The 2019 Rugby World Cup started on Friday 20th September with 20 countries competing to clinch the Webb Ellis Cup. For the previous two tournaments, New Zealand has emerged as champions but this year could be as open as ever with half a dozen sides owning a legitimate claim for the title, including our own Dragons.
Despite recent losses that dropped New Zealand from the top of the rugby rankings, a position the country has occupied since 2009, they are still heavily tipped to win it all this year. In August, Wales were ahead of New Zealand in the rankings but subsequently dipped below following warm-up losses to England and top-ranked Ireland.
Wales is placed alongside sixth-ranked Australia, twelfth-ranked Georgia, ninth-ranked Fiji, and nineteenth-ranked Uruguay in Pool D. The team’s first match was against Georgia yesterday in which they won 43-14. Warren Gatland assembled his 31-man squad for the World Cup last week with a surprising decision to include Cory Hill despite his inactivity due to his leg injury in the Six Nations in February. He has now been released from the squad and replaced by Ospreys forward Bradley Davies for the remainder of the tournament.
Despite being in a comfortable fifth-ranked position, the Welsh team has appeared to be rocked by a series of negative news. The 2011 semi-finalist has just two fully fit second rows after it was revealed Adam Beard couldn’t travel with the team to Japan following an appendix surgery. It has, however, been confirmed that Beard will get to training with the rest of the squad soon.
The assistant head coach for the Welsh team, Rob Howley, was also sent back to Wales following an investigation over a likely punting violation. The former captain contravened on the World Rugby regulation which states that no connected persons should bet or in any way benefit from bets on any connected events. He has subsequently been suspended from the Rugby Union and may face a life suspension from the sport.
The Rugby World Cup divides the 20 teams into four pools of five teams each, with only the top two teams progressing to the quarterfinals. Pool A contains number one ranked Ireland, Scotland, Samoa, Russia and home team Japan. The Irish team with quality players like Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray are tipped to comfortably finish top of their group with either Scotland or Japan vying for the second position.
Pool B includes defending champions New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Canada and Namibia. The first match of the pool between New Zealand and South Africa finished with the All Blacks winning 23-13. New Zealand’s Beauden Barett, a two-time winner of the Player of the Year award, is being relied on to pull off magic to put the Kiwis ahead. Italy who has lost all matches against New Zealand and beaten South Africa only once in fourteen matches are expected to finish the bottom of the group with Namibia and Canada.
Pool C’s England is expected to cruise into the quarter-finals with ease. The second qualifiers are tipped to either be the French or the US teams. Eleventh-ranked Argentina has had some losses in recent times and could possibly finish at the bottom of the pool with Tonga. Pool C has been termed the ‘Group of Death’ by observers due to the tight spot for the second position.
To follow the numerous games and fixtures, you can stream Rugby World Cup 2019 live on your mobile devices or PCs.