Everyone loves an underdog. Everyone loves an upset, as long as its not against “their” team. The Rugby World Cup throws up so many opportunities we rarely see outside the World Cup every four years. Tonga beating France 19-14 in 2011 and of course, Japan beating South Africa 34-32 in 2015. Will we see another upset this year? Will a tier two nation make the quarterfinals? Let’s break down each pool for the most likely chance.
POOL A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa
This is the most likely pool for an upset or a tier two nation to take a spot in the knockouts. Ireland should not be the side we focus on, but instead the battle that will be between Scotland, hosts Japan and Samoa. There’s more than one key match here to watch but the way it’s set up, Scotland could slip up and still take that second spot. Scotland don’t like leaving Murrayfield and heading into the heat of Japan is going to test their key players in the side. Samoa and Japan did not meet in the Pacific Nations Cup but the form of Japan, who were crowned champions, will be a big boost when they meet on the 5th of October. My pick, Japan to sneak that second spot and upset Scotland.
POOL B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia and Canada
With so many eyes watching what will happen when New Zealand and South Africa meet on the 21st of September, it will see the other three sides running nicely under the radar. But let’s be realistic, any upset here would be monumental! As was Japan four years ago. With two such powerhouse teams looking firmly at each other, could they lose focus? Italy have the most experience playing at a higher level but will equally have a little attention. Watch out for a team like Canada. They have a group of players who are regulars in professional competitions and could spring a surprise on their day, despite a really poor recent history. None of the three will threaten the top two spots however, New Zealand and South Africa will progress.
POOL C: England, France, Argentina, USA and Tonga
We have already mentioned what happened in 2011 between France and Tonga, could we see a repeat? France are a side that can produce the spectacular, but also the abysmal. They have had a solid build up but you just never know when they can button off. Keep an eye on them especially against Tonga and USA. Argentina don’t seem to be the same side in the blue and white hoops as opposed to the black and orange of the Jaguares. They could struggle against the minnows also. I expect England to professionally play their way through and only be tested by France. I’m not convinced by the Pumas, they are under threat and are my pick to get upset. The aggression of the Tongans to get under the skin of some potentially volatile Argentinians.
POOL D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay
Take your pick here, this is a pool full of possible upsets. The Wallabies have looked far from convincing during most of their build up. Fantastic against the All Blacks in Perth but what will be a worry will be the average showing against Samoa, albeit with a weakened side. Fiji is the side I want to really look at here. A really impressive Pacific Nations Cup has given them a solid build up and shown they can dazzle when they fire. Fiji, much like Tonga and Samoa, run on confidence. If they get a good start, rattle their opponent and get the local crowd behind them in search of the upset, its a huge possibility. Who against though? Simply, Australia. Nap just a little, rotate too much or just don’t give them the respect and it will be trouble before they know it. The big pool D upset, Fiji to topple the Wallabies and take second spot.
Do you think any of these will occur? Will there be a different upset during the Rugby World Cup? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts.