NEW: The Third Half – Analysis of the 6 Nations, Conor O’Shea and Chris Ashton
This week Matt and Jamie talk through some of the other nations...
OPINION – The draw for the World Cup 2015 group stages feels like it was a lifetime ago. Taking place at the Tate Modern in London on 3 December 2012, seeing England drawn up against rugby giants Wales and Australia as well as Fiji and Uruguay meant that there were a lot of anxious faces amongst fans and mine was no different. Wales were the current Six Nations Grand Slam Champions and Australia were seeded third in the world on the IRB rankings so there was nowhere to escape the daunting prospect that England had been presented with. Aptly named the group was dubbed the ‘group of death’.
The current international rugby environment however, is much different to the one in 2012 and now I would say this ‘group of death’ has presented England with the perfect opportunity to take some serious scalps and remove either Wales or Australia from the equation – both of whom are very capable of lifting the Cup come the end of October. I wouldn’t be so positive if the World Cup was being held somewhere other than England and I’m completely happy to admit that. But the fact that England will play all but one of their matches at Twickenham gives them a significant edge over their group rivals as well as the following knockout matches when/if they get that far.
Aside from having the advantage of playing at the home of rugby, the recent form of England, Wales and Australia, particularly on head to heads, puts England firmly on top having them beating both Wales and Australia their last two meetings: (Eng: 21 Wal: 16, Eng: 29 Wal: 18/ Eng: 26 Aus: 17, Eng: 20 Aus: 13).
It’s something that every squad would experience when coming up against a team you’ve lost to consecutively – a feeling of trepidation and nerves, especially when facing them at their home ground; Wales and Australia will be no different. I truly believe that the combination of Twickenham, home support and past results will ensure England go through as group winners and take with them a wealth of confidence that will be invaluable in the latter stages of the competition.
I will happily hold my hand up if England bomb out of the World Cup but I just can’t see it happening, well especially not in the pool stages. The transition they’ve made as a squad and the ethos they’ve maintained since the last World Cup is significant and the way in which Lancaster has developed the teams strength in depth have put them up toward the top of the ‘teams to beat’ along with the perennial contenders the All Blacks. I look forward to seeing what the World Cup brings and I hope England live up to not only my expectations but the expectations of the Nation.