Rugby World Cup Preview
The eighth Rugby World Cup, to be hosted in England, is set to take place between 18th September and 31st October. England managed to beat out rival bids from Italy. Japan and South Africa back in 2009, earning the right to play host to the event. A total of 20 teams will be battling it out to be known as 2015’s Rugby World Cup champions.
Twelve of the 20 teams competing qualified by finishing in the top three places in their pools in the 2011 World Cup, while the remaining eight managed to qualify through regional competitions. Since 2011, only a single team change has been made, with Uruguay coming in to replace Russia.
Venues and Teams
A total of twelve stadia are hosting games across England, with Twickenham Stadium in London being the host for the final on 31st October. A venue in Wales, the Millenium Stadium, was also approved by the International Rugby Board (IRB) in 2011, despite being out of the host country’s borders. Two of the venues are dedicated rugby union grounds, those being Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester and Sandy Park in Exeter.
Teams will compete from around the world to be crowned 2015 champions. This year’s line up is exactly the same as the list of teams competing in 2003. The 20 teams have already been split into four pools of five, ready for the pool stage of the competition.
The first round of the Rugby World Cup is the pool stage. This sees teams from pool A compete against one another, pool B do the same, as do pools C and D. The first game to start off the competition on Friday 18th September will be pool A, with England taking on Fiji at 20:00 GMT at Twickenham Stadium.
Once all games have been played within the respective pools, the teams finishing in the top two of each pool will advance to the quarter-finals, while the top three teams from each pool will receive automatic qualification to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The quarter-finals will then lead to the semi-finals and then, of course, then final on 31st October.
Hotly Tipped Teams
The reigning world champions, New Zealand, are of course one of the favoured teams to win again. And with an average of 48 caps per man in their squad, who’s to argue with such a prediction. That’s almost twice as many as England’s squad.
However, England are the home country team and this could work to their advantage. Although they’re ranked fourth at the moment, the truth is that there’s enough strength within the team to propel the team to the number one spot. They’ll have to fight their way through strong competition from Australia and Wales in the pool stage though.
Ranking second, South Africa is another team that has been favoured, although losses in November last year to Wales and Ireland did seem to invoke the idea that the team is on shaky ground. However, they did defeat New Zealand in the month prior to that, which was the Kiwis’ first loss in almost two years.
Ireland were the back-to-back winners of the Six Nations, and have worked their way up to their current number three ranking. If Jonathan Sexton can integrate well enough with the new young backs and Paul O’Connell continues playing as he has done for the team over the past few years, Ireland also have a strong chance of claiming the victory.