Rugby World Cup Predictions: Round 1

Japan Rugby

Here we go, the Rugby World Cup is almost here! I’ll be sharing my Superbru picks for each round of matches, and you can play against me in The Rugby Blog’s Predictor league here – it’s free, simple and lots of fun so get involved and set up your own office pools.

Japan v Russia
I fear for Russia in this World Cup, based on their warm-up matches in which they were thrashed by Italy and then beaten by Jersey on their pre-season tour. The bookies have the hosts as 40-point favourites on the opening night in front of their own adoring fans, but the pressure might just lead to errors and some wasted chances – but they’ll still win comfortably.

Japan by 33

Australia v Fiji
Rumour has it that the Fijians are targeting this match for a win and a chance to qualify for the knockout stages. They do look like the strongest tier 2 nation, but the gap still feels too significant and I fancy Australia to win fairly comfortably. People are talking up Fiji’s chances so much so that Michael Cheika won’t take them lightly and make sure the Wallabies get off to a strong start.

Australia by 21

France v Argentina
This should be fascinating viewing for England fans as their two pool rivals go head to head, and the result will have a huge bearing on which teams make it through to the quarter-finals. The Pumas are a great World Cup team, and can now mix with the likes of Australia and South Africa in the Rugby Championship, but France have also had their fair share of World Cup success and their current trajectory feels more positive than their opponents. Louis Picamoles is only on the bench, whilst Virimi Vakatawa starts at 12 but I still fancy them to win this one despite a rather interesting team selection.

France by 7

New Zealand v South Africa
Excitement is building for this one, and whilst both teams should emerge from a relatively straightforward pool, the route to the final for the winner looks much kinder. The two teams wouldn’t meet again until the final, and should both make it that far, the winner of this opening match may have a psychological edge. The last 4 meetings between these teams have been decided by 2 points or fewer, including a draw in the most recent clash in July, and I anticipate this being a close contest too. Heavy rain is forecast, which could also have a bearing, and I think that tips the balance ever so slightly in favour of New Zealand.

New Zealand by 4

Italy v Namibia
Sunday’s schedule starts with an easier pick, with the Azzurri expected to win this one comfortably. Namibia have been beaten twice by Russia in the last 12 months, and have only had a couple of warm-up games against the Kings in South Africa, whilst Italy will surely be better-prepared having played four international matches in the tournament build-up. There’s heavy rain forecast again, and whilst that might keep the score a little tighter, it could also expose inferior skill levels.

Italy by 38

Ireland v Scotland
It wasn’t long ago that Ireland were being talked up as potential world champions, but now many people doubt that they’ll make it to their first ever semi-final. They haven’t become a bad side overnight though, and they are clear favourites for this match and subsequently to win the group. They have had the best of recent meetings between the teams – even in an underwhelming Six Nations campaign, Ireland still won at Murrayfield, and on neutral ground I think they’ll win fairly comfortably this weekend.

Ireland by 16

England v Tonga
The England team has not been named yet, but I would assume that the first-choice lineup will be selected for this one, with their understudies coming in to play the USA on Thursday. I’ll be checking the teamsheets before locking my pick, but this should be a big win if my assumptions are correct. Tonga did manage a win over Canada in August, but have also lost to Samoa by 8, Japan by 34, Fiji by 10 and New Zealand by 85!

I’ll write a bit more on this one once the teams are announced.

England by 48

Wales v Georgia
The Georgians often become crowd favourites at World Cups, and with Mamuka Gorgodze coming out of retirement, they’ll have plenty of support once again. They are a big, passionate team that will give everything to the cause, and whilst I don’t think they’ll trouble Wales, they’ll be eyeing up 3rd place in this pool and automatic qualification for the next World Cup. I think Rob Howley had a tenner on Wales to win this one, and I’m backing them too.

Wales by 28

Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James

13 thoughts on “Rugby World Cup Predictions: Round 1

  1. Having read through this Hutch I have a question for you, do you think World Rugby should do more to ensure the smaller teams have a proper warm up for The World Cup?

