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The Rugby World Cup needs some upsets

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John Beattie | 20:00 UK time, Sunday, 4 September 2011

I so hope there is an upset in this World Cup. Will the Rugby World Cup ever be won, say, by Russia or the United States?

I know lots of football fans and football journalists and their argument is always that rugby has never really spread beyond six or seven teams who might win a tournament, and, because rugby is the game it is, upsets are rare.

There are only 20 nations heading for New Zealand, and it's pretty much a recognisable list.

Nigeria, Kenya and China, ranked 61st in the world despite its resources, aren't there. The Germans haven't made it, and the Indians are watching it on telly like me. I am glancing down the IRB rankings as I write this.

New Zealand hosts the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup. Photo: Getty

New Zealand hosts the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup. Photo: Getty

Recent upsets include Italy beating France in the Six Nations just past, Samoa upsetting the Aussies this July, and Fiji beating Wales in 2007. But in general they don't happen that often.

Oh, you'll get an unpredictable result among the top nations, but Georgia beating England? It's practically unthinkable, and I say that as a former playing colleague of Richie Dixon, the wily Georgian coach and former Glasgow flanker.

It is genuinely extraordinary to me that the USA languish 18th in the rankings. How on earth can this be? With nearly 90,000 registered player they have more than double Scotland's resources.

The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that rugby actually needs an upset or two. An upset would prove the game is spreading throughout the world - though sevens is the principal vehicle for that due to its Olympic status in Brazil 2016.

Let's try to spot one. Pool A should be dominated by France and New Zealand. The Canadians don't have the playing numbers to cause a real fright yet, but the Tongans could beat anyone.

Pool B might have three teams - Argentina, England and Scotland - trying to be the top two. And I just think if there's going to be an upset or two one might come here. Georgia might, just might, scare someone.

Pool C must surely have Ireland and Australia out on top. One day Russia and the USA could dominate world rugby if they concentrate their resources but not yet. Could the USA beat Ireland?

Frankly, I would hate to be in Pool D. Who in their right mind wants to play against Fiji, South Africa, Samoa and even Namibia in successive fixtures. Could Samoa or Fiji beat Wales? Are South Africa worried enough to come a cropper?

I think Pool D might just give us a shock or two.

But I do believe we need more teams exerting pressure on what is, to all intents and purposes, a fairly predictable list of entrants.

Notwithstanding all of that, I am prepared, your honour, for a severe lack of sleep over the coming weeks.

I anticipate feeling dreadful, having tea and toast at three in the morning, falling asleep while on air at lunchtimes, and having that little adrenaline surge when I switch the telly on. I love it.

Why can't we have a year-long World Cup?

I just can't wait. Who do you think will cause an upset?

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think we will cause the biggest shock when we beat England but then again will it REALLY be that big a shock? Having watched the last 6 Nations then the preperations for the RWC I really fancy our chances. I think Australia will win it as New Zealand will bottle it somewhere along the line, just too much pressure on them. As for Germany not reaching the RWC that is due to the DRV (German Rugby Union) putting all their efforts into 7s as this is the latest cash cow in rugby and the DRV are skint so they are killing the 15s here. It is a real pity too as there was real progress being made in the last 10 years but now all you hear about is 7s..

  • Comment number 2.

    Would Italy beating Ireland in the last pool game of group C count as an upset? Despite Irish provincial sides dominating the Celtic League (not quite got used to calling it the Pro 12) and doing well in Europe, the national side has not had the warm up results that builds confidence. If the Italian 1st XV can stay injury free and Ireland pick up a couple of knocks to significant players then Italy could win.

    Keeping the Ireland theme going, given their recent run of form and that their former coach Eddie O'Sullivan is the coach of their first opponents, the game against the USA could be interesting - at least for the first half.

    From a Scottish perspective I worry about Georgia, but at least we'll have had a game under our belts to get rid of some rust. I think Andy Robinson will send the team out with the right game plan - keep the ball alive, change the point of attack, run them off their feet, and of course - avoid knock on's at all costs so there are no scrums! However, our speciality is knocking on just as we've created a try scoring opportunity so the chances of no scrums are slim. Apparently they have a player with the nickname Gorgodzilla - think I might watch this one from behind the couch.

  • Comment number 3.

    There are precedents for this; Sri Lanka were awarded Test Status in 1981 and initially in they were a team to make up the numbers but they steadily improved and started to make real progress in the 1990s.

    15 years later they won the World Cup beating Australia in the final in Pakistan in 1996. As a cricketing nation they have never looked back and undoubtedly their shock victory in 1996 put them firmly on the cricketing map.

    It did however take them 15 years to achieve so perhaps we need to look at the emerging countries such as the USA and Russia with that sort of time perspective.

  • Comment number 4.

    Is it worth considering increasing the number of teams competing in the World Cup? More teams means more matches, and more chance for upsets. Also, more teams will get the chance to play against the best sides in the world.

  • Comment number 5.

    I really wish people would stop saying the USA would dominate at rugby if they focussed their resources. Rugby is NOT just about finances and player numbers, if it was then you wouldn't need a world cup, just balance sheets!

    Americans tend to only be good at sports that have defined plays, even in basketball the point guard calls a play each time they attack. The US do not dominate in sports that involve real teamwork and more than one person thinking and making decisions at a time. I grew up in the states and love the country, and growing up I saw that the focus was always on being the best athletes (fitessed, fastest, strongest etc.) but not on individuals making decisions or teams flowing together. In fact in american football (the sport many point to being similar to rugby) every step, for every player , for EVERY play is carefully choreographed and planned, the only person that makes a decision is the QB.

    Rugby is not about money and numbers it is about passion, commitment, teamwork and pride and that is why I love it. For me it is not only the best sport in the world but also the best community!

    I agree with you John I wish the RWC was on all year round!

  • Comment number 6.

    Never mind one of shocks, when are we likely to see a World Cup winer outside of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. England's win was a flouk.

    New Zealand will win it this year without even getting out of first gear, if they don't it'll be the end of a few careers.

  • Comment number 7.

    More exposure for more teams would be sensible for the WC. Using the same numbers and tournament structure as football world cup might help. (8 groups of 4 teams, with top 2 qualifying). This may mean that the usual suspects will walk the groups, but will expose other countries to the global game - Kenya, Nigeria, Korea, China, Spain, Germany, Norway, even the smaller Pacific nations such as Cook Islands, Nuie, PNG and Vanuatu.

  • Comment number 8.

    In the group, I think Wales are going to have a rough ride, Ireland might choke and Georgia could scare Scotland, England and Argentina. Scotland might have the advantage of playing them in their first game, but the Argies and English will face a ring ready team. I can see the Pacific Islanders frightening the Celtic countries. Equally, England might not make it out of their group. Don't see the SH sides choking until they are out of the group stages.

    There need to be more countries at the World Cup, playing international rugby more often. More groups with less teams [e.g. 8 groups of 4 teams, 32 teams] to bring in countries like Brazil, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Morocco, Czech Republic, Kazakstan.

    The top seeded teams should be compelled to play their games in a shorter time frame, giving weaker teams the most rest time.

    New Zealand's schedule compared to Canada's is a disgrace.

    If the Kiwis do win a place in the history books, there should be a little asterix next to their name, saying, 'cheated before the tournament even started'

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the simple answer as to why there are rarely upsets in rugby is that the game is a high scoring one where luck is pretty much ruled out. If you have, say, Scotland vs France playing football, there is a chance, albeit slim, that Scotland can win (as happened in recent years) by luck. Scotland soaked up French pressure and took a punt from the halfway line and scored...

    In rugby, if one team is significantly better than the other, then that one lucky break in the game will rarely significantly impact the outcome. Whereas in football, where a 2-0 can be considered a "good win" and anything more than 3-0 is a "humping", one lucky goal can make a massive difference.

    Because the better team on the day is almost certainly going to win in rugby, it makes spread of the sport to new nations more difficult. If teams turn up to play against someone that is 5 ranks or more higher than them, it's almost inevitable that they will lose - that isnt great for the fans who are needed to spread the game.

