Time for Part 3 in our series of Pool previews ahead of the big kickoff this Friday…here with her thoughts on Pool C is Emma McGarry…
What can we expect from Pool C?
Well we can safely say our dear friends the All Blacks will make it out of their pool relatively unscathed as always. Argentina will put up a fight against New Zealand and most likely follow them out of the pool as runners-up. Tonga and Georgia will challenge the Pumas for the runners-up spot. Namibia will be left in the dust, they are by far one of the weakest teams in the tournament.
The ABs stroll through pool games and everyone knows it, the No. 1 team will not struggle in their opening matches. They may be challenged by Argentina but Tonga, Georgia and Namibia won’t be able to withstand them.
The defending champions are again this year the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. Although I would argue their invincibility has really been questioned these past 2 years with Ireland coming as close as you can come to beating the ABs in 2013. And both South Africa and Australia have managed to defeat them more recently. I think they could be lured into a false sense of security with this pool entering into the knockout stages.
New Zealand’s squad has some notable omissions. With players like Israel Dagg missing out on selection it is fairly obvious the ABs have the best of the best in every aspect of their game. They have a squad depth any team would envy, even the periphery players who missed out on selection would probably be first choice in any other side.
Player to watch is Beauden Barrett, young but certainly capable of filling the massive shoes Dan Carter will leave behind. An excellent all around player, Barrett has great pace and has a good relationship with TJ Perenara and Julian Savea, fellow Hurricanes teammates. He has an outstanding kicking ability which means should he be favored over Dan Carter, Barrett could be a brilliant “not so secret” weapon for the All Blacks.
The general consensus is that Argentina will claim the runners-up spot, that will earn them a quarter-final against Ireland or France depending on the Pool D results. Unless Tonga or Georgia manage somehow throw a spanner in the works.
Historically the Pumas have relied on a powerful scrum and their pack to perform well, but backs such as Juan Martín Hernández and Juan Imhoff who have impressive pace, will play an important part in Argentina’s World Cup plans. There is cause for concern in the front row at tighthead with both Matías Díaz and Juan Figallo missing.
An encouraging 37 - 25 Rugby Championship win over South Africa gave us a glimpse of what Argentina are capable of when in form, but a tryless defeat to the Boks just seven days later lays their weaknesses out on a platter. They lack consistency which just isn’t good enough if they want to earn themselves a quarter final place.
After watching Tonga’s last few matches, I’ve begun to form an opinion of them. A physically impressive side with a strong pack and an intimidating pitch presence.
However, as a team they lack discipline and come across as though they do not have a very thorough understanding of rugby laws. This would be one of their weakest points. Tonga’s set pieces are pretty good. Their rucking and counter rucking is very effective from what I’ve seen so far. Their backs aren’t bad either but certainly aren’t anywhere near the standard of their southern hemisphere counterparts. Outhalf Kurt Morath has fairly strong kicking abilities and winger, Fetu’u Vainikolo can be very dangerous with ball in hand. Give him some space and he will surprise you.
Overall, Tonga lack discipline and rely too heavily on their sheer size to force their way up the pitch. That’s not to say they can’t play clever rugby at all, they can be very entertaining and I am looking forward to seeing them take on the ABs. I wouldn’t write them off as the runners-up just yet.
Their opening match against Tonga could be one to keep an eye on. The pack are not really a problem for Georgia though. It is what goes on in the back positions that will determine their progress.
Props Davit Zirakashvili and Davit Kubriashviliwill should be well known to followers of the Top 14, along with Toulon’s (BEAST) Mamuka Gorgodze. With a strong and complete pack Georgia, like Tonga, may have a chance at the runners-up spot. Albeit a very slim chance.
This year's tournament is a fourth consecutive World Cup for Georgia, which is an achievement in itself given they only qualified for the first time in 2003. Since then they have managed just two wins, against Namibia in 2007 and Romania in 2011, but the knock-out stages remain a world away.
Wins against Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Germany this year tells us Georgia are a step ahead of emerging European nations but they still have a lot of work to do to close the gap on more established sides as proven by defeats to Tonga and Ireland at the end of last year.
Namibia is one of the weakest teams in the tournament unfortunately and will almost certainly come bottom of the pool like in every other World Cup they participate in. The harsh reality being Namibia have yet to record a single victory in 15 World Cup matches. At the moment they hold the title of the tournament's heaviest defeat after losing 142-0 to Australia in 2003.
Flanker Jacques Burger, who plays for Saracens, displayed in a recent match against Northampton his incredible work rate and demolishing tackling ability. One of his crunching challenges ended Lee Dickson’s involvement that afternoon. A man to be feared, Burger was named as one of the top 5 players of the tournament in the 2011 World Cup even though Namibia suffered 4 heavy defeats. Easily Namibia’s star player.
They do lack squad depth and talent, this is evident as coach Phil Davies named one outhalf, Theuns Kotze. A worrying fact. No one is expecting much from Namibia but in the unlikely event that they do surprise us, I will retract my statement. Until such a time though, my opinion of them remains rather negative.
Emma McGarry (@EmmaKMcGarry) - Hugely interested in all aspects of rugby. Supporter of Irish and Leinster Rugby. "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad" - Brian O'Driscoll
TOMORROW…YES, YOU GUESSED IT AGAIN, POOL D
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