The 2019 Rugby World Cup is fast approaching. New Zealand will be the favourites to win the tournament for a third straight time. However, 2018 was an interesting year in the rugby world.
Although the reigning world champions picked up their sixth Rugby Championship title in several years, the likes of South Africa and Ireland did pick up impressive victories over the All Blacks, proving that they can be beaten after all. The 2019 tournament may prove not to be as one-sided as the tournament was in 2011 and 2015. Ireland could potentially be contenders to win the event. Joe Schmidt’s style of play appears to have been well-accepted by the Irish. However, could Ireland’s usual problem of a lack of strength in depth come back to haunt them? We will just have to wait and see.
Pool A contains the likes of Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa. Ireland and Scotland are the pre-tournament favourites to advance from this group with the best bookmakers, but one can also never count out the Japanese, who have been rapidly improving during recent years. The Cherry Blossoms will also be playing on home turf and this should give them added motivation on the field.
Ireland, who are perennial under-achievers in the tournament, will be looking to finally have a deep run. They can use their 2018 victory over the All Blacks as motivation to defy the odds in Japan. They also became the first side that prevented New Zealand from scoring a try in a game since the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. 2018 was certainly a good year to be an Irish rugby fan, as they picked up their third Six Nations Grand Slam in history and first since 2009.
Pool B contains New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Canada and Namibia. This group should be contested primarily between South Africa and New Zealand. The All Blacks will be the favourites to advance as the pool winners, although defeating the Springboks – who won the 2007 edition of the tournament in England – will not be an easy task. After nearly a decade of inconsistency since their 2007 World Cup triumph, the Springboks from South Africa look to finally be returning to their genuine selves.
Pool C contains England, France, Argentina, USA and Tonga. This should be one of the most exciting pools on paper. USA and Tonga are not expected to do anything spectacular but one of either England, France or Argentina, who are all good rugby powerhouses, will leave the tournament disappointed.
Pool D contains the likes of Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay. Australia and Walves will be the pre-tournament favourites to advance beyond the group stages. However, one cannot afford to underestimate Fiji, who have been playing an impressive brand of rugby during recent times. If the Wallabies of Welsh are not careful, Fiji are more than capable of upsetting them.