    What the high scoring nature of the game does bring, though, is that when teams are fairly evenly matched, there are very often tight finishes to the games that can easily swing either way - which DOES make good viewing for the fans (despite the fact that the one Im thinking of was Scotland losing to Wales after giving up a healthy lead with about 7 mins to go).

    It would be great to see the likes of the USA get to the quarters or semis, taking a few big scalps along the way, but unless their ranking does not reflect the true ability of the team, it wont happen.

    If the points system was changed radically, perhaps it could happen, but then I think we would lose the edge-of-your-seat finishes to the matches between more evenly ranked teams.

  • Comment number 10.

    America and Canada are both very competitive at hockey and rugby, unlike baseball, basketball, gridiron or football in which America dominate. America vs Canada hockey matches are huge TV business, on both sides of the 49th parallel, so it would be a great way to introduce rugby.

    There are surprisingly big gaps in the North American sporting calendar, so a 1 week, 7 game CAN-AM rugby clash, marketed as a one week, NHL Stanley Cup style, seven game series.

    The CAN-AM one week series:

    Monday; Canada vs America Full Test, Toronto
    Tuesday; America A vs Canada A, NYC
    Wednesday; Canada vs America U18, Quebec
    Thursday; America vs Canada, Wheelchair Rugby, Boston
    Friday; Canada Women vs American Women, Vancouver
    Saturday; America vs Canada U21, LA
    Sunday; Canada vs America Full Test, Buffalo

    Winner takes best of 7 and the women and wheelchair results would be ground breakingly inclusive and as important to the final outcome as the male teams. It would be taking place across the whole continent switching location from night to night and in the event of a looming NHL or NFL lockout, it could catch on like wildfire. You wouldn't need anything more than the existing American and Canadian rugby teams are already able to provide.

    The television money might help them start a small North America league. Toronto, Quebec, Montreal and Vancouver as well as New York, Chicago, Boston and LA could definitely make up a part-time professional league like the CFL, and bring their players up to world class standard.

  • Comment number 11.

    It's a strange question as a few of the potential upsets probably wouldn't technically be upsets. I mean when Scotland play Argentina which ever side wins could be seen as an upset. Argentina are technically the top seed in the group but Scotland are currently ranked higher in IRB world rankings. So would either team winning really be counted as an upset? Equally if Fiji or Samoa were to beat Wales would that really be an upset? Samoa just beat Australia and are looking strong and whilst Fiji do seem to be dipping somewhat they still drew with Wales in Cardiff this year so in the effective home environment of New Zealand if they won could that be counted as an upset?

    I suppose the only genuine upsets where there is really a chance of happening would be Tonga beating France, Italy beating Ireland and Argentina or Scotland beating England. The rest I'd say would have no chance of happening or simply wouldn't be an upset.

  • Comment number 12.

    Never mind one of shocks, when are we likely to see a World Cup winer outside of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. England's win was a flouk.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Strange comment that being that England were the No. 1 team at the time and had been for some time beating the tri-nations home and away and widely being recognised as the top team in the world. So how it could be a fluke that the pre-tournament favourites and No. 1 team in the world (at the time) won the world cup seems a strange statement.

    That aside you're probably right that it's highly unlikely that a team, outside of those that have won it all ready, will win a world cup in the forseeable future. The only possible exception I'd say is France who I could see getting it together at some point.

  • Comment number 13.

    For me I think the so called 'upset' may come from Pool C with Italy beating Ireland or Pool D with Samoa and/or Fiji beating Wales and maybe, just maybe one of them sneaking a win against South Africa. (a long shot I know but fingers crossed)

    I also think that Georgia could cause an upset against Scotland or Argentina if it is a tight game with 10 mins to go and they are still in touch. Purely because at that point Scotland and Argentina will start to panic.

    Also could France play so well that they beat New Zealand one week and so poor that Tonga or Japan beat them the following week??? Maybe, stranger things have happened in the past where the French are concerned.

  • Comment number 14.

    As for development of the game the IRB missed a trick when they gave the 2011 WC to New Zealand instead of Japan. Also I think if they had given Italy 2015 to follow on from that then they could be seen to be expanding the game.

    People talking about a 32 team format are clearly well intended but not thinking of the consequences. How would some poor bloke who's a prop from Kenya, Germany or China fare agains 'The Beast' from SA, Englands Sherridan, Franch or Argentine front rows too would just destroy them. To the point of it being seriously dangerous.

    I like the idea of a 2 tier World Cup where the teams ranked 1 - 12 a year before automatically Qualify for the main RWC, but then after that all teams from 13-36 play in a 4 pools of 6 tournament and the 8 Quater finalists are then drawn in the main RWC. This surely allows more teams a crack at the World Cup and allows the likes of Georgia, Romanina, Russia, USA some bragging rights if they win the tier 2 world cup.

  • Comment number 15.

    I like the idea of the Canada USA super Rugby week and think if the 2 countries combined to produce aa league it would help their international development.

    I have played alongside and agains Americans and Canadians at club and uni level and many are good players, but the current laws regarding them the same as SANZAR players is not helping their player development as no clubs in European to flight will sign them. The IRB, French Top 14, PRO12 and Aviva Premiership needs to get together address the problems and change this now.

    Also what about an Americas League for Argentina Jaguars, Uraguay, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Canaga and USA to play in? A similar style to the 6Nations B in europe?

  • Comment number 16.

    Although group D looks tough, Wales could loose to either samoa or fiji and still qualify, eg they lose to fiji but samoa beats fiji and wales beat samoa and they al loose to the boks and beat namibia.

    I think its a huge possibility for there to be a new world cup winner, Wales, Scotland, ireland, argentina, probably italy and most definately france all are capable of beating anyone in a one off match, thier problem is putting together the 2 or 3 big wins needed after the group stages .

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with 14. Hookers_Do_It_Best. Why does NZ or England need to hold the RWC again (England have effectively already partly held 2 tournaments)? Do the IRB not think that Japan, Italy or for that matter USA or Canada, have the infrastructure to hold a RWC? It can hardly be for money, or else why NZ? The country cannot boast the population to generate mega-bucks, and the stadiums are not huge (Eden Park being the only one over 40,000 seats).

    A 2 tier RWC all played within the auspices of 1 tournament could work, but only if it is not seperated from the big boys rounds by any significant time or distance.

  • Comment number 18.

    #12 Yes, fluke since the win have went backwards at a rate of knots. Largest playing pool, but picks foreigners, says everything.

  • Comment number 19.

    dont write off scotland theve beaten some of the best teams in the world in the last few years consistacy is their problem when they have a good game it brillant to watch but when there playing badly they are very bad theyve got some very good players I think they might cause an upset or two if they are focused enough they wont beat wales though they never do

  • Comment number 20.

    In my opinion there is going to be more than one upset this time round.

    In group A Tonga will upset France. NZ and Tonga going through.

    In group B England will fail to qualify losing to both Argentina and Scotland. Scotland will top the group with Argentian runners up. Georgia will scare everyone, but only manage one win of Romania.

    Group C will also have an up set with Australia cruising to first place and a very triumpant Italy pipping poor Ireland.

    Group D will have SA going through with Samoa topping the group.

    This means that lowly paced six nations Scotland and Italy will be the only QF representatives from Europe.

    NZ v Arg; Sco v Tonga; Aus v SA; Samoa v Ita

    NZ v Samoa
    Sco v Au

    New Zealand v Australia final. NZ to win at Eden Park with plenty to spare.

  • Comment number 21.

    last king of englandshire

    In 2003 NZ were no 1 in the rankings 2 weeks before the wc final. England had been the best side in the world for the previous 2 years but they were a team on the slide. just won the wc in the nick of time, but well deserved for the work over the previous years. Although they were fortunate not to meet NZ in the final, after the Ausies beat NZ because Umaga was injured and Mortlock played a blinder.

