Pool B of the 2019 Rugby World Cup is the pick of the bunch with heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa squaring off for pool supremacy.
Yes, the other three sides will only make up the numbers but who would want to write about first-ever time New Zealand will meet South Africa in a pool phase game? Certainly not this man.
To Win Pool Outright
- New Zealand
- South Africa
2015 Finish: Champions
The most successful team in World Cup history will be looking to make it three titles on the trot, and their mission to do this would be made all the more easier should they beat their arch-rivals South Africa during the pool phase.
While the All Blacks have hardly been the all-conquering force they were over the past 18-months, with chinks starting to show in their armour, one is left to wonder if their drop in form isn’t a result of coach Steve Hansen playing some long-running mind game.
I don’t mean to sound like a rugby conspiracy theorist, but their 92-7 mauling of Tonga last weekend sort of illustrates my point that New Zealand really haven’t shown their hand of the past year and a bit. The Kiwis ran some really different systems last weekend. And while that may be due to Richie Mou’unga being out and Beauden Barret being forced to return to the fly-half berth, you can’t help but wonder if Steven Hansen has thrown one of the greatest dummies in World Cup history.
Yes, the All Blacks have tasted defeat at the hands of the Springboks of the past 14 months, but do you really think this vastly experienced side will be on the wrong side of the scoreline at a World Cup? I seriously doubt it. And should New Zealand follow the script and beat the ‘Boks in Round 1, then they would have something of a cakewalk to the final.
Player to Watch: Sevu Reece
This man will light up the World Cup. The Crusaders’ flyer is the best wing I have seen since Bryan Habana last laced hist boots. Blessed with pace, power and a great reading of the game, Reece will be key to the All Blacks cause.
2015 Finish: Third-Place
The Rassie Erasmus revolution is in full swing and the ‘Boks have gone from being the laughing stalks of world rugby to a real World Cup challenger.
Credit must go to Erasmus for this upswing of fortunes with the former Munster head coach showing slicker negotiating skills that a than a successful ice salesman based in the Arctic.
Rassie has got the balance right headed into this World Cup. His brought overseas veterans back to compliment exciting young prospects like Herschel Janjties and S’bu Nkosi. He’s built a deep squad that is more than capable of going the distance in Japan.
While this may sound like a massive contradiction, Erasmus still does have some positional issues. The inside centre berth is a massive worry with Damien de Allende something of a liability and Frans Steyn rather long in the tooth. He also has a massive back row selection headache to contend with and it will be interesting to if he can find the right balance and field a back trio that complements each other.
Player to Watch: Pieter-Steph du Toit
The two time South African Rugby Player of the Year is in the form of his life. The Stormers man was by far and away the most impressive forward during the Rugby Championship. He physicality, mobility and ability to play in a number of positions make him an absolutely crucial cog in the Boks’ World up campaign.
2015 Finish: Pool Stage Exit
Connor O’Shea’s men simply have not made the progress over the past four years that one would expect. Their club rugby is the strongest it has ever been with Benneton tearing up trees in the PRO 14 and Zebre becoming more competitive in the last few years.
This club success hasn’t helped the national team at all with Italy struggling in the Six Nations once again this year.
While the Italians have beaten the ‘Boks in the recent past, they are simply making up the numbers here and will give the big guns no problems.
Player to Watch: Sergio Parisse
This will be the Italian veterans last World Cup and boy does he deserve a good send off. The bald-headed loose forward is one of the few world-class players to turn out for the ‘Azzuri’
The Toulon man is an absolute beast in contact and has a deft skill set. He will once again be the heart and soul of an Italian team that will be gunning for third-place in the pool.
2015 Finish: Pool Phase Exit
The ‘Cannucks’ will be for a far better showing in this World Cup than they had in the last with their two-point defeat to Romania – who failed to qualify for this World Cup – still lingering in most Canadian rugby fans heads.
The best the Canadians can hope for at this year’s World Cup is a fourth-place finish. While they did give the United States a real run for their money, going down by just five points a few weeks ago, the Canadians are a team that will struggle against the big guns of World Rugby.
Player to Watch: DTH van der Merve
The South African-born Van Der Merve has become something of a cult figure out in Europe. He scored 20 tries for the Scarlets in just 41 games.
The winger-cum-centre is a lethal finisher and he’s likely to end the tournament as Canada’s top try-scorer.
2015 Finish: Pool Phase Exit
The Namibians will be looking to secure their first-ever World Cup win when they take to the fields of Japan.
Their best chance of achieving the above will come against the Canadians, while they will simply be looking to avoid 100 point hidings from New Zealand and South Africa.
While the Namibians are still a semi-pro side they do have some well-travelled players in their squad including South Africa domestic scene veterans Johan Deysel and Torsten van Jaarsveld.
Player to Watch: Johan Deysel
The centre has been playing good rugby for the Natal Sharks and his experience against Super Rugby quality players will be vital.
Deysel is a solid if not exceptional midfielder capable of putting in a solid defensive display as well as ball-carrying shift. If Namibia are to get the World Cup monkey off their back, then Deysel will have to play a blinder.
Pool Winner Verdict: New Zealand
As much as I would like to back the ‘Boks here I simply can’t as the Kiwis are a class above. The ‘Boks will finish second while Italy will take third. I’m predicting something of a shock when it comes to the battle to avoid the wooden spoon with my money on the Namibians to pip the Canadians.
Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets