From now until the end of October, rugby fans from all over the world will be watching the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 20 rugby nations will compete for the William Web Ellis trophy, currently held by New Zealand, who hosted the tournament four years ago. This year’s hosts, England, hope to win the tournament for the second time after winning it in 2003.
The 20 teams are split into four pools (groups) of five teams. The draw for the pools was done in December 2012, and was based on the official world rankings at that time, to try and keep things evenly matched. But a lot can change over three years, so some pools have much stronger teams than others.
Australia (two-time champions), England (the hosts and one-time winner), Wales, Fiji, and Uruguay
At the time of the draw, Australia were ranked third in the world, England were fifth and Wales were ninth. However, as of July, England were ranked fourth, Australia fifth and Wales sixth. This makes the early drawing of pools quite controversial, as Pool A has three of the top six teams in the tournament making it “the group of death”. Most tournaments, all three of these teams qualify for the next round of the tournament, however because only the top two teams of each pool can advance, one of the biggest rugby nations in the world will be absent from the knockout stages.
South Africa (two-time winners), Samoa, Scotland, Japan, and the United States
South Africa are expected to win all four of their games, as they are currently ranked second in the world. However, their weak performances in the recent Rugby Championship have led to some worry amongst fans. They suffered defeat at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, two teams that they could potentially face in the later stages of the tournament. Scotland are expected to qualify for the knockout stages but could be slowed by Samoa, who are currently ranked higher than they are. The winner of that match is likely to progress to the next stage along with South Africa.
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New Zealand (two-time winners and current champs), Argentina, Tonga, Georgia and Namibia
New Zealand are currently ranked as the best team in the World and have been since 2009. The All Blacks are favourites going into every major tournament, however have a record of collapsing in the big games. They put in an awful performance in the 2011 final against France, winning 8-7, despite beating them 37-17 a few weeks earlier. Argentina, who had their best ever finish when they beat hosts France in the 2007 bronze final, are expected to move on with New Zealand.
France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, and Romania
France were ranked fourth at the time of the draw but have since dropped to seventh, while Ireland were ranked sixth and have shot up the rankings to third. Ireland have performed incredibly well over the last year, beating South Africa and Australia in the fall of 2014 and winning the Six Nations in the spring. Despite poor performances as of late, France have a squad of talented players who are able to play high quality, fast paced rugby. They often struggle when under pressure, but can put together incredible performances out of nowhere. Italy, Canada and Romania are not expected to move on to the knockout stages, but Italy have beaten France a few times in the past few years, so an upset is possible.
Here’s our Young Post prediction of the tournament:
Both England and Ireland will reach the semi-finals. After strong performances against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia last autumn, they followed it up with an even stronger Six Nations performance. They thrashed France 55-35, but still lost the final by only 6 points. Ireland, who won the Six Nations, also had a strong performance in the autumn, beating Australia and South Africa.
Possibly joining England and Ireland in the semis are New Zealand and South Africa. Both teams will put in very strong performances against their respective quarter final opponents, building on their strong performances in the pool stages. New Zealand will dispatch South Africa in a nervy semi-final, setting up a World Cup Final with Ireland, who defended well against a final English attack in the other semi-final.
In the end, New Zealand will win the Rugby World Cup 2015, beating Ireland in the final, by a score of 22-15, retaining their title and winning the trophy for a record 3rd time.