    Upsets

    Wales will not get through the group. Too many injured players included in their squad, and leaving Martin Williams is a big mistake. Jenkins with no game time and A Jones with one game, plus the loss of S Jones at ten , no Byrne at 15 requires Hook to move from 10. What a disaster.

    Like to think Argentina will miss out in pool B with Scotland and England going through, in that order but we have to take our chances better for that to happen .

    Perhaps Ireland are just a bit over the hill and Italy will get the second place.

    Otherwise the rule that says the better team usually wins a rugby match applies.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hookers_Do_It_Best......... great point No.14, I believe that it's only a matter of time before we see a fatality on the pitch and especially if mis matches are allowed
    Scrums being pushed backwords at speed can be very dangerous

    And any one else who likes a bet how about 11/4 for Wales not to qualify for the quarters......a brutal group and Samoa and Fiji can be devastating in open play and are improving on set piece and discipline at the breakdown

    Thelastkingofengland...........spot on , as much as it hurts me England peaked perfectly for the 2003 cup and had probably 6 or 7 of the best players in the world at that time.

  • Comment number 23.

    #6 - deluded. The English in 2003 was not a fluke. Any other result would have been an upset.

    I like that a lot of people seem to think Scotland can do well but I'm not convinced they'll make the QF's. Argentina should be up and running quickly.

    Anybody that thinks Georgia will beat England is welcome to contact me and put as much money as you like on a bet. Never going to happen.

    Some good ideas to speed the development of the minnow nations but sadly I don't think the big guys in world rugby will be willing to supplement the pre-world cup-cup so we might have to rely on the power of the volunteers at junior club level and sevens to spread the rugby word.

    Wish they'd give the 2nd tier 6-nations more exposure.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am enjoying all of the commentary (both here and from Jerry Guscott) which is effectively writing off Scotland as being able to ''upset" England at the RWC. It reminds me of times in the past when Scotland were written off against the Auld Enemy.
    Scottish teams seem to revel in being the underdog and continue to go about their business in a quiet manner, allowing the opposition to preen their feathers in public before Scotland go about winning the game at hand.

    What will we see from Scotland at this year's RWC?

    We will see a determined Scotland, a composed Scotland, a disciplined Scotland, a Scotland that will not panic in the last 10 minutes (we all remember the pain of Cardiff last year), or when backs are against the wall. We will see a Scotland team that will have a nation unified behind them, a nation that is proud of its team, a team we consider to be our own. A team who, whatever the outcome of the group stages, will be able to hold its head high knowing that it has committed 100% to their cause, to their team, to their country.
    I will watch, and feel every bone crunching tackle. I will applaud, cheer, scream, laugh and cry with my team. As the SRU mantra says - When Scotland play, we all play!
    Alba gu brath - Come on Scotland!

  • Comment number 25.

    24 ExQVPiper. I am very hopeful.

  • Comment number 26.

    "It is genuinely extraordinary to me that the USA languish 18th in the rankings. How on earth can this be? With nearly 90,000 registered player they have more than double Scotland's resources."

    John,
    I do not follow your compraisons sometimes, it is not always about the number...
    Ok Rugby is a team sport but,
    In athletics Daegu 2011, JAMAICA! N°4, Germany N°5, GB N°6, China N°7, Australia N°8..........France N°18 (167 000 registered in 2006),how on earth can this be?

    About the RWC,
    Sorry to be so conservative, narrow minded, what you want, but actually I'm not mad about the idea to open Rugby widely as Football is, and I would be sad to see the historic Rugby nations behind China and United States in 20 years...

    About the upset in this WC, I think France could be the surprise!

  • Comment number 27.

    How do the smaller countries gain experience of playing the top nations when every autumn the Southern hemisphere tour the UK? It used to be one of Aus/NZ/SA, and a ouple of lower ranked nations (Canada and Romania spring to mind) That gave the home nations a chance to try out new players and the visitors a match against the top level teams they only meet at World Cups. Need proof that playing top teams leads to improvement - Italy nuff said! Of course, more people will pay more to see Aus/NZ/SA...

  • Comment number 28.

    Scots7nutjob... England's draw is as favourable in terms of rest times between matches is that of NZ.
    Sounds like your jealousy of NZ rugby has got the better of you before the competition even starts.

  • Comment number 29.

    I would like to see the tournament expanded to 32 teams with the same format as the Fifa world cup. At least, then there would be more of a chance of smaller shocks, with teams such as Japan and Georgia reaching the last 16.

    For me big shocks come and go, eg. No-one expected France to beat NZ in 2007.

    The France 2007 tournament was a SUPERB, unpredictable tournament we are unlikely to see the likes of any time soon.
    For me in 2007 the best shocks were France-NZ, the Ireland-Georgia was close and the Tonga-SA was also mighty close! Of course there was Argentina-France shock, Fiji-Wales shock, Australia-England shock, France-England shock maybe. That's a lot of shocks, and I don't think we'll see any of that in 2007.

  • Comment number 30.

    I don't think Wales losing to a pacific island team can count as a shock, since they have lost world cups games to Samoa and Fiji in the past.
    Samoa playing in NZ will be like a home game and Wales will be in for a rough ride in group D, with all the other teams favouring a physical approach.

    Having said that, the Welsh should have enough in the set plays and back line to make it through.

  • Comment number 31.

    "I know lots of football fans and football journalists and their argument is always that rugby has never really spread beyond six or seven teams who might win a tournament"

    Since the rugby world cup began the six tournaments have been won by four different teams. Exactly the same number of different teams who won the first six football world cups. The last six football world cups, held over the same time period as the rugby world cups, have been won by five different teams. While football's low scoring allows for the odd upset it's generally the same teams that win everytime. Eight different winners in the history of the tournament. The last two "new winners" were Spain, who had never won, and France, who won it at home. Until Spain the only football team to win the world cup outside of their home continent was Brazil whereas the rugby world cup has already been won away by Australia, England and South Africa.

    There have been upset victories in the RWC. Usually involving France or Wales. The last RWC had Argentina beating France, Fiji beating Wales and France memorably beating New Zealand. Tonga were also only one over hit crossfield kick away from beating South Africa and thereby qualifying in place of evetual finalists England.

    So football isn't really as varied as it makes out, it just markets the upsets better.

  • Comment number 32.

    For the whingers about the cup being in NZ and the schedule being rigged in our favour.

    Are you really proposing that the country consistently ranked the best over the last 100 years should never get to host the World Cup just because it won't make enough money or spread the game? Is that seriously all the cup is about? In that case, lets just hold it every time in the USA and be done with it.

    As for the schedule, I'm sure no other host country for any sporting event has ever done that before. I'm sure England never would. Yeah, right. It's the same schedule for all the major teams. It's also largely dictated by the TV audience, who would you prefer to play in the prime Saturday/Sunday night game slots (9am UK time Sat and Sun), one of the big nations or Namibia vs Georgia? Or would you prefer that NZ or England play in a Wednesday afternoon slot in some small town stadium that shows at 3am Wed UK time? No, you maximise your marquee names for the maximum audiance.

  • Comment number 33.

    I don't think a 32 team tournament would work, using the fotball world cup as a template you'd be playing every 4-5 days for the first 3 weeks. The players who survived uninjured to the knockouts would be exhausted and quality would drop. Given the increased physical demands it would mean the minnows would be even less likely to upset the more physically fit and prepared major nations who have more playing depth.

  • Comment number 34.

    Here is my idea for an improved 2 tier world cup.

    Teams Ranked #1 - 12 in the world 18 months before are Drawn into 4 pools of 5 with 2 free slots per pool.

    Teams Ranked # 13 - 32 Play in the Tier 2 Competition 1 year before the Tier 1 Copetition starts.

    Teir 2 competition is the same format as current world cup 4 pools of 5 teams, top 2 qualify for the QF's.

    4 Teams who qualify for the QF's but lose are drawn as 5th seed in Each pool of teir 1 competition.

    Winners of tier 2 Competition choose which pool they want to play in.
    Then runners up of tier 2 choose pool, then 3rd place, 4th fill remaining slot.