    I am not for a second questioning how good Jersey or The Kings are but surely Russia and Namibia should be playing International teams like the bigger teams those of equal ilk but not in their groups or QF’s?

    Teams not qualified like Romania, The USA, Uruguay etc. I just feel it would raise the game for these teams a little and prepare them better for the tournament.

    1. I think there are a few things that World Rugby should be doing to support the smaller teams.

      However, I’m not sure how feasible is it to be too prescriptive in how each team prepares for the tournament – there’s probably a case for not playing any warm-up games and keeping your best players injury-free, and who’s to say they would learn more by playing superior teams?

      I don’t think it’s the 1-2 months preceding a World Cup that’s the issue – it’s the 4 years in between where we need to look at how to close the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations.

      2
      1. Fair points Hutch and I agree but when there is so much attached to tradition in the game with the 6 Nations, tours etc. something seismic would need to change to improve the level of non Tier 1 teams.

        The only team I would argue who broke through the traditional teams has been Argentina, this is no disrespect to Italy but you fancy Argentina more to upset other settled Tier 1 nations over Italy, yes Georgia as have Japan broken through but they are on a par with Italy.

        Oh how different the landscape could be if the governing body wasn’t so stuffed shirt when the Romanian team of the 70’s was pretty decent.

  2. I’m not so sure that Eddie will pick al the first 15 for the Tonga game. Would you really want to risk the likes of Billy V or Manu against a team like Tonga? Two players we really want to keep fit, and they are two who’ve been quite prone to injury.

    I would be giving one of the other options a start for this game at 8, as I don’t think the scrum or set piece will be an issue. But in the loose, the tackles will be hard and the discipline will be low.

    2
    1. Who knows? I wouldn’t have picked Billy in all 4 warm-up matches either! I think there’s a case to get the first-choice team into the tournament ahead of the France and Argentina games, but Eddie will have his own ideas.

      Teams announced tomorrow.

      1. By producing a well observed, good rugger comment, surely I HAVE added to the conflab, so how about a thumbs up then? You know you want to.

        1
  3. TRB’s too slow. Here are the NZ & SA teams for tomorrow. Note: Frizell flown in to replace concussed Jacobsen.

    All Blacks: 1. Joe Moody (41) 2. Dane Coles (64) 3. Nepo Laulala (20) 4. Samuel Whitelock (112)
    5. Scott Barrett (32) 6. Ardie Savea (34) 7. Sam Cane (63) 8. Kieran Read – captain (122) 9. Aaron Smith (87) 10. Richie Mo’unga (12) 11. George Bridge (5) 12. Ryan Crotty (45) 13. Anton Lienert-Brown (38) 14. Sevu Reece (3) 15. Beauden Barrett (78)
    Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor (45) 17. Ofa Tuungafasi (30) 18. Angus Ta’avao (8) 19. Patrick Tuipulotu (25) 20. Shannon Frizell (5) 21. TJ Perenara (59) 22. Sonny Bill Williams (53) 23. Ben Smith (80)

    South Africa: 1. Steven Kitshoff 2. Malcolm Marx 3. Frans Malherbe 4. Eben Etzebeth 5. Franco Mostert 6. Siya Kolisi (captain) 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit 8. Duane Vermeulen 9. Faf de Klerk 10. Handré Pollard 11. Makazole Mapimpi 12. Damian de Allende 13. Lukhanyo Am 14. Cheslin Kolbe 15. Willie le Roux
    Reserves: 16. Bongi Mbonambi 17. Tendai Mtawarira 18. Trevor Nyakane 19. RG Snyman 20. Francois Louw 21. Herschel Jantjies 22. Frans Steyn 23. Jesse Kriel

  4. First one a bit out then Hutch, a nervy start for the Blossoms meant they probably left a few out there.

    However, thanks to your reminder about Russia’s poor form, I did on a whim put Matsushmia in my Superbru fantasy team, that gamble paying off so far!

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