THE Rugby World Cup is here, with the hopes that it will be the most competitive and thrilling tournament to date.
It’s four years since Siya Kolisi became the third Springbok skipper to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup, and South Africa are once again among the contenders, Ireland, New Zealand and France are also targeting the October 30 final.
But could there be a shock winner? The last Men’s World Cup in France saw England make an improbable run to the final, and Steve Borthwick’s side, along with Wales and Australia, will be hoping to put their struggles behind them and produce a deep tournament.
And which actors will light up the French scene over the next two months?
Find out whoThe independentIt is writers bank on success:
Harry Latham-Coyle In France: The hosts could be beaten in their first match against New Zealand, but France will then raise the mood towards a first triumph in the World Cup. A glorious team has already shown it can handle the weight of expectations.
Luc Boulanger In France: At home, with a fervent crowd cheering them on and given what Fabien Galthie has built during this World Cup cycle, I think France finally lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time. The cliché, always a bit absurd, “we don’t know which France will show up”, has been shattered over the last four years, with a top-two finish at every Six Nations demonstrating just how good they are. have become a merciless machine. The loss of flyhalf Romain Ntamack hurts, but no other country can boast the depth of number 10 with Matthieu Jalibert and Antoine Hastoy waiting in the wings. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the best player in the world, Antoine Dupont. It’s their time.
HLC: New Zealand, France, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, Fiji, Argentina, England: The top half of the table could well be in good shape, with Scotland narrowly eliminated, but I fancy Fiji to win their first match against Wales and secure a place in the last 16, as they did it in 2007.
kg: New Zealand, France, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, Fiji, Argentina, England: I’m afraid I’m also predicting déjà vu from 2007 for Wales, as a defeat against Fiji in France sees them crash out in the group stage. Pool C is brilliantly wide open and I truly believe two Wales, Fiji, Australia and Georgia can reach the final eight. Fortunately for England, this Japan team is at the end of its current cycle, so Steve Borthwick’s troops will come through alongside Argentina. France and New Zealand are far too strong for Italy in Pool A and while Scotland could easily spoil Pool B, I will say that the Springboks and Ireland fight their way through, albeit beaten and murdered.
A surprise package?
HLC:Fiji are probably not quite qualified for this award having risen to seventh in the world following their victory at Twickenham, but I think Samoa could bring Argentina and England closer together in Pool D. Steven Luatua, Charlie Faumuina and Lima Sopoaga are particularly useful additions ahead of the tournament, rounding out a team that already had few holes from top to bottom. Portugal and its defense could also be a lot of fun, even with four defeats likely.
KG: Fiji. Chile play some really exciting rugby and I can’t wait to see them in action. It wouldn’t surprise me if they stunned Samoa. But I think the Fijian team will be the real surprise of the World Cup. The impact of the Fijian Drua’s participation in Super Rugby cannot be overstated and it has contributed to the cohesion of their national team in the same way that the Jaguares did in Argentina. Incredible talent has always been present in Fiji, but it is now also being channeled properly within the club. They have two real chances of reaching the quarter-finals, with Australia and Wales seriously flawed, and do not rule out a victory in the round of 16 against Argentina or England (or Japan) who could give them a first ever semi-final. berth.
HLC: Antoine Dupont, France. Who else? The best player on the planet is a certainty for this award if he leads France to glory at home. A dynamic runner, capable of kicking with both feet, Dupont is the beating heart of the French team.
KG: Dupont. If I think France is going to win the World Cup, then it stands to reason that a Frenchman will be the player of the tournament, so why not the best player in the world? Dupont’s skill set is unique: the vision and distribution of a world-class number 9, the running ability of a three-star guard, and a seriously underrated kicking game that can be relied upon more given the absence of Romain Ntamack. He is the brilliant conductor of the perfect French orchestra and he will live up to his status as the face of the World Cup.
Top try scorer?