    This would reward the winners and runner up by letting them choose the group they play in at the tier 1 competition and give them a chance of being most competative and maybe making it out of the group.

  • Comment number 35.

    porridge_times @20 : Touch of national bias I feel. The only strong points to the Argentinian and Georgia teams is their scrum. Englands is as good if not better than both of them where as the less said about Scotlands scrum the better. England won't lose a pool match with Argentina in second.

    Australia, no scrum and no kicker worthy of the name. France, depends which team shows up but out in the quarters or semi's. Ireland, all heart not enough talent. Wales, sorry but your perceived national right to be good at rugby should have died in the 80's. Win against England in August was us playing badly. South Africa, not enough strength in depth and not playing well enough to get past the quarters. That just leaves the All Blacks and as has been shown in the last few weeks they are beatable. England for the trophy it is then....fingers crosses, touch wood, don't walk under any ladders for a few weeks if you're an England fan.

  • Comment number 36.

    The beauty of my proposed new system is that it would allow some of the smaller nations a chance of glory, whilst broadening the game and providing more quality opposition for the likes of Portugal, Canada, Russia, Namibia, Uruguay etc.

    It would also give them something realistic to play for and reward development. The IRB could use a tier 2 tournament to give better exposure to more nations and develop the game globally.

    How often do the USA play Georgia or Portugal? How often do Russia play Namibia or Uraguay? Unless its a world cup match the answer is NEVER. More matches against good opposition improves the standards and develops the game.

    And for all those who argue about the cost - It would be able to cover the costs through TV rights as we'd all watch it if it was competative. Also the USA & Russian TV networks would pay lots more interest (and money) if their country has a genuine chance of winning.

  • Comment number 37.

    bob... biased I maybe. But England in my opinion have being going back the way. Scotland's scrum has creaked a couple times, but make no mistake their mobile pack is more than capable of teaking on and beating England and Argentina in an arm wrestle.
    England do not have anything like the quality in the pack of their 2003 side and I feel that complacency will be their downfall.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ #37 porridge_times
    Sheridan, Thompson, Cole starting with Stevens and Hartley on the Bench. Who would you drop from that 5 for a Scotland front row player? Answer none of them.
    Lawes & Palmer would not be dropped either, tho I would have Richie Gray as my 2nd Row sub.
    Barclay vs Moody - pretty even but opt for Moody's Experience and Leadership
    Croft vs Vernon - Croft every Day
    Easter vs Brown - Brown but only Jjust
    Hines vs Haskell on the Bench - Hines, but again only Just

    So set peice wise its a no-brainer and mobility wise its close. Not sure you really would want to arm wrestle with Sheridan anyway, the guy benches 38stone!

  • Comment number 39.

    There will most likely be a couple of upsets in the pool stages and you'd probably back it in Pool D as it's the only one with 4 sides that has a realistic shot of getting out of the group.

    That said to look at how the lesser teams are improving shouldn't we also be looking at by how much they were beaten by? Since professionalism the big teams can be seen racking up 100+ scores in the group stages and winning by 50+ points fairly regularly. I don't imagine there will be 1 100+ score and only a few 50+ points wins this time which would be a sure sign of advancement.

  • Comment number 40.

    I hope New Zealand wins the cup however, when it comes to the knockout stages then anything could happen, for example French wins over New Zealand [although in 2007 aided by some blant missed calls]. The Australians for me are the team most likely to upset the NZ apple-cart. They're peaking at the right time. England could also do well but, if teams don't concede penalties to England they will struggle to score points via tries. The only other Northern Hemisphere team with a remote chance is France.

  • Comment number 41.

    Would not swap any of the English pack for the Scots pack. As a unit I think the Scots pack are more than a match for England.

    Moody looks finished and even if he was fit which I doubt he will be he is not as good an openside as Barclay.

    But since you have chosen to see Vernon as six there is no point discussing it with you because you obviously don't know the Scots players.
    Tell you what though, fast as Croft may be for a big guy... he is poopy de poop at the breakdown.

  • Comment number 42.

    One thing about being in Group D - it won't be a shock if Wales get turned over, as John quite rightly pointed out that who would want to play SA, Fiji, Manu Samoa and Namibia in consecutive matches?

    Somewhere along the line an emerging nation will get away to a flier against a "big team", who will then panic and implode. As most of the coverage is of the usual blinkered "England looking good to challenge for the title - and there are some other teams playing too" version, let's hope it's them! (As the "big team", not the emerging nation!) Maybe that's why the Celtic nations get behind their opponents, as it only ever seems to be about England and not the northern hemisphere?

    Spreadsheet for results ready and waiting, bet laid (in 2008!) and anticipation growing. And I understand that ITV have different commentators, so we can even think about watching the coverage with the sound on!

    New Zealand's to lose, Australia to come mighty close, France to be best of the rest.

  • Comment number 43.

    [i]It is genuinely extraordinary to me that the USA languish 18th in the rankings. How on earth can this be? With nearly 90,000 registered player they have more than double Scotland's resources.[/i]

    How many of them take up the game young? And I mean primary school young. There'll be very, very few. Rugby is a very technical sport. This will be a problem for any nation trying to break into the top tier. Having played against American/Canadian/Georgian teams - nations from which players, generally, don't take up rugby at a young age - you can see that their basic skills (giving and taking a pass, kicking game especially) just aren't there. It'll come down to coaching, too. Their coaching won't be as good as we have in tier one nations.

    These countries obviously have no problem physically.

  • Comment number 44.

    100% correct there Rob, but to be fair to England, English media and their fan base. They have a reasonably good record at world cups and have actually won once and been runners up twice.
    However, I don't think that this current team are anywhere near the quality of 2003 and are probably weaker in the forwards than four years ago.
    If they can get ball to Ashton and Foden then they might be in with a chance... I just don't think their pack is good enough this time round.

  • Comment number 45.

    Scotland beating England certainly would be an upset but I just can't see it happening. Scotland haven't beaten England for over 3 years now, have never beaten them at a world cup, England won the Six Nations whilst Scotland finished 5th, which is the same position they've occupied since the 2007 Six Nations where they finished 6th.

    Yes they're improving under Robinson and have recorded some good wins in recent years but England are also improving and are clearly the better team overall. Could Scotland beat England in a one off match? Well yes but history and form are against it. So I think it would be fair to say it would be an upset.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ Porridge_Times
    As someone who's had the pleasure of working north of the border, I genuinely wish the Scots well against exeryone except England and Georgia (My 2nd Team). But sometimes your countrymens blinkered anti-English patriotism is ridiculous. I remember the Scottish Lads wearing Germany and Anyone But England shirts at the Football world cup. You boys would cheer for anyone but us, where as we prefer to support England then the underdog.

    Earlier I was looking at Vernon as a 6 because I believe Barclay is the better openside and Brown is the better 8. Though granted it is not as Robinson may play them.

  • Comment number 47.

    Also to say that Croft, one of the best 2009 Lions Tourist's, is not up to it at the breakdown is ridiculous. He's a Leicester player who has been brought up on the coaching and tutilage of Dean Richards, Richard Cockerill, Neil Back, Lewis Moody and Daz Garforth. Forward play is what Leicster do best.

    And for the record your pack is ok, definately better than Ireland's, but you got shoved around a bit by Italy, just wait until big Andy Sheridan gets hold of one of your front row boys, you may as well be taking a bread knife to a tank fight if he's in the mmod to play, just ask Matt Dunning and co. from Australia what its like when he's got the bit between his teeth.

  • Comment number 48.

    Not sure if you remember but the Lions got beat in 2009 and Croft was not that good and to suggest Dean Richards in the same sentence is like saying he is a good cheat. He is quick, but offers very little in the loose and like I say he is rank at the breakdown.
    Sheridan is vastly over rated at scrum time and lets face it he might be strong, but has to walk between each phase. When the pace of the game is upped he disappears completely. Dunning was not the prop who Sheridan gave a hard time to. Beginning to think you don't really know the game that very well.

  • Comment number 49.

