Draw Including Likely Qualifiers
- Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Romania, Tonga.
- Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Uruguay.
- Pool C: England, France, Argentina, USA, Samoa.
- Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji, Canada.
Favourable Pool Draw for Ireland
Today’s draw can only be viewed as a success from Ireland’s point of view. Missing out on heavyweight names like South Africa, Argentina & France is the main win, but even missing out on Oceania 1 & Georgia not qualifying as Europe 1 carries added benefits for Joe Schmidt’s squad.
Scotland are undoubtedly on the rise, but they represent an enticing draw as a second round seed. Similar with Japan, they’ve made huge strides in their game and have the advantage of being hosts, but they’re nothing more than a well touted banana skin in the grand scheme of things. You’d much prefer Scotland & Japan over the other combos of South Africa/Italy, France/Argentina or Wales/Georgia.
The flip side of this, Scotland & Japan will both be reasonably confident heading into 2019 also. Ireland are the most vulnerable 1st seed and are a much more feasible task than New Zealand or England. Scotland will look to their win this year as a blueprint for inspiration, while Japan will also fancy a draw that has the weakest team in each bracket.
In Europe 1, Ireland are likely looking at Romania in their group. Anything else would represent an upset, with Spain & Portugal the best placed to cause one if it occurs. The play-off spot will be contested between the winner of Europe 2 (probably Spain or Portugal, Germany or Russia as an outside bet) and Oceania 3 (hard to look past Tonga). It’s a long way out to predict, but Ireland shouldn’t be too hung up on any of these teams.
The easiest pool Ireland have drawn at the Rugby World Cup, there will be little room for excuses or complaints as they should finish top of their pool.
But Challenging Quarter Final Awaits
It’s well documented that Ireland have never won a knockout game at the Rugby World Cup. Recent implosions & failures against both Wales & Argentina hang over the team like a dark cloud, and the inability to get through a World Cup Quarter Final has become something of a sore spot amongst players & supporters alike.
Handed a flattering group, the quarter final is potentially less so. As winner of Pool A, Ireland will prepare to face the runner-up of Pool B – which will be South Africa, unless the Springboks manage to upset New Zealand during their own group stage.
At this stage of their development, South Africa are – in reality – an unknown quantity. The game is an absolute mess over there at the moment, and it’s hard to know what way that will go over the next two years. Allister Coetzee probably won’t last much longer in his head coaching role, and while the troubles in their game go a lot further than him, two years is ample time to get some momentum back into the Springboks.
The other issue is that while Ireland seem to have a mental block about performing in a World Cup quarter final, South Africa are a different animal when it comes to knockout rugby. For all their shortcomings in 2015, they pushed New Zealand hard in the semi-final and will never be an easy fixture with World Cup glory at stake.
They will need to get their first of course, but with today’s draw you expect Ireland will have an eye on finally banishing their Quarter Final demons, as they prepare for 2019’s campaign.
Group of Death
When France and Argentina were drawn into Pool C, there was a collective grimace from the remaining top seeds. This year’s pool of death was decided, and for the second year running, England find themselves in that dark & daunting position.
Memories of 2015’s World Cup heartbreak have been replaced with a Grand Slam and two consecutive Six Nations championships, but today’s draw will bring back flashbacks of the pain they suffered on home soil. England have proved to be a far more convincing and deliberate outfit under Eddie Jones, but there’s no getting away from the difficult route they now face.
The Six Nations winners are undoubtedly in a better position these days however, riding a wave of success since their previous World Cup exit. France seem to be in the most precarious position of the trio at the moment, but you just never know – Wales seemed destined to exit at the group stages in 2015, but caused a big upset when they all but eliminated hosts England.
The mercurial French, the ever dangerous Argentina and a powerful English outfit, it’ll be a tough journey to the knockout stages for whichever teams do emerge from the pool.