Rugby World Cup: Pool B Preview - Green and Gold Rugby
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Rugby World Cup: Pool B Preview

Rugby World Cup: Pool B Preview

The long wait is nearly over as we are just under a week before the start of the Rugby World Cup. Over the next four days, we will breakdown the four pools leading into the start of the tournament on Friday.

Today, we look at Pool B, arguably one of the toughest in the competition. It’s headlined by defending champions New Zealand and 2007 champions South Africa, along with Italy, Canada and Namibia seemingly fighting for third position.

New Zealand

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

The reigning, defending, undisputed champions are looking to make history by becoming the first team to win three consecutive World Cups. The All Blacks will be brimming with confidence as they retain the core contingency of the side that won in 2015.

However, this World Cup will be their toughest yet, with New Zealand coming into the tournament without the number one ranking for the first time since 2007.

How they Qualified

By being New Zealand

Recent form

The All Blacks have shown signs of fragility over the past twelve months, with loses to Australia and Ireland confirming what some had speculated that they are in fact human. However, don’t mistake this for weakness as New Zealand are still the team to beat regardless of what their ranking says. This was evident in their 36-0 thumping of the Wallabies and their 92-7 demolition of Tonga a fortnight ago.

Squad

Kieran Read (c), Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Matt Todd, Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Nepo Laulala, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tuungafasi, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman, Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber

Coach: Steve Hansen

Player to watch

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

Photo Courtesy of Keith McInnes

Beauden Barrett
The two-time World Rugby Player of the Year travels to Japan alongside brothers Scott and Jordie looking to guide New Zealand to the three-peat. However, Barrett will likely play a different role from 2015, shifting to fullback to accompany Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf. Their partnership will be crucial towards the side’s fortune and if they click, then I expect the trophy to remain in New Zealand.

World Cup History

Played: 50
Wins: 44
Loses: 6
Best Finish: Winners (1987, 2011, 2015)

Last Five World Cups
2015: Winners
2011: Winners
2007: Quarter Final
2003: Third
1999: Fourth

Prediction

You’d be a brave man to back against the All Blacks. They seem to be peaking at the right time (as usual) and I think they still have a few more tricks up their sleeves heading into the World Cup. Expect them to make history and secure the three-peat.

South Africa

Will national politics undo South Africa's bid?

Will national politics undo South Africa’s bid?

The Springboks coughed and stumbled throughout the 2018 season, leaving many to question their World Cup credentials. Like any good South African team, they have answered them emphatically, putting in a number of consistent performances across 2019 to position themselves as one of the favourites. However, they will come into the tournament without their flyer Aphiwe Dyantyi, who has been suspended due to a drug violence

How they Qualified

By finishing first in their pool in 2015

Recent form

2018 was a tough year for South Africa, having dropped matches to the likes of England, Australia, Argentina and Wales. However, they have seemed to have turned the corner in 2019, securing the Rugby Championship in convincing fashion with victories over Australia and Argentina, along with a draw against the All Blacks in Wellington.

They finished off their preparations with a 41-7 win over Japan in Kumagaya to preserve the spot as one of the leading contenders.

Squad

Siya Kolisi (c), Willie le Roux, Warrick Gelant, Cheslin Kolbe, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Herschel Jantjies. Forwards: Schalk Brits, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Steven Kitshoff, Tendai Mtawarira, RG Snyman, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen

Coach: Rassie Erasmus

Player to watch

Siya Kolisi

Siya Kolisi

Siya Kolisi
Kolisi makes history as the first black South African captain to lead his side into a World Cup and he will look to replicate the work of his fellow flanker Francois Pienaar in 1995. Kolisi has been an essential part of the Springboks revitalisation since Erasmus took over and his strong ball running and work at the breakdown will be crucial in their tough pool.

World Cup History

Played:36
Wins:30
Loses:6
Best Finish: Winners (1995, 2007)

Last Five World Cups
2015: Third
2011: Quarter Final
2007: Winner
2003: Quarter Final
1999: Third

Prediction

In my opinion, I think there are only three teams better than the Springboks heading into this year’s World Cup. Unfortunately, they will face one of those teams (New Zealand) in the group stages and likely the other (Ireland) in the quarter-finals. This makes their journey past the quarters difficult, however, if they can pull off a victory against either side, then they are in with a massive shot of winning the whole thing.