    Brown is a better six than he is an eight and Vernon is not a six. What I think is bothering you is that their is a slim chance Scotland might just pip Blighty here and you could be facing the AB's.
    We all know what happens when the Guffaws meet the AB's especially in World Cup Time. For once I think your guys will be home before our guys... but if we don't then so be it... if your guys don't make the QF's. Well well well.

  • Comment number 50.

    You will notice I said 'Matt Dunning and Co.' Implying he gave all of the Aussie front row a hard time.
    Yes he is not as athletic around the park as Gethin Jenkins, but if my prop is faster about the park than the winger I'd want to know why he's not putting in more effort in his scrummaging.
    Sheridan is the Ronseal Prop - He does exactly what it says on the tin - Scrums, Lineouts, Rucks and Mauls, the odd carry of slow ball in the loose. That's all I want from a prop, anything more is a bonus.

  • Comment number 51.

    Also as a small, lightweight, mobile hooker (5'10", 14st, 12.2 for the 100m) I like big solid props, who guarantee a solid platform to win ball at scrums and lineouts. After that he can do what he wants in the loose because I'm running around like a lunatic causing havoc for the opposition. So long as he looks after me at set peice time I will defend the big lumbering prop to my dying days.

  • Comment number 52.

    Porridge I think most people on here accept that Scotland have a slim chance of beating England (though I would say I always thought Blighty was Britain rather than England but could be wrong) but it is just that a slim chance.

    Scotland do have some good players, especially in the forwards, but there is a notable lack of creativity, especially in the backs, and if you want to try and play a heavy duty slugging and kicking game then England are past masters at it. So you'd have to favour England to win on 'neutral' (OK an England team in New Zealand is unlikely to face a neutral crowd against anyone other than perhaps Australia) ground.

    I would say though that personally I'm backing Scotland to go through as runners up and they'll be too good for Argentina. With that said likely opponents of new Zealand in the next round should see Scotland keeping up their steady World Cup record, quarter finals but no further. But hey we haven't even had the first haka of the world cup yet so anything could happen.

  • Comment number 53.

    @ #52 TheLastKingofEngland

    Thank you, you have managed to put into words what I was getting at. Scotland are a decent team and I wish them well, but I think we are most likely to top the group with them 2nd. And when they play the Kiwi's I will be cheering for Scotland.

    Tho watch out for Georgia, thay may cause a few suprises against Scotland and Argentina. Especially if all scotland are doing is looking at the England game. Just ask Ireland what happened when the underestimated the Lelos.

  • Comment number 54.

    There is always scope for upsets at world cup time. Personally I believe there will be several upsets at the world cup. In pool A I can see Tonga possibly upsetting France and putting them out. Pool B there is a slim chance that Georgia may upset Scotland or Argentina or maybe both. In pool C I see Italy beating Ireland to qualify. In pool D it is almost too hard to pick two winners from the five nations as all the nations in the group can be very dangerous but I can see Wales crashing out of that pool and one of the pacific island nations taking the second quarter-final birth along with South Africa.

    It has been suggested that teams that are small nations are unlikely to challenge in the world cup and this seems unfair. comment six suggests that the world cup can only be won by three nations which is complete rubbish as I believe that the pacific island nations and the teams from the six nations could also be contenders. It is quite clear that you believe that South Africa's victory in 1995 wasn't a flouk and England's was, this defies logic as South Africa weren't favoured by anyone to make the quarter finals let alone win the tournament. They were one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament and many people before the tournament argued that if it hadn't been for qualifying by right as hosts they wouldn't have qualified at all. Why can't another team do a south-africa and claim the title from obscurity?

  • Comment number 55.

    What makes you think that Scotland will be only looking at the England match? From everything what I've read from English, fan base and punters alike and certain players is that they have already qualified for the QF's.
    Andrew Sheridan has only really dominted a prob who is reknown for buckling... namely Al Baxter. Personally I think that Jacobson offers more in the loose and can hold his own in the scrum... Dickinson is not that great a scrummager but offers a lot more in the loose which will help Scotland with the high tempo game that they will look to use in NZ.

  • Comment number 56.

    I agree with many other posters here in thinking that Group D is going to be brutal for Wales, and even if they do qualify, they'll be so battered they'll have no chance against Australia.

    Group C is looking very fluid. Scotland could as easily come top as they could come third. I'm hoping for Scotland and Argentina to go through, if only to wipe the smiles off the faces of the English press who seem to think they've already qualified. My thoughts hark back to 2010 (Anyone remember how all the newspapers were saying "this time its England's"?) because if England were to do what they did then, they are out. That's what I love about Rugby. In the Football World Cup, England played about the worst that set of players could have, but they were facing USA, Algeria and Slovenia. If the English rugby team do that, they've got Scotland and Argentina to mess with.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hookers do it best

    We are not all anti English, I for one was delighted that they won in 2003 esp for the players who thoroughily deserved it. However the english media is a different story and the main reason why there is so much anti english feeling around events such as RWC, football etc. The BBC bias on what are supposed to be national ( UK) news or sports coverage treats the smaller home nations with contempt at best, and ignores their existence at worst.

    Although to be fair I would rather listen to the Engish commentry and opinion on Rugby matches than the ill informed amatuer ramblings of Scots presenters on either channel.

    Group B is a lottery, with any 2 from 3 to go through in any order.

  • Comment number 58.

    #57 Got to disagree with you there - i'd take listening to the commentary of Andrew Cotter over Eddie Butler any day and would prefer a Scottish viewpoint in the studio (Andy Nicol & Doddie Weir) over Guscott and Jonathan Davies any day of the week. Davies is patheticaly biased and can't keep his emotions in check which is very unprofessional and Guscott is just dismissive and would clearly rather talk about anything else!
    Brian Moore - who i hated as a player - is a very good comentator and says it as he sees it regardless of whether it's England/Scotland/Wales etc. My only fault of his would be that he's incredibly negative and picks out teams weak points over the good points which can be a bit repetitive - other than that i think he's by far the best comentator we have in the Northern Hemisphere.

    As for the world cup - glorious failure for us Scots against the English (Wilkinson pen/DG in last 5 minutes) but we'll beat Argentina to then play NZ for the 6th time in 7 world cups, 3 of which they've put us out of!

  • Comment number 59.

    Maybe it's just me and I have a blind-spot but I don't see it! Every four years, before a ball is so much as kicked (or should that be "passed forward" as we're in NZ this time ;-)) there is a sudden burst of outrage that England fans have the temerity to support and even fancy their team a bit.

    I read the rugby coverage a good deal and I really haven't come across anything of the "who's coming second" style that supposedly sparks off these endless debates. More often than not in these threads, a non-English contributor does the old debating trick of manufacturing the supposed insult/arrogance/snobbery etc etc (delete as appropriate) and sets the whole thing off. This is usually based around English commentators/papers/ex-players talking about England in the English media (to think of it!) rather than giving exhaustive equal coverage to all teams (I must look for that in-depth expose on England in the Western Mail).

    Most England fans are realistic about the chances of their team but where there's hope, folk always weave the threads of "ifs" together into a cloak of triumph! All fans do it in all sports so why should England fans be so uniquely arrogant/deluded/snobby etc etc (delete as applicable).

    I disagree with those who say that upsets are unlikely (why are they called upsets when they are the very essence of a game played with passion and why, in all probability, we watch in the first place). The IRB rankings are based around large numbers of games that, while full of great play, lack the crucial element of "do-or-die" that characterises a knock-out contest. They don't have as much bearing as some would like to think which, with every respect, is probably where NZ fans have been making a mistake all these years. When the chips are down, unfancied teams can really pull it out of the bag and it doesn't have to be one of the supposed minnows. Who gave England a chance against Australia in 2007. Who gave France a chance against New Zealand. Big sides but upsets against the form-book nonetheless.

    Anyway...it hasn't even started yet. Let's hope that the team who plays best on the day wins the game and the best team in the competition wins the cup (best not necessarily meaning "top-ranked"). As for England...not this time I think but some of the players maturing into the 2015 contest give hope for the future. Just so long as I don't have to hear the words "the try is being referred to the Australian Fourth Official" again!

