So after a 2 year build up the world cup is finally here! Today kicks off with Japan taking on Russia in the opening game and the first game of Ireland’s pool. Starting with a prediction, I think Japan start and finish with a win, and qualify out of the group.
So what about Ireland? The team has been named, with Kearney and Earls being left out and Conway and Larmour brought in at 15 and wing respectively. Ringrose comes back in to partner our new iron man in Bundee Aki; the back row is POM / JVDF and Stander. The rest of the team picked itself. The bench is also massive with Porter, Beirne and Conan with the super sub Sean Cronin left out. Scannell gets the nod to be the replacement hooker.
This is a strong Irish team. The back 3 of Conway, Stockdale and Larmour has me salivating if they get a chance to shine. The only question is in defence; Scotland will aim at Larmour and to a lesser extent Conway so it will be interesting to see how they fare.
Basically, this is Scotland’s only shot at getting anything from this RWC. They don’t fancy a quarter final against either the All Blacks or the Springboks. Ireland on the other hand has no such worries.
So how will the game go?
For me, if Ireland can win the early lineouts (Scotland will kick to row z to challenge every single lineout) and maybe steal a Scottish throw, I genuinely think there is a final in the team. It shows the mental strength of the squad has really improved. The second Welsh game showed steel that had been missing for a while. This is the time to prove it. If Scotland lose (which I think they will by at least 7), then the target is firmly on their back in their final game against Japan and I think the hosts can turn them over and qualify from the group.
Ireland by 7.
The other big game is the All Blacks v The Springboks. A game that directly affects Ireland. A game that I have picked the ‘Boks to win. Which sets up a quarter against the reigning champions, but to be the man, you gotta beat the man! Rassie has really brought that Munster spirit of old into the Boks camp and they are back and a real threat for the cup. Only 12 months ago they were floundering, but now they are strong and beyond capable. The only issue is the magnifying glass on them in relation to drug testing. If 1 player gets popped during the competition then it is all over. Boks to win a close game.
To finish, I have a question for you. There are Irish players in the squad with injuries, but they have central contracts. So does that mean that they HAVE to make the plane? When you look at Henshaw / Earls they have had relatively long term injuries, the medical teams say they will be fine but should we be bringing injured players on tour with the hope they will be fit for the knockout games? I am not for 1 second saying either player shouldn’t be picked, just asking the question. Is the centralised contracts situation good for keeping our players here, but also a negative when it comes to RWC? Injured players get a plane ticket regardless of injury status (of course I do not mean injuries that keep them out of the game)
Ireland by 7 and the ‘Boks by a similar score and we roll into the RWC!