HLC: Will Jordan, New Zealand. Part of predicting who will finish at the top of the try rankings is imagining who is likely to play the most matches. Jordan is one of the most prolific finishers in the world and a certain starter in the All Blacks’ toughest competitions, but he could also be used at full-back against Uruguay and Namibia. This should allow the incredibly smooth Jordan plenty of opportunities to force his way to the top of the try rankings.
kg: Damien Penaud, France. It might be a bit boring to return to France, but Damian Penaud is the best finisher in world rugby, playing for a fascinating attacking team that I think will win the World Cup. At some point you have to accept Occam’s Razor. It could easily be Mark Telea or Will Jordan as I expect the All Blacks to rack up big scores against Namibia, Uruguay and maybe even Italy, but the Blues have the same opponents and Penaud is a man for special occasions.
A revolutionary star?
HLC: There is such a wealth of talent in rugby that it is difficult to choose just one. Samoa’s Theo McFarland was in irresistible form for Saracens before his injury last year, mustachioed menace Davit Ninashvili is expected to feature for Georgia and, although a little older, New Zealander Mark Telea is a slippery eel by contact which has made defenses ridiculous for several seasons. in Super Rugby. But let’s give some love to Jac Morgan, the latest outstanding openside from the Welsh flanker production line. Installed as co-captain of this campaign, Morgan combines troubleshooting skills and real intelligence on the loose, and hits hard from a compact frame. I don’t think Wales will go far in the tournament, but Morgan could establish himself more as a true superstar.
kg: Canan Moodie, South Africa. Keep an eye on Georgian full-back Davit Niniashvili, Australian flyhalf Carter Gordon and Argentine back-rower Juan Martin Gonzalez, but Canan Moodie is a pure box-office hit. The South African fullback was still at school when the Springboks lifted the trophy four years ago, but the 20-year-old is now as electric as anyone in world rugby. He announced himself on the world stage with a superb solo try on his debut against Australia last September, becoming the second-youngest South African international in history. He crosses the gain line on seemingly every run, is enthusiastically powerful on defense, and beats defenders for fun. A slight injury ruled him out of the first match, but he will have a huge impact in the following matches.
How will England get out of this?
HLC: A quarter-final exit to Eddie Jones and Australia feels both the narrative dream and a very achievable outcome. A deeply flawed England are still good enough to advance from their group, but Steve Borthwick will fear the Wallabies’ developing power play.
kg: Phew. This could be an eternally painful World Cup for England fans or a pleasant surprise. Either way, given the current state of the offense, it looks like this will be a tough watch. Everything seems possible, from starting in the group stage to the semi-final, so let’s split the difference and let’s say that a quarter-final exit is considered. They will edge Japan and perhaps Argentina to get out of the group, but Australia or Fiji will prove a step too far. In fact, Eddie Jones feels complacently vindicated as the Wallabies eliminate his former employers, doesn’t he…?
The most impatient?
HLC: Having had the chance to feel the noise in Paris for the French grand slam– sealing victory against England last year, to experience an entire tournament in a country so fully behind their team. The atmosphere at the Stade de France for this Grand Slam match was immense, and the combination of an exciting on-field product, a great range of venues and a strong chance of success at home should make this tournament a real one. show.
DG: Pool B. There are so many things to get excited about. Given the state of some of the traditional ‘top’ teams the tournament looks ripe for some shocks, Fiji’s rise to a true top tier nation will be great to watch and there are plenty of second tier teams knocking on the door . loudly every year. Almost every team in the tournament has at least one box office star to watch, and then at the top you have four real title contenders who will face off from the start of the group stage. On that point, let’s give a nod to Pool B. The fact that South Africa, Ireland and Scotland are all in the same pool is clearly extremely unfair, but from a fan, it will be amazing to see them hit seven bells since the match. disabled. With a real possibility of a win and a loss each in this three-team round robin, the matches against Tonga and Romania then become crucial to potentially decide who will snatch a place in the quarter-finals on the difference of points. Drama guaranteed!