    Good luck everyone! Enjoy yourselves!

  • Comment number 60.

    58
    sorry I had forgotten about Cotter very listenable, not sure about his technical knowledge but certainly unbiased, but perhaps best at golf. The reason i prefer the English or Welsh view of our rugby is that we hear it warts and all. Brian Moore is a must just to get the blood boiling. Sean fitz, michael lynagh, F piennar, are always good for a realistic half time assessment.

  • Comment number 61.

    So many people on this forum seem to be arguing why 'their' team should win. There's a real lack of objective analysis going on here. Will there be upsets? Statistically, the chances are high for at least one but it's unlikely there will be many. Who will win? Again, history points towards the southern hemisphere teams and not a rank outsider.

    However, if we were to accept that there are parallels with the world of soccer/football then we unearth some interesting possibilities. In years gone by, the Football World Cup was won by the traditional powers (Italy, Germany, Brazil etc). Ditto for the European championship (Germany, Spain etc). However, in recent history that began to change with the democratisation of knowledge (coaching, skills etc) and the globalisation of the sport. The outcome was significant. First time winners of the European Championship (Denmark, Greece). Same for World cup France, Spain... So, it is possible that the same will happen with rugby. But not yet. Maybe in 8-12 years time. Places like the Pacific islands nations, Georgia, Argentina will most likely present some serious contenders by 2023. In the meantime, expect a conventional outcome from this RWC.

  • Comment number 62.

    Just out of interest who else would like to see a 2 tier world cup system as I was talking about earlier?

    Also who else is actively supporting a so called 'Minnow' as there 2nd team?

    And finally have been looking for a Georgia shirt so I can support them properly when they aren't playing England. Anyone know where I can find one in large (46" Chest size)?

  • Comment number 63.

    Anglophone... I agree with you in saying that every English fan has the right -and justly so going on previous World Cup success and placings - that their team is in with a chance.
    However, what I've noticed is that if some put the point across that currently England are not that far in front of Arg or Sco and the group could really go either way its met with contempt and ridicule.
    Most of the press that I've read has England through to the QF's and eyeing up Australia in the semi final. Yes many thought that England would not get that far last time and they made it to the final and could have won it.
    This current side are nowhere near as gnarled in the forwards as four years ago and I think that is where they could very well get caught out. They do not have the right ballance in the back row... scrum half and midfield look ropey. Give that Scotland beat England every now and then and it is getting close being now rather than then... I'm feeling confident about their chances.

  • Comment number 64.

    Supporting Scotland is minnow enough for me Hooker. But will have to give my voice to Georgia and Romana against Eng and Arg. Samoa will be my second choice, but I must admit that having lived in NZ for just over ten years and greatly admiring their contribution to world rugby down through the years I would be delighted if they won it.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ Porridge_times

    Does that mean if scotland beat england that we are also minnows?

    I think it is fair to say if scotland were currently in pool B instead of Italy or Ireland they would have a chance of coming top and qualification was guarenteed. Also your going on about how your going to qualify from group D.

    So me thinks you doth protest to much to make a case for you being 'Minnows'

  • Comment number 66.

    @Johnnyrugby - I presume when you say "we beat England" you mean Scotland? Of course it would be an upset if that happened - England are clearly a much better side than Scotland, have a higher world ranking, have won more tournaments, are the reigning 6 Nations champions and have a much better recent success rate in Eng v Scot games. So IF that were to happen - it would be seen by the majority as an upset - but probably seen to all Scottish fans as progress rather than just pulling one out of the bag on the day. I think it will make for a tight, but interesting game. Argentina could "upset" Scotland also I think, but probably not England.
    Italy could "upset" Ireland. Probably not Australia.
    Pool D, as Mr Beattie has rightly pointed out, is where the "upsets" could happen. Samoa and Fiji are capable of pulling out big performances on their day - the same way Wales are capable of pulling out dreadful performances from time to time - and who knows, if Samoa and Fiji have all their players fit and Wales get a couple of injuries - it could be all over for Cymru

  • Comment number 67.

    Hooker if it helps you over the deaft better... buy all means see yourself as minnows.


    rugbytomc... currently England are NOT a much better side than Scotland. Better and favourites to win without a doubt, but to suggest they are much better is stretching things somewhat. The variables are that Scotland could crumble and England win handsomely... its a close match that can go either way. If the English players are approaching this test in the manner that their fans are then they will come unstuck that's for sure.

    In recent times the games been reasonable close. This crop of England players are nothing like the quality they had between 2000-2003.

  • Comment number 68.

    Hookers that would be defeat:)

  • Comment number 69.

    @porridgetimes as you point out England do have their weaknesses. Hopefully when Youngs come back the scrum half position should be shored up and the Tuilagi/Tindall partnership looked pretty strong against, an admitedly underperforming, Ireland.

    Again though when you say Scotland beat England now and again well it's been over three years now and never in the world cup so perhaps not really now and again. Still they do have a shot at it but I'd say it's unlikely. England are clearly ahead of Scotland by quite a way, you just need to look at the six nations table to show that, so it would be a pretty big upset.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ Hookers_Do_It_Best re 62 - Greaves Sports has Georgia shirts - http://www.greavessports.com/georgia-world-cup-home-jersey-2011-p81891

  • Comment number 71.

    Porridge

    It's great to hear that you're really behind your team. It's what the game is all about. It's also entirely right that you think that Scotland will win...what's the point in watching unless you think you're in with a chance?

    The point is that I don't think that you're arrogant or delusional for fancying your own side. It's a key difference!

    I think that England v Scotland will be a hard game. Scotland have improved a lot and can beat nearly everyone on their day. That being said I would say that England have the better chance of winning this time out, principally because, despite what you say, I believe that they have the better pack (at the setpiece) and because Scotland don't have a good record in recent times of scoring tries.

    It will be down to belief and intensity on the day!

  • Comment number 72.

    67

    Porridge...actually in your support, England aren't a "much better" side than Scotland. All these guys are top-class athletes and there's hardly anything between any of them. The difference often seems to lie in the mind rather than the body. Scotland don't beat England very often. England don't beat New Zealand very often. It's all down to fractional differences and who has the "winning mentality" on the day.

  • Comment number 73.

    Well only time will tell really I'm not suggesting Scoltand are a great side or a better side than England. I just don't think there is that much daylight between Arg/Eng/Sco.

  • Comment number 74.

    Anglophone... nice to read a response for a true rugby fan.

  • Comment number 75.

    Hmm always difficult to tell with Argentina as they don't normally get that much prep time together. First game should really be an eye opener.

    On a side note Porridge what do you feel about Scotland only having 2 warm up games? Do you think it's enough? Do you think it would have been different if they didn't have the Argentina and England games last?

  • Comment number 76.

    @ Porridge & Anglophone

    I also don't think that there is much between the 2 sides, although I would argue fitness is a key factor, so is self belief. I think Scotland have developed self belief at murrayfield hence them being very good there. They need to start developing it away from home against big teams.

    England have been confident of winning at home for a while, but until the win in Australia last Summer and again in Ireland recently we didn't believe we could consistently win away from home agains big teams. Those 2 results may be enough to tip the balance in englands favour on neutral(ish) grounds.

    Argentina are used to playing away from home a lot and so are as confident in their ability away as they are at home. However a lack of preperation and only 1 warm up game may see them caught cold against England, but they should be coming into their stride when they play Scotland, and I think it will make this the closest game in the pool.

  • Comment number 77.

    LastKing... I think Robinson has managed it right to be honest. Apart from one injury to Walker who I think would have went he has a full compliment of players. For the first time in years Scotland actually have players fighting for squad positions... yes these guys are not the best players around Europe.
    One of the reasons I think that Scotland actually might do well is that they are not carrying any injury concerns in to the tournament. Where as England have players under injury clouds from the onset. All it would take is for one of the English back rowers to go down and Moody not to regain fitness in time. Same could be said for the scrum half position.