Italy

Italy Anthem

Italy at the World Cup has been a story of close but no cigar, with the Azzurri being knocked out in the group stages at the last three tournaments thanks to a loss in their final group game. They face a mountain to qualify this time, having to cause a serious upset over either New Zealand or the Springboks to reach the knock out stages. They come into the tournament with plenty of confidence though, having beaten South Africa in 2016.

How they Qualified

By finishing third in their pool in the 2015 World Cup

Recent form

The form line for Italy is not pretty, having won just three games in 14 attempts. The Azzurri showed throughout the Six Nations that they are willing to fight and hang tough against superior opponents, having lost by less than 12 in three out of the five games. They showed that they have the potential to score points in their 85-15 win over Russia, although crushing loses to France and England seems to be a better indication of where they stand.

Squad

Sergio Parisse (c), Callum Braley, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Jayden Hayward, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani, Simone Ferrari, Andrea Lovotti, Tiziano Pasquali, Nicola Quaglio, Marco Riccioni, Federico Zani, Luca Bigi, Oliviero Fabiani, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, David Sisi, Alessandro Zanni, Maxime Mbanda, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn

Coach: Conor O’Shea

Player to watch

Sergio Parisse, Italy captain and arguably their best player. Born and raised in Argentina.

Sergio Parisse, Italy captain and arguably their best player. Born and raised in Argentina.

Sergio Parisse
Parisse will make history, with this year’s tournament marking his fifth appearance at a World Cup, tieing the record. He is the heart and soul of the Italian team and they need him and fellow backrower Jake Polledri to fire in order to pull off what is considered to be mission impossible.

World Cup History

Played: 28
Wins: 11
Loses: 15
Best Finish: Group Stages

Last Five World Cups
2015: Group Stages
2011: Group Stages
2007: Group Stages
2003: Group Stages
1999: Group Stages

Prediction

Whilst there is class in the Italian lineup, I don’t think they have enough to beat New Zealand and South Africa in their current form. Expect them to continue their long-standing tradition of finishing third at the World Cup.

Namibia

Image courtesy of World Rugby

Image courtesy of World Rugby

Namibia enters the World Cup looking to break their 19-game losing streak at the tournament. However, they will be quietly confident that they can break this streak after winning consecutive Africa Gold Cups, going unbeaten in both instalments. This has left the Welwitschias primed for a strong showing under former Welsh forward Phil Davies.

How they Qualified

Through winning the Africa Gold Cup in 2018

Recent form

Outside of their flawless Africa Gold Cup in 2018, there is little form available for the Namibians. They started 2019 with mixed results, with a narrow 30-28 win over Uruguay before they were shut out by Russia 20-0. They tuned up before this tournament with a pair of narrow victories over Pro14 team Southern Kings and a win over a Sharks Invitational team.

Squad

Johan Deysel(c), Obert Nortje, Louis van der Westhuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Aranos Coetzee, AJ de Klerk, André Rademeyer, Desiderius Sethie, Nelius Theron, Johan Retief, Tjiuee Uanivi, PJ van Lill, Adriaan Booysen, Wian Conradie, Thomasau Forbes, Prince Gaoseb, Max Katjijeko, Rohan Kitshoff, Janco Venter; Helarius Kisting, Lesley Klim, PJ Walters, Chad Plato, Johann Tromp, Darryl de la Harpe, JC Greyling, Justin Newman, Janry du Toit, Cliven Loubser, Eugene Jantjies, Damian Stevens

Coach: Phil Davies

Player to watch

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.05.01 am

Johan Deysel
Deysel has plied his trade in the French Second Division for Colomiers and represents the fresh batch of talent coming through the system for the country. He scored their first-ever World Cup try against the All Blacks in 2015 and they will need him to lead from the front if they wish to earn their first victory.

World Cup History

Played:19
Wins:0
Loses:19
Best Finish: Group Stages

Last Five World Cups
2015: Group Stages
2011: Group Stages
2007: Group Stages
2003: Group Stages
1999: Group Stages

Prediction

This is the best chance for Namibia to snatch their first victory at the World Cup, with the Welwitschias eyeing off the match against the Canadians as their grand final. I think this might be the year that they get it.

Canada

canada-singapore-sevens-2017-x

Canada is in a period of rebuilding after a strong World Cup campaign in 2015, where they should have pulled off two wins before collapsing against Italy and Romania. They will get a chance to avenge their loss against the Azzuri at this year’s tournament, although this is a vastly different team from four years ago.

