Rugby Championship 2018: Round 1 Predictions

All Blacks

With the Rugby World Cup just a year away, it’s time for teams to stop tinkering, nail down their selections and look at building some momentum. There aren’t many matches for each side before the showpiece event gets underway in Japan, and the Rugby Championship should be fascinating in that context.

The New Zealand teams dominated Super Rugby, and the All Blacks will always be the team to beat, but if South Africa, Australia and Argentina can be competitive, we should be set for a thrilling World Cup once you add Ireland, Wales, England and France into the mix as contenders.

Here are my predictions for Round 1 of the Rugby Championship.

Australia v New Zealand
The Wallabies always have sufficient quality in the backs, where we’ll see the likes of Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, with Bernard Foley pulling the strings. Up front is where the issues usually lie, but with David Pocock and Michael Hooper set to be reunited in the back row, the Wallabies will be a force in the breakdown against any team.

The tight five is also looking slightly more competitive, but it lacks the quality of the All Blacks and Springboks, and there’s only so much making up that the rest of the team can do.

The Wallabies won their last test against the All Blacks, and their Super Rugby sides claimed a few kiwi scalps during the season – unlike in 2017 – but you still can’t pick them to win. As the first match of the tournament, New Zealand will be at full strength and determined to lay down a marker – the best team in the world should beat a side that lost a home series to Ireland in June.

New Zealand by 16

South Africa v Argentina
The Pumas were absolutely dreadful in June, losing twice to an understrength Wales team and then being dismantled by Scotland, all at home. It’s something of a mystery how that happens during the best-ever Super Rugby season for the Jaguares, consisting of largely the same personnel.

Meanwhile, the Springboks will be brimming with confidence after their series win over England, and they look more like they know what they are doing under coach Rassie Erasmus. The two matches against Australia will provide a measure of how far they have come – or how far England have fallen – and those games will probably decide second and third on the table.

South Africa by 23

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6 thoughts on “Rugby Championship 2018: Round 1 Predictions

  1. Well, haven’t most coaches stopped tinkering, with perhaps England being the exception & mostly, now know whom is going to comprise their teams? As for building momentum, this requires an effective playing style that has produced & will therefore likely continue to produce, winning results.

    The WC may well be exciting with a mix of SH as well as NH teams in the top 10 WR ranking table. This is despite the view of Stephen Jones from The S Times, that the Rugby Championship is now mainly 2nd divi. The year’s end may give a clearer picture. NZ & Ireland apart, at present with nearly 9 & 5 point leads respectively, only a couple of points separate the rest of the following pack comprising Wales, England, Oz, SA, Scotland & France. Argentina are currently off the pace, nearly 4 points adrift of this ‘pack’.

    Regarding the NZ v Oz result, a 16 point Kiwi win seems a mite skinny to me. I suspect that it may be by a few more, especially as the game draws to a close. The AB’s don’t quite have a full team; Coles & SBW are out, but Oz have to gel a new midfield combo with Kerevi & Kurandrani missing. They have the players, Like Tamooa, to consider, but the AB’s will surely look to test them in the centres early on. Pocock & Hooper will test NZ @ the breakdown & the rest of the pack will also be competitive. I quite don’t go along with the perception that Oz have had traditional issues up front. Certainly not in ’91 & ’99 for e.g., they didn’t. Leaving aside their last home series loss v England, their record here, since the days of & including, the much maligned (in the UK) Al Baxter, has, overall, been pretty even as I recall. Also they did beat NZ in last year’s Last Bledisloe game. That stated though, even away from home, I just see NZ as having better lasting power & a skill & decision making mindset 2nd to none @ present, so it’s likely to be 20 minimum for me.. I hope!

    Can’t argue with 23 for a SA win though. @ home, with returning player like Marx, Etzebet, Whitely & Louw available & with Argentina having seemingly lost the plot, with little discernable game plan or style, it could a bit of a landslide. One caveat though, it may be telling for SA’s future, if to a lesser extent to this game’s final score line, to see whom Erasmus picks in his back line, especially in midfield & @ wing.

    1. Stephen Jones with a blinkered and largely incorrect view of World Rugby, what are we coming to?

      Seriously though, can’t argue with you here Don on the prediction stakes, (and thought your comment was looking a little lonely down here), looking at the recent years, the ABs have easily been winning their opening fixture by a good 20 points, so reckon Hutch could be missing out on his MP and BP (famous last words)…

      As for SA and Oz, potential for some of the selections to be a nod to the past/paper over the cracks as opposed to build for the future, ending up with similar issues as Eddie has now?

  2. Howdy MarkB. Have give YOU a ‘thumbs up’!

    Well, the ‘boyo’s’ been starved of his weekly attention fix lately hasn’t he?

    Getting used to the loneliness of the long distance blogger.

    You never can tell, but, after the initial, potential onslaught (from Oz?), NZ ought get back to business.

    Regards SA, le Roux, Pollard, de Klerk worth their places, but the rest of the back line? Too many unknowns, novices for me. If the latter all come to the UK, reckon they’ll get cut to pieces. Dilemma @ loose fwd now Solisi is Kapitan. I’d have benched him, with Whitely to start & Vermeulin @ 8. Louw’s ok @ 7, but why du Toit, @ lock? Understand Eben Etzebeth @ 5 & maybe Malherbe & Tendai Mtawarira due to exp. Marx is a shoo in. Their issues are compounded with selection policy, 300 playing abroad & maybe Erasmus lacks vision, or is hamstrung? Too little or too much exp @ times? Don’t see imagination in the reserves. Dumping 1 or 2 whom stood up v England doesn’t make sense. Still, @ home v the lost legion?

    Only recognise 2 Argentines these days. Lost the plot & interest.. their’s & mine?

  3. I feel the all blacks will win by 15 or more, wallabies have pocock beale and folou who are world beaters, but their tight 5 isnt good enough i think, all blacks will be clinical and mentally stronger. Im on the -11 NZ

    In the other game argentina have given SA trouble on occasions. after a poor series against wales i cant see them coming close to SA, can see south africa scoring plenty of points

  4. Well it was by 25 v Oz. Tough 1st 1/2 with NZ making little headway until A. Smith’s try. Scoreline probably flattered the AB’s a bit, as Peyper didn’t card Naholo’s tip tackle on Folau. Also the latter was injured when NZ scored late on & it was an Oz midfield knock on advantage which lead to B. Barrett’s dribbling try, skilfully taken though it was. So, the odd rub of the green went NZ’s way, but what really helped kill Oz was the number of line out turnovers; 7! Not only deprived them of possession, but it gifted it to NZ. They also got pinged in c. 3 scrums, one of which @ least looked a reset to me. Also, I thought Read missed a trick before 1/2time, by opting for a 5 m line out rather than another scrum which had been working for NZ. The line out was a blow out, whereas a scrum might have offered more as it would have taken 8 out of ‘D’ & offered attack L or R, via the back row or, the back line! In any event, it won’t get any easier for Oz nxt Sat.

  5. Regarding the SA v Argentinian match, it looked as thought both teams could have done with a backs & skills coach. A bit of a slug fest with much effort, but SA seemed content with kicking for tries out wide. And Argentina only really upped the tempo after the horse had bolted; the 1/2time score notwithstanding. I doubt that this Saffa back line will frighten England come Nov. Willing enough in attack, but naive. Also ?able on ‘D’ & they certainly won’t want to kick attack ball away in their 1st up AI. They’ll get mullered. Their pack’s not dominant enough & I ? some of It’s composition, esp with Kolisi probably a permanent shoo in as captain now.


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