  • Comment number 78.

    Hooker...
    Sorry but Scotland one a two test series in Argentina last year. Argentina is not the easiest of places to go and win a test series. Plus Scotland beat Ireland comfortable well in Dublin last season also.
    Scotland were dire in this Six Nations against Wales, France and Ireland... they picked up against England and beat Italy comfortably. The game at Twickenham was not a cake walk for England by any stretch of the imagination and with the rub of the green Scotland could well have won.
    Scotland and Engand have never met in a neutral ground before so I don't think England can see that as an advantage.
    Here look it would not surprise me if Scotland did not win, but unlike previous years I really don't think Scotland have anything to fear from this current England side... I could be way wrong and if I am then all power to Martin Johnson and his guys.

  • Comment number 79.

    Think you're about right at the preperation porridge. I'd argue that if they had England or Argentina first up they should have put another warm up game in but given their fixtures they have an easier lead into the tournament.

    I also agree about Moody and don't think he should have gone and probably wouldn't have if it wasn't him. Scrum half we've been unlucky with given that our first two have been or got injured, that siad we're lucky to have a large pool of players that we can have such focused injuries and put out strong players. That strength in depth to me is one of the big reasons England have done well in the last few world cups. No offence but I couldn't see Ireland, Scotland or Wales coping as well.

  • Comment number 80.

    Porridge...

    You seem to think I was attacking Scotland there, I wsn't. Whilst I know you beat argentina away, a fair few of their european based players weren't playing.

    Also whilst your boys aquitted themselves well at HQ in the 6N, I don't think you could argue that the ref was biased, so rub of the green was not a factor. I genuinely think as I have said before, that it will be a close game mon by 5-10 points. I think a scoreline around the 25 -17 region will be realistic.

    I think England vs Argentina wil be won by England by around 10-15 points and Scotland vs Argentina will be won by 7 points or less. I think Scotland will sneak it 19 - 15.

    We can look back here in a few weeks and see if I'm right or not.

  • Comment number 81.

    @#70 - Thistle.

    Thanks for the info, tho at £65 plus delivery not cheap.

    Will be continuing to look for the next week, then will buy wichever one I can afford.

  • Comment number 82.

    Not suggesting the ref was bias. Rub of the green or bounce of the ball was what I was hinting at. Things are sometimes just not going their way and yes one or two calls could go their way that have been given against them. It's these little breaks and converting the scoring opportunities into points is where Scotland are coming up short.

    LastKing... yes England have a huge player base to select from. They have travelled over to NZ with injured players which has put a burden on the squad and selection process.

  • Comment number 83.

    I think one issue is that only some of the Minor nations get exposure once every 4 years in a World Cup. (Even then it is often in a drubbing).

    I mean what has happened to Georgia since coming close to beating Ireland in the last world cup? Have they even had 1 match against another top team since? I heard they had 40,000 home crowd for a qualifier before 2007, and there was a lot of public interest, some top players were playing for decent clubs in France etc. How do they kick on from 2007? What is in place to help them?

    Look what happened to Romania. In the 80's and early 90's they beat Wales, Scotland, France, and were in a better position than Italy to make a 6-nations.. Admittedly factors out of Rugby can be attributed to their demise, but rugby and the IRB didn't help, and they have been in an awful decline and interest in rugby there has fallen ever since. It is so sad.

    If teams are to punch above their weight they need help in sustaining the momentum and something needs to be in place to help them progress.

    I don't know a lot about IRB's investment at youth level, and the lower leagues, however I do think that you need decent exposure in the country in order to increase popularity and make the sport more mainstream, and a lot of this is through more frequent matches against either local rivals, or better teams with more star players.

    This really needs to happen at international level, but I don't see the major nations being able to contribute to this.

    Take the 6-nations for example. If this was to become a 1st and 2nd division competition with relegation and promotion, then to begin with every year a lesser nation would play the top-nations and all the minor nations would get a game against a top-tier nation. The media exposure would be increased on the lesser nations, they would break through into better club sides, etc, etc.

    The issue with this is that say Scotland or Italy (only named as I remember them finishing bottom in the 6nations) would not like having a year of playing Russia, Spain, etc rather than England, France due to the obvious financial implications via TV, poor Crowds, less competitive matches, and so on.

    Give this format 20+ years though, and if used wisely alongside other factors in club rugby, marketing, youth development etc, could increase competitiveness of the lesser-nations, thus the popularity, the interest in playing them etc, and then this initial investment would start to pay out for all nations.

    I just don't know who is willing to make the sacrifices as it is likely a long term evolution in order to develop other nations, and the top nations and IRB would say it is not realistic to sacrifice so much money in order to make this step.

    It needs to start somewhere though. The tri-nations becoming the 4-nations is great news, although it may be 10-20 years before Argentina can compete for the title.

    I know there is investment in 7's, and that is making the right steps. 7's tournaments have a lot of nations who are all capable of a big scalp now thanks to lots of games with lesser nations playing bigger ones several times a year, thus closing the gap. Can lessons be learned from this to start making a blue-print for the same strides with 15-a-side rugby? More so can the top teams and IRB ever make sacrifices and be in agreement on how to help the rank 10-30 etc teams push through to challenging the top-10 and thus develop rugby globally?

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    ScotsSevensNutjob:"You would think as administrators of the World Cup it would make sense for them to give smaller teams a better turnaround, and minimise the chances of serious injury. Instead they have drafted a schedule that grinds amateur players into the dirt, and sees seasoned professionals spend more time on their sunloungers between fixtures.

    It is unsporting, cynical and extremely unlikeable. I have lost a lot of respect for New Zealand because of this. Hopefully they will choke again and no asterix will be needed."

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    IRB are the World Cup administrators, NZ is just the Host Nation. I think you'll find that the reason most the big countries only play on weekends is about TV ratings not a covert ploy to keep the little man down. - It's the same reason that while NZ hosts the event, we don't actually get to hold matches at times that suit a wider NZ audience. It's so all the people in the Northern Hemisphere don't have to get up too early to watch them.

    The final will be played at 9:00ish in NZ on a Sunday Night - My Kids have school in the morning and I have work, there is very little about this tournament that has been done specifically to suit NZ or the All Blacks. - But that's fine, you're welcome, we're just happy you are all such well mannered, appreciative guests in our country.

  • Comment number 86.

    Speaking about upsets, I'll be cheering all the way for Georgia and Russia - on small proud nation and one newcomer. And for Pacific small countries.

    In ideal world NZ, France, Argentina, Georgia, Russia, Samoa, Fiji and Italy should qualify for the playoffs. :D

  • Comment number 87.

    ScotsSevensNutjob. you admit that all your mentioned favourites have a favourable draw, yet harp on about NZ alone.

    By they way, it's IRB who conducts a draw, not NZRFU. When IRB conducts another favourable draw for Scotland in RWC2015, will you whinge about NZ?

    Why you have not lost all respect for Scotland who had good draw in all previous World cups? Or any other "home nation"?

    Justice for all, I agree, IRB should make favourable draws for minnows, I agree again. However 'choking' wish just highlighted the essence of that rant. You see conspiracy everywhere. NZ led, of course.

  • Comment number 88.

    ScotsSevens... you have been making this same point on the other blog. It is not the NZRFU that dictates this, but in fact the IRB who sets the playing schedules around maximizing TV slots for the Europe.
    This actually says more about you really and your envy based issues with NZ. As a Scot it's extremely embarrassing reading your comments.

  • Comment number 89.

    In Pool D it wouldn't be beyond Wales to beat South Africa and then lose to both Samoa and Fiji and go out of the tournament.

  • Comment number 90.

    Dear oh dear... it has nothing to do with the timing, it has everything to do with the fixture DATES and the total number of DAYS BETWEEN MATCHES.

    NZ are the hosts and administrators of this World Cup, not Scotland, England, Australia or anyone else. The IRB act on recommendations from NEW ZEALAND.

    Yes I know that all Top 10 teams, including Scotland, have always enjoyed good schedules. THAT'S MY POINT, IT NEEDS TO CHANGE.

