Thursday Thoughts on a Friday

Some thoughts on the latest patch of November internationals.

  • Ireland
    • When asked if this was a case of peaking too early for the World Cup, Rob Kearney made the point that this was different, because Ireland had more than one system of play and we’re able to vary things depending on the opponent. This was a good point, as good as Ireland were during the 2018 Six Nations and November Internationals, by 2019 we had been figured out. As soon as the momentum of the winning streak broke that was that. Although it’s probably not wise to read this victory as Ireland being favourites for their World Cup Pool, it is momentum for next September.
    • The fly-half position is still an issue, which is a strange thing to say considering we arguably have the best one in the World. Carbery didn’t come on until there were about 5 minutes left, and that was through injury. He needs a big game against Fiji now to really cement himself as the rightful heir, as he had been years ago.
      • I will right about this more, but injuries aside, Carbery hasn’t been helped by being labelled the second-coming in such a high-profile way at such a young age.
      • It’s a shame Ciarán Frawley picked up an injury against All-Blacks XV. He’s been making a case to be Leinster’s number 2 over Ross Byrne, and Fiji would have given him the chance to make a big case for Sexton’s replacement.
    • Who would you rather Ireland face in a World Cup Quarter-Final? That’s presuming we get that far and don’t slip up against Scotland, Romania, or Tonga. The Quarter-Finals will se Ireland face either the winners or runners-up of Pool A. It’s beyond likely that these two places will be taken by New Zealand and France, unless Italy can do the unthinkable, or Uruguay and Namibia can do the completely unimaginable. I’d argue New Zealand are the better option. The Quarter-Finals is a hurdle Ireland have found un-jump-overable, so it’s better to play the opponents we’ve recently got a handle on then a France team that are at home, and look like they’ve finally got past the tag of ‘consistently inconsistent’.
      • In the interest of getting way to far ahead of ourselves, if Ireland top the group a maiden semi-final would be against the winner of pool C or runner-up of pool D. If Ireland come 2nd it will be the inverse, winner of pool D or runner-up of pool C. Pool D offer what appear to be more difficult options with three top tier nations in England, Japan, and the toughest pot 3 side Argentina, along with Samoa and Chile. It’s hard to pick which two get through here, but for what it’s worth England have their most difficult two games first, against Argentina and Japan, so could be virtually through or eliminated by 17th September. Argentina probably have the more favourable run of starting against an England side they’ve just beaten, then having a week off, and having Japan on the last round. Pool C can be considered the ‘pool of life’ as in contrast to the pool of death. Wales and Australia are joined by Fiji, Georgia, and the yet to be confirmed final-qualification winner. Fiji and Georgia will be eyeing up a huge shock. Wales have had a habit of finding form just at the right time for a World Cup though, but Australia have a habit of being in the latter stages. Two intriguing groups for slightly different reasons.
  • World Cup Qualifiers
    • Speaking of the World Cup, The final qualification tournament kicked off last weekend. USA and Kenya faced off last week with the US winning comfortably. Portugal got their first ever win against Hong Kong.
      • I said last week it will likely come down to that final game against Portugal and the USA, and that’s even more likely now. Hong Kong have been starved of gametime and Kenya are too far behind.
      • Next up is USA vs Hong Kong, and Portugal vs Kenya. We’ll probably get the same pair of results again, with Hong Kong the more likely to pull off an upset.
      • As for the two favourites, USA missing out would be a huge blow to the game over there with them se to host the tournament in 2031. Portugal have been consistently improving so this is a big chance for them.
    • Other Internationals
      • Ireland’s Pool Opponents
        • South Africa really suffered from not having a solid reliable placekicker on Saturday.
        • Scotland avoided a potential banana skin against Fiji. They may well relish being overlooked in Pool B.
        • Tonga were very comfortable against Spain in a game that saw them welcome a few players that changed allegiance. They built up the score late in the game with 19 of their 40points coming in the last 10 minutes.
        • Romania edged out Chile thanks largely to a good start. They weren’t overly convincing against the World Cup debutants to be.
    • Elsewhere
      • Argentina have picked up a few huge wins in recent years, and beating England gives them a mental edge ahead of their World Cup Pool opponents.
      • Georgia were comfortable enough against a Uruguay side that is ever improving. That bodes well for the Rugby Europe Champions heading into a World Cup where their aim will be to finish in the top 3 of their pool for the second time.
      • Italy put down a big marker against the Pacific Nations Cup Champions. For them it’s really about justifying their place in the top tier, particularly after losing to Georgia over the Summer.

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