It is difficult to predict the winner of the Men’s Rugby World Cup, particularly when there are so many high-profile sides in contention. There are four teams that could win the prestigious trophy this year – Ireland France South Africa New Zealand.
A miracle would have to happen for anyone else outside of this group to win the Webb Ellis Trophy. It’s not impossible just because something is unlikely.
This Rugby World Cup will be one of the most competitive ever, as new rules on international eligibility are being introduced for the first time. After a three-year stand down period from rugby international, players are now able to change their nationality. The pool of talent is bigger than ever.
We’ll be seeing plenty of shocks in the months to come as competition increases. Here, Flo Rugby looks at three teams that are likely to shock in France during the autumn.
Tonga has been one of those countries that have benefited most from the international eligibility law changes. They’ve seen their backline transformed by the addition of talented players. They include the muscleman Malakai Fekitoa as well as hot-stepper Charles Piutau and sevens star Pita Ohki. Also included are George Moala, the versatile playmaker, Israel Folau and box office.
Arrival of these players have enlivened Tonga’s camp, and they are now a force to reckon with. Before, Tonga had physically strong players, but they lacked both the skills and knowledge to open up a match. Now, there are multiple superstars with extraordinary skill sets.
Tonga’s dominance was on display at the beginning of July, when they beat Australia A 27-21 after a physical 80-minute period. It was an impressive feat, as the Wallabies squad they faced was full of athletes vying for a place in the first-team. Tonga made an absolute meal out of their opposition, despite being a second-string outfit.
They will face greater challenges as they compete in the World Cup Pool with Ireland, South Africa and Scotland. Tonga is not expected to advance in this group, which is the toughest of all the groups. They will still cause problems for teams and may even surprise Scotland with their physicality.
Tonga’s brawn may be enough to inspire the Springboks. Tonga could surprise a lot of rugby fans in the autumn.
The first two World Cup pools are stacked with potential title winners, including South Africa, France and Ireland, arguably four of the best teams on the planet at this moment.
England and Australia have been the target of a great deal of ridicule, but they are fortunately on the opposite side of the drawing. The two countries are almost assumed to be able to make the semi-finals without any problems, but Los Pumas is not included in this.
Argentina is a powerful team that can beat any country in an individual match. The backline of Argentina is a real powerhouse, with players like the all-round back three master Emiliano Boffelli and Santiago Carreras. Mateo Carreras can be unstoppable.
Los Pumas is also known as having a fierce pack. Juan Martin Gonzalez, Pablo Matera and others are in the rear row. The Pumas are almost spoiled for choice. They are both incredibly strong ball carriers, and better still defenders. Both match the passion of captain Julian Montoya.
Argentina could top the group with these two men at its helm if it repeats last year’s feats of beating England. Los Pumas stunned the rugby world in November by beating England 30 to 29 at Twickenham. They could now match this result one year later.
Fijian Rugby is well-known for its flare. Fijian rugby is known for its flair.
Fiji has fast, explosive rugby.
The nation struggles to convert its penchant for 7s into 15s success.
The squad has become awash with stars. You have the potential of a centre partnership between the giant Josua and the supremely talented Semi Radradra. This is one of the best international partnerships.
Add to this the 25-year old star Toulon winger Jiuta Wasiniqolo and young Fijian Drua Hooker Tevita Inkanivere as well as veteran second row Api Ratuniyarawa, plus the stellar exploits of La Rochelle’s LevaniBotia. You have an impressive squad.
If you are still unsure about Fiji, take a look at their World Cup Pool. Wales and Australia are two of rugby’s most in-form teams at the moment. Fiji has a good chance to not only win the occasional game but also qualify for knockouts, for the first since 2007.