    Porridge, I feel the same way about your comments, not because you're Scottish but because you think that as I'm the same nationality as you, people will be unable to tell us apart. Grow up.

  • Comment number 91.

    Why do people like upsets so much? Personally i hope there aren't too many upsets just competetive games where the better and hopefully more enterprising teams advance. This was certainly not the case in 2007 with the top 3 teams all playing extemely conservative rugby.

    Ideally you have pools like pool D where it is very difficult to predict what will happen - but in rugby there are only a few teams with a genuine chance of lifting the trophy so it takes away from the knockout stages when the big boys don't make it. previous cricket world cups are a perfect example of this. When you end up with countries like Kenya in a semifinal it makes for another one-sided match in what should be the most exciting and competitive part of the tournament.

  • Comment number 92.

    I would also like to register my absolute disapproval of teams that filed second string sides in games they are not expecting to win!

    This is so bad for the tournament and a bad advert for the game. If France do this is in this tournament against NZ (a team they regularly beat) it will be an utter disgrace. Why can't they front up against Tonga 7 days after playing the all blacks - its a scandal!

  • Comment number 93.

    @ Doris - I agree, to a degree.

    Scotland fielded a second string in WC2007 when they played the All Blacks at Murrayfield. The ABs comfortably won 40-0 but Scotland did retain their best players for the must win game against Italy the following week.
    As a rugby spectacle and advert for the game it was not the right thing to do as people paid hard earned money to see a World Cup game so should have been delivered a World Cup standard product.
    As a tactical rugby move it was the right thing to do as Scotland did progress in the competition. Had Scotland not beaten Italy, it would have embarassed Scotland.

    However, it does open up the argument as what is a second string team. All teams are required to provide a 30 player squad so it could be argued that each of the 30 players is a First XV player or else why else would they be in the squad?

    Unfortunately, I think we will see it again at this year's competition.

  • Comment number 94.

    Nutjob... you are entitled to your opinion I just can't see why you think this is something that is important. You then went on to say it was to redress the ballance of anti-English comment.
    How can you making anti-NZ comment re-dress the ballance. As I've said before makes not difference to me that you are Scots and pro British which your comments lean to. Or that you may be English but grown up in Scotland... which again your comments lead to.
    The point is you have always had an issue with the All Black and NZRFU... even in the old 606 days you were chipping away at them. I reckon it has a huge amount to do with your beloved Lions getting the hiding of a lifetime in 2005.
    All this drivel about the amount of anti-English feeling is just so insecure on their part... really 55million ppl and their worried weather a handful of guys do get behind them because were all British... think its you that needs to give yersel a shake min.

  • Comment number 95.

    The biggest upset will be Scotland failing to get out of the group. It will certainly upset me.

    I thought scotland had come a long way under AR, and there are now some very good players at his disposal. For the first time in years we genuinely have a squad rather than 15 plus 15 to make up the numbers. They look to have worked hard on moving the defender and passing out of the tackle. Wins against Argentina, and a couple of others in the warm up games gave me hope. Not to mention SA.

    However I am obviously missing something as to a man the pundits, experts, writers bookies make us rank outsiders to even get out of the group.

    So the upset surely is for scotland to prove them all wrong and qualify for the quarters.

  • Comment number 96.

    Doris totally agree with you there on the fielding of week teams especially in the case of the Scotland v New Zealand match.
    Throwing in the towel before we even played the tournament favourites sent a terrible message about our mental strength. No wonder out of all the home unions we are the one team that capitulates the easiest. Its this mentality that has got us where we are today.
    Each team should endevour to put out their strongest team where and whenever possible and doing what Scotland did was shameful and we deserve not be respected by the likes of New Zealand for that.

  • Comment number 97.

    xcoach... my thoughts exactly... within Britain we little Scots should mind our place. AR has come into the job and done something that the pervious coaches since the advent of pro rugby failed to do and that is build depth and instill self belief.
    For that he needs our full back and support.

  • Comment number 98.

    94 porridge_times

    I'll explain again, because I'm kind and patient like that. I'll keep the issues separate so it's not confusing.

    Issue one is NZ not sorting a fair schedule.

    It IS important. It’s about being fair and showing respect to players who are not professionals, but who have the courage to put their bodies on the line against the seasoned man-mountains who play this game for a living. It strikes at the heart of the comradeship and respect that makes rugby culture so unique.

    Just remember that New Zealand, porridgetimes’s adopted country, the number 1 ranked country in the world, as well as the host nation and organiser of this World Cup, have given themselves 23 days to play 4 matches. In their group, Canada [14th] will get 18 days and Japan [13th] will get 17 days.

    If you don’t think this is a problem, then I hope you feel dirty when the Kiwis are patting themselves on the back for racking up 100+ points against the minnows.

    The New Zealand Rugby Union are desperate. I would even say pathetic.

    So is it any wonder that I look forward to them bleating about being undercooked again when they get KOed?

  • Comment number 99.

    Issue two is bitter anti-Englishness.

    In response to the sibilant whining about Inverdale and Guscott, and the English celebrating 2003, I say that if Scotland won the Webb Ellis Cup, I would expect the BBC to screen TV specials at least once a week, a national monument to be erected, and a life-long nationwide tab for the entire squad to be picked up by the taxpayers. I have no beef with English people wanting to celebrate their World Cup victory because I would absolutely do the same.

    I like Inverdale, Guscott and Moore. Guscott will always call it exactly how it is without sentiment. If he thinks Scotland going to struggle in a group that has the biggest packs possible from each seeding, he’s not the only one. Guscott always calls it very carefully and honestly, and if people get irritated, it’s because he’s an Englishman DOING HIS JOB.

    My point was that the English get a lot of abuse, and get held to a standard that we Celts wouldn't accept from them, and that this wasn't fair. We get media coverage wildly disproportionate to our population. Life is really not so bad. Hopefully you grow up and find out that the English are not the pointy-fanged, baby-munching, boogie monsters, your bristle-faced granny told you they were. Just the footballers.

  • Comment number 100.

    94 porridge_times

    "The point is you have always had an issue with the All Black and NZRFU... even in the old 606 days you were chipping away at them. I reckon it has a huge amount to do with your beloved Lions getting the hiding of a lifetime in 2005."

    You might be referring to Tana Umaga’s spear tackle, where O’Driscoll, the Lions Captain nearly had his neck broken, and went home after 2mins of the first Test?

    Yes, I don’t have a lot of respect for New Zealand, as practitioners of ‘beautiful rugby’. I will be supporting ABNZ in the RWC. I hope they choke.

    Or also the Lions in 2009 vs South Africa. Despite no Scots or Kiwis featuring, you might remember my apoplectic splutterings of rage, and the borderline-coronary I had while describing in great detail from the safety of my keyboard, everything I would like to do to Schalk Burger for the yellow card/ eye gouging incident. Not to mention my response to Peter de Villiers comments that ‘eye gouging was a part of rugby’, as I wished him death by fire ants and strategically-smeared honey.

    Or my incandescent, typed-up tantrum when Mark Cueto the English winger had his eye-gouging sentence slashed to 9 weeks on appeal, making him available in time for this World Cup.

    "As I've said before makes not difference to me that you are Scots and pro British which your comments lean to. Or that you may be English but grown up in Scotland... which again your comments lead to."

    I’m Scottish, by family and ancestry, Scots born and raised, and I have ancestors who fought at Culloden for the Jacobites. Your turn. Actually, don’t bother. It won’t make you right.

    If there’s a pattern that my comments lean to, it’s that I like things to be fair across the board and I grizzle and throw my toys out of the pram when they aren’t.

    "All this drivel about the amount of anti-English feeling is just so insecure on their part... really 55million ppl and their worried weather a handful of guys do get behind them because were all British... think its you that needs to give yersel a shake min."

    Then let us pray that come it may,
    (As come it will for a' that,)
    That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
    Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    It's comin yet for a' that
    That man to man, the world o'er,
    Shall brithers be for a' that.

 

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