Demented Mole reviews the Group stages of the Rugby World Cup and also looks ahead to the quarter final stage with bets advised on Ireland, Wales and New Zealand / All Blacks.
The pool stages are out of the way and we are down to the last 8 in the Rugby World Cup of 2015. A World Cup that has produced many talking points at the halfway mark, a brief flavour of this writer’s annoyances are-
- World Rugby’s organisational policies, rumours of Tier 2 nations being left high and dry with expenses and facilities. It is the Japan’s/Georgia’s of this world that have illuminated the shadow boxing of other games.
- Inconsistency in citings and TMO usages – again a bias to the better nations in World Rugby.
- Lack of ambition to play rugby by certain sides, thankfully all of them have departed the scene
- Japan winning three times and not being here – feels wrong, as does the pools/seeding/fixture list.
However there have been lots of positives –
- The Rugby League mindset has been overcome and beaten (sorry England fans)
- Australia showing the way forward with a superb blend of skill, strategy and discipline – for the boffins amongst you it is highlighted superbly here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/international/wales/11924996/How-15-thrilling-minutes-against-Wales-could-define-Australias-Rugby-World-Cup.html
- Crowds have supported the tournament across the UK, particularly after the Chariot broke down
- Japan has only whetted the appetite for 4 years time, whatever the outcome of the next 3 weeks
So then there were 8. How many of them can realistically win the World Cup – I would have said 3 but it is probably just 2 at this stage, Australia and New Zealand.
South Africa V Wales
The World Cup is a tournament and after their horrific start in Brighton, the Springboks have steadily rebuilt through the remaining pool games, and will now feel they have some momentum. They possess 2 of the best locks in the game right now, neither of whom are named Botha or Matfield. It is the latter however, or Coach Meyer’s blind loyalty towards him that may prove their undoing. Like a lot of teams they have shipped their injuries, particularly the luckless Jean de Villiers.
Wales have suffered more than anyone, but will rue their 15 mins in the Australian 22 last Saturday more than any of them. I view them as a Cup final side, huge capabilities to lift themselves for massive occasions. They now have another huge one ahead of them back at Twickenham on Saturday. If they can sort out their narrowness and use some more width (not impossible given Biggar’s obvious frustration at North in particular) they can move the Boks around. However it is probably a match up that suits them.
Both sides are relatively one dimensional to a degree, and I cannot see Wales shipping a hiding, nor can I see SA dishing one out. I really like the Welsh +9 at 1/1 here with Ladbrokes and Boylesports here and am advising a bet.
New Zealand V France
I have a feeling there will be quite a difference in atmosphere in Cardiff between Saturday night and Sunday lunch time! I think a big shout out here to @WhiffofCordite is merited, who has steadfastly believed and trumpeted that the French under Saint Andre are shite. The only thing they did well against Ireland was tackle and run straight, and then only some of the time! Yes they are big strong men but they are no team. And so they face the most successful team in the World at present, albeit at a stage and venue they will like.
NZ have lost the lynchpin of their scrum, Tony Woodcock, but they have slowly got themselves closer to top gear in the last few weeks. I will be absolutely stunned if they do not beat this French side by 20+ points and am advising a max bet on the AB’s -11 at 10/11.
Ireland V Argentina
The Pumas have cruised through their Group following their opener against New Zealand. Their wingers are scoring tries, they possess one of the more liquid fly halves in the world and are generally a happy camp. They are not like Argentinean teams of old. This lot are mobile, strong and have been likened to how France was once upon a time! Can they beat Ireland? Absolutely.
A lot of emotion has gone into the post match reviews of the Irish victory against France on Sunday. Yes the atmosphere was cracking, as good a sporting occasion I have attended, but was the performance that great? I think it was for a couple of reasons. In the 1st half Ireland were winning the arm wrestle and limited them to long range penalties, the Irish line was never in danger. Players were playing well. What stood out for me, and I think why I elevate this performance, is that the Irish team continued seamlessly in the execution of its game plan despite the 1st half loss of its 2 key players (the undroppable/the 2 Ireland cannot afford to lose). And then the heir to the throne O’ Mahony went down when he was MOTM at that point. For me the fact that Ireland kicked on at every stage and beat France in every department is what stands out. The fact there was collateral damage along the way is just a part of the modern game, for Ireland it is just unfortunate that the 3 players lost are probably 3 of the 1st 5 on the team sheet.
So can they progress further? Absolutely.
I have referenced here on a number of occasions that I am a huge admirer of Schmidt. He will have felt vindicated last night, but now faces the biggest challenge of his career in keeping his squad upbeat and emotionally on pitch for the battle ahead on Sunday. I was in Adelaide in ’03 (Cheers Quinny, sorry about the shoulder) and Paris in ’07 (revenge sucked) and Los Pumas will be all fire and brimstone from the moment their 25min National Anthem starts. These sides have history and it should be a game to savour. The Argies will play a looser game than Ireland, but that could be countered by Madigan and co also, depending on selection.
I believe Ireland will produce a huge performance this weekend given the circumstances of the victory over France. Will they have enough bodies to challenge in a Semi Final – let’s discuss that next Monday!! I have huge respect for this Argentinean team, but I have just as much for Schmidt. I think he and his squad have a single mindedness and determination now not to allow injuries affect their progress to a Semi Final.
I will admit to being too nervous to put Ireland up -2 V France, but I am pretty confident they will cover the 5pt handicap against Argentina. I also think Iain Henderson will elevate himself to a new level in World Rugby by 3pm next Sunday. Ireland by 9. and if you can get the 1/1 with Betway, I strongly suggest you take it.
Australia V Scotland
I put Australia up as my bet for the World Cup back in January at 9/1. I have seen nothing to alter my opinion in this tournament so far. I was present at Twickenham (great to go to HQ as a neutral, highly advisable to do it at least once!) and the composure they showed when under so much pressure was All Blackesque. They have that perfect blend of players in form, strength in depth in key areas and all of a sudden a scrum that has another gear and not just reverse! Pooper is a dominant force and young McMahon is there to cover – what luxuries. They have a skipper in Stephen Moore who is striking a perfect balance, and Bernard Foley is in dreamland with his rugby at present.
Scotland have improved significantly under Vern Cotter, but really I think they are lucky to be where they are (caught Japan cold & needed the sin bins that day). They will lift themselves for this and be a nuisance, but they play too loosely for my liking. I think the bookies have got this handicap pegged about right (15pts), and I will happily listen to 5 Live on the way back to London on the M4 Sunday afternoon.
1 point win Wales +9 v South Africa at 1/1 with Ladbrokes and Boylesports
3 points win New Zealand -11 v France at 10/11 with Ladbrokes and William Hill
1 point win Ireland -4 v Argentina at 1/1 with Betway
0.5pt trixie also with Ladbrokes (Ireland -5 in this case)