Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: 2019 Rugby World Cup: Pool A Preview #RWC2019

2019 Rugby World Cup: Pool A Preview #RWC2019

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With the likes of Ireland, Scotland and hosts Japan among those in Pool A, expect some enthralling match-ups come kick-off at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports - Hollywoodbets


Japan
2015 finish: Pool stage exit

Who will ever forget the Brave Blossoms’ 34-32 win over the Springboks in Brighton at the last edition of the World Cup? The match was arguably the game of the tournament with Eddie Jones masterminding one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.

Four years later and Japan, under the tutelage of former New Zealand and Japanese dual international Jamie Joseph, find themselves hosting the global showpiece. Such an honour is unlikely to come again anytime soon, so expect them to take full advantage and deliver some fiery performances in front of their home support.

Japan should back themselves to beat Russia and Samoa in the pool. Having claimed the Pacific Nations Cup title for the third time last month, Michael Leitch’s side may even feel relatively confident of springing an upset on the likes of Scotland or Ireland. This does remain an improbable prospect, however, and one would expect them to finish in third place.

Key player: Lappies Labuschagne
The 30-year-old South African played Super Rugby for the Cheetahs and Bulls before jettisoning off to Japan. Having captained the Brave Blossoms in his debut Test against Fiji in July, and with a starting berth very likely, expect the wily flanker to be a standout feature in the weeks ahead.

Ireland
2015 finish: Quarter-final exit

It still seems surreal that Ireland, traditionally one of the powerhouses of the game, have yet to progress beyond the last eight at a Rugby World Cup. Despite heading into the last tournament as back-to-back Six Nations champions, their Irish luck seemed to run dry as they crashed out of the quarter-finals with a 20-43 defeat to Argentina.

In 2019, though, they have every reason to believe they will be far more competitive. Joe Schmidt’s side has hit new heights in the years since the last World Cup, beating the likes of the All Blacks, South Africa, Australia, England and Wales. In spite of a haphazard year so far, the Irish will feel they can still deliver on the grandest stage and crush any claims that they “may have peaked too soon”.

On paper, Ireland should expect to beat the likes of Russia, Samoa and Japan. Their biggest test in the pool will be Scotland; a team they have beaten six times out of seven since Schmidt took charge in 2013. Whether they finish first or second, though, they can expect to face either South Africa or New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

Key player: Peter O’Mahony
Pieter-Steph du Toit’s meteoric rise over the past year has threatened to unseat O’Mahony as the best blindside on the planet, but there is no doubt just how important the Munster captain is to Ireland. A tackling machine, the 29-year-old suffered a tournament-ending injury in his side’s win over France in the pool stages of the last World Cup. He will be hoping to make up for that lost time with some big displays in the 2019 edition.

Scotland
2015 finish: Quarter-final exit

For much of Gregor Townsend’s short reign in charge of Scotland thus far, the former British & Irish Lion has threatened to lift his side to new heights. Having taken over from Vern Cotter in May 2017, Townsend quickly established a winning formula based around playmakers Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg as the Scots went on to record several famous wins in his first year as coach. While they may not necessarily have staged a real assault on the Six Nations title, all signs pointed to a steady and consistent improvement for the Brave Hearts.

The last few months, though, have seen Scotland regress quite rapidly. Their play has become too lose at the expense of their defence, with teams managing to score tries off them with ease. Though their offensive ability remains one of the most exciting in the game, a lack of focus without ball in hand has resulted in a rather disappointing lead up to the World Cup.

Still though, the talent is all there for Scotland, and a switch to a more balanced approach may still prove hugely advantageous. They will still back themselves to beat Ireland to claim top spot in the pool, but a quarter-final against either the All Blacks or Springboks could prove a bridge too far.

Key player: Finn Russell
The 26-year-old Russell has seemingly been on the Test rugby scene for ages now, having debuted back in 2014. With a killer skillset and possessing oodles of X-factor, the Racing 92 pivot will look to lead his side to several big performances as they look to right the wrongs of the last World Cup.

Samoa
2015 finish: Pool stage exit

One of the fan favourites at any World Cup, Manu Samoa will again look to entertain the crowds with their brand of uncompromisingly physical rugby, though they may still struggle against the likes of Ireland and Scotland. Samoa don’t boast enough resources to be able to properly challenge for a spot in the knockouts at World Cups, with World Rugby perpetually letting them down from a financial perspective. Instead, expect them to go out and play with reckless abandon.

Under the guidance of former Blues forwards coach Steve Jackson, the Samoans will, at the very least, aim to finish third in the pool by beating Japan and Russia. They may have only managed a fourth-place finish at this year’s Pacific Nations Cup, but they’ll still back themselves to hit hard in Japan.

Key player: Tim Nanai-Williams
Cousin of Sonny Bill, former Waikato Chief Tim is a supremely gifted footballer, possessing skill and speed in abundance. The Auckland-born utility back currently plies his trade for Clermont Auvergne in the Top 14, and it’s this experience playing against the world’s best that will be vital for Samoa as they look to pick up one or two scalps this month.

Russia
2015 finish: Did not qualify

The only team not to have partaken in Rugby World Cup 2015, Russia will want to make the most of what is just their second appearance at the global showpiece by putting in some performances that will earn them respect amongst the global rugby fraternity.

Ranked 20th in the world, not much is expected of the Russians which could work to their advantage. Expect their coach, former Wales international Lyn Jones, will be plotting a surprise or two when his men take to the field against the likes of Samoa and possibly Japan. With three wins from eight matches already in 2019, they will take some pride into battle.

Key player: Valery Morozov
The 24-year-old is only one of two Russia players based outside of the country, with the loosehead prop currently on the books of the Sale Sharks. The challenge of playing in the Premiership will doubtless have toughened the Morozov up and his side will look to lean on his experience at scrum time.


Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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