line of springbok Number 9s who have led their country to success – Fourie du Preez in 2007 and Joost van der Westhuizen in 1995. This time the blond playmaker’s game has improved thanks to time playing in Europe with Sale Sharks.
Owen Farrell – England
When Owen Farrell is firing on all cylinders, England look awesome. But he often has an off game it can be very different. At Saracens he’s number 10, for England likely to be ay inside centre. A superb kicker who could be the ‘x-factor’ foe Eddie Jones.
Tevita Li – New Zealand
Tipped to be the tournament’s top try scorer, and at 20, with a big future, in the footsteps of another greta All Black, Julian Savea. New Zealand has long history of try-scoring wingers: Jonah Lomu and Bryan Habana, and Li has all the attributes to follow in their footsteps.
Johnny Sexton – Ireland
Seen as elder statesman thee days, Sexton is Ireland’s leader, who controls and manipulates their game. Great both on attack with try assists and in defence, where he organises the line, Sexton reads the game better than almost anyone.
Amanaki Mafi – Japan
A powerful presence on the field, despite some off-field issues that have clouded his selection. A damaging, running Number 8, with plenty of experience. He has to shine if Japan hope to progress.
Jack Lam – Samoa
Lam plays at Bristol as a flanker, so British fans will know his talents. Spent four years at the Hurricanes in Super Rugby before heading for Europe, the New Zealand-born flanker will captain the side in Japan.
Telusa Veainu – Tonga
Voted players’ player of the year in Britain, where he plays for Leicester Tigers, are is a dangerous outside back, scoring 29 tries in 67 games for Leicester and is a threat with the ball in hand. One reason why many believe Tonga could cause an upset in Japan.
Stuart Hogg – Scotland
Fullback Hogg was the Six Nations Player of the Tournament in 2016 and 2017 and is one of the best in his position in the world today. The second highest try-scorer for any fullback in the world since his debut in 2012. If any back can find the try line, Hogg can.
Emiliano Boffelli – Argentina
The multi-talented Puma can play in a number of positions, at centre, wing or fullback. He could be the key to Argentina’s progress, depending on how coach Mario Ledesma uses him.
- New Zealand 6/4
- England 9/2
- South Africa 9/2
- Ireland 10/1
- Wales 12/1
- Australia 20/1
- France 33/1
- Argentina 50/1
- Scotland 80/1
- Japan 300/1
- Fiji 500/1
*The Quarter-Finals are on October 19-20.
*The Semi-Finals are on October 26-27.
*The Bronze Final is on November 1.
*The Final is on November 2.