How they Qualified

By running the gauntlet in the Repercharge tournament, beating the likes of Kenya, Germany and Hong Kong in the last chance competition.

Recent form

Since the Repercharge, it has been bleak viewing for the Canadians, having won once in their last 8 games. This includes losses to Uruguay, Tonga and Brazil, who failed to even qualify for the World Cup. They were humbled in the Pacific Nations Cup, losing to Fiji, Tonga and USA.

Squad

Tyler Ardron (c) Kyle Baillie, Josh Larsen, Nick Blevins, Hubert Buydens, Luke Campbell, Andrew Coe, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Matt Heaton, Eric Howard, Jake Ilnicki, Cole Keith, Conor Keys, Ben LeSage, Phil Mack, Jamie Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie, Peter Nelson, Shane O’Leary, Evan Olmstead, Patrick Parfrey, Taylor Paris, Benoit Piffero, Andrew Quattrin, Lucas Rumball, Djustice Sears-Duru, Mike Sheppard, Matthew Tierney, Conor Trainor, DTH van der Merwe

Coach: Kingsley Jones

Player to watch

Ardron

Tyler Ardron
Ardron will be a familiar face for Super Rugby fans, having played a crucial role for the Chiefs since 2018. He will need to do the same for his nation, with the powerful flanker needing to take over and control the breakdown if they want to avoid embarrassment.

World Cup History

Played: 29
Wins: 7
Loses: 20
Draws: 2
Best Finish: Group Stages

Last Five World Cups
2015: Group Stages
2011: Group Stages
2007: Group Stages
2003: Group Stages
1999: Group Stages

Prediction

I think Canada already have an eye on the 2023 World Cup with their squad full of players either too inexperienced for this stage or seemingly past their prime. Their big test will be to rebel Namibia in their final group matches if they wish to get something out of this World Cup campaign.

Final Table Prediction

1st: New Zealand
2nd: South Africa
3rd: Italy
4th: Namibia
5th: Canada

Fixtures (All time AEST)

Saturday, September 21: New Zealand v South Africa, International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama (7:45PM)
Sunday, September 22: Italy v Namibia, Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiosaka (3:15PM)
Thursday, September 26: Italy v Canada, Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka (5:45PM)
Saturday, September 28: South Africa v Namibia, City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota (7:45PM)
Wednesday, October 2: New Zealand v Canada, Oita Stadium, Oita (8:15PM)
Friday, October 4: South Africa v Italy, Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Fukuroi (7:45PM)
Sunday, October 6: New Zealand v Namibia, Tokyo Stadium, Toyko (3:45PM)
Tuesday, October 8: South Africa v Canada, Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe (9:15PM)
Saturday, October 12: New Zealand v Italy, City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota,(3:45PM)
Sunday, October 13: Namibia v Canada, Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Kamaishi (2:15PM)

  • Keith Butler

    Bit of a no brainer with is group but the first game will be vital in deciding which side faces the Irish. Will be interesting if the ABs have a cold start and lose this one.

    • Hoss

      And also who we will play in the semi either Ireland, NZ or Saffa’s.

      If we finish equal in our respective pool with the Nearlies we cant play them till the final.

      • Keith Butler

        Assuming the the G&G make it past the Q/Fs!

        • Hoss

          Nothing more certain mate. Final here we come.

        • Keith Butler

          And then you woke and it was all a dream.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Nathan,
    I think that while NZ has had a couple of rough games, they never really had their No 1 players playing in any of the games that they have lost, except perhaps the loss to the Boks in Wellington. I’m not so sure they are peaking at the right time but more that they have under stated themselves over the last couple of years and not allowed any of the competition to get a true sense of where they are at.
    I do agree the Boks are looking very good at times, however I think they have some depth issues and one or two injuries could really kill off their chances. I don’t think either team will “want” to lose this opening match, however I think it’s one of the few times where a loss won’t hurt them as much as some of the other pools.
    Can’t wait for this weekend. I’m really on edge and even the wife is telling me to chill out lol

    • Hoss

      Fancy having your world cup chances ended on the first weekend of the tournament…………………

      ‘In breaking news the NZ Government has flown in 24,365 trauma counsellors who are on standby…….’

All Blacks
@NathW1997

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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