September 7th, 2007
Categories: Uncategorized

Rugby World Cup 2007 – A Dummies Guide

 

Today, the 2007 Rugby World Cup kicks off in France. For the unitiated North American audience, Rugby Union is a game played by a number of teams around the world. Two teams of 15 players try to score points by carrying an oval ball to the opposing team’s goal line. You can pass the ball back and kick it, but it’s quite a slow, tactical game. And it’s brilliant. And I reccommend reading the wikipedia article linked above as that was the world’s worst definition of Rugby.

Anyway, it’s one of the few tournaments Wales qualify for and have a half decent shout at winning it. It’s also growing popularity around the world, and even in the UK it’s had a bit of a resurgance. To prepare for the monumentous kickoff in France tonight against Argentina, here is a look at all 20 teams in this years cup, as well as a few links to blogs associated with each country (or countries I could find blogs on). If you can fill in any gaps, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll add you.

Pool A

england.GIFEngland
Associated Bloggers: Good grief, where to start? Han, Guy, Ryan, ClaireGeedos, Jem, Mike, Matt, Blogging Fingers, Punclox Lot, Malcolm, Diamond Geezer and about a billion others.
Bookies Odds: 25/1
Best Performance: Champions (2003)
Will they win?: Their squad is not as strong as previous years, with a number of changes since 2003. They now rely even more on Johnny Wilkinson. Defeats against France and South Africa hurt them. Semi’s at a push. No further.
Man To Watch: Johnny Wilkinson. On his day, England are great.

samoa.GIFSamoa
Associated Bloggers:
Bookies Odds:
500/1
Best Performance: Quarter Finals (1991, 1995)
Will they win?: No, but probably the best of the ” Rank Outsiders” to spring an upset. They play a difficult game of Rugby with men behind the ball. They’ll lose against South Africa and England, but not by much. Third in their group.
Man To Watch: Census Johnson. Census is an appropriate name, as he’s the weight of 3 men. Front row and perfect for Samoa’s slow game.

southafrica.GIFSouth Africa
Associated Bloggers: Celsete
Bookies Odds: 9/2
Best Performance: Champions (1995)
Will they win?: A very, very, very strong side. Hammered England a while back, and will probably do it again in the bid to avoid Australia in the Quarter Finals. Will be one of four likely teams in the final, then who knows.
Man To Watch: Victor Matfield. Probably the best man in the line out in the world. Great tactician.

tonga.GIFTonga
Associated Bloggers:
Bookies Odds:
2000/1
Best Performance: 1 win in a single World Cup (1995, 1999)
Will they win?: If by win you mean “a game”, then maybe against the US. Apart from that, not a chance.
Man To Watch: Nili Latu. Cousin of Doug Howlett of the All Blacks. So there’s good genes there.

usa.GIFUnited States
Associated Bloggers: A.T., Blogrrl, Manuel, Gnomeynewt, Nate, Merrick, Sayre, Sonja, Kyle, Matt, Brian, Joe (who’s on strike)
Bookies Odds: 5000/1
Best Performance: 1 win in a single World Cup (1995, 1999)
Will they win?: You kidding me? They didn’t invent the sport, so they’re not going to be good at it. Who knows, send Jonah Lomu over there to play for a team, and give it 25 years, and they may qualify from a group.
Man To Watch: Mike Hercus. American, but the son of a Quantas empoyee. Hence why he’s automatically picked for the US team. Plus he played for Llanelli in his time.

Pool B

australia.GIFAustralia
Associated Bloggers: Rhys L, Darren Rowse, Anthony
Bookies Odds: 9/1
Best Performance: Champions (1991, 1999)
Will they win?: An outside shot. On their day, unbeatable. On an off day, a bit shonky. Have got Wales at the Millenium Stadium, which is not a happy hunting ground for them. May stick my neck out and say no further than the quarter finals.
Man to Watch: Stirling Mortlock is a great captain of the squad, and can really inspire people in ways most coaches can’t.

canada.GIFCanada
Associated Bloggers: Kirsty, John Chow
Bookies Odds: 2000/1
Best Performance: Quarter Finalists (1991)
Will they win?: No, but my work mate thinks that they will spring an upset against one of the better three teams in the group. I pray to god it’s either Fiji or Australia.
Man To Watch: Morgan Williams. He has had experience with Saracens and Stades Francais.

fiji.GIFFiji
Associated Bloggers:
Bookies Odds:
1000/1
Best Performance: Quarter Finals (1987)
Will they win?: Unlikely, but like Canada, my work mate thinks that they will spring an upset in the group stages. Probably won’t though, but I’d be lying if I said that I am looking forward to Wales vs. Fiji.
Man To Watch: Seru Rabeni. Extensive European rugby experience should stand him in good stead in the Northern Hemisphere pitches.

japan.GIFJapan
Associated Bloggers: Kumiko, Vicky
Bookies Odds: 5000/1
Best Performance: One Win (1991)
Will they win?: The fact that most tournaments end up with a “Who can beat Japan by the most points?” in the group stages suggests their talent pool. The rank outsiders, will be lucky to get a try, let alone a win.
Man To Watch: Takuro Miuchi. Missed the last world cup due to a tiff with the then coach, so desperately missed.

wales.GIFWales
Associated Bloggers: This fine piece of Literature, MB, Rhys Wynne, Tom and Ally
Bookies Odds:
40/1
Best Performance: Third Place (1987)
Will they win?: Faultered since winning the 6 Nations a few years ago. Nevertheless, occassional brilliance shining through moments of claimed good form (read: “We didn’t lose to the French as bad as the English”) means that we’re semi confident. Who knows, wouldn’t like to stick my biased neck out but would fancy the Aussies and the English in Cardiff. Quarter finalists again if they come against South Africa though.
Man To Watch: James Hook. Like a young Gavin Henson before he had trouble keeping out of Church. Maturity beyond his years.

Pool C

newzealand.GIFNew Zealand
Associated Blogs:
Rich Minx
Bookies Odds: 8/15
Best Performance: Champions (1991)
Will they win?: Most likely. The odds on favourites and the best Rugby team in the world without a doubt. Strong in all areas. They are not unbeatable, and a number of the top tier teams have beaten the All Blacks. But you wouldn’t bet against them.
Man To Watch: Richie McCaw. Best #7 in the World.

italy.GIFItaly
Associated Blogs: Pasquale, Daniel from Daily Blog Tips has studied in Italy too.
Bookies Odds: 300/1
Best Performance: Two wins (2003)
Will they win?: No, but very capable of beating Scotland to be the surprise package of the quarter finals. Probably no more than that, which they will be more than happy at.
Man To Watch: Marco Bortolami. He wouldn’t look out of place in any squad.

portugal.GIFPortugal
Associated Blogs: In Love With Lisbon
Bookies Odds: 5000/1
Best Performance: First Competition
Will they win?: New Zealand vs. Portugal will probably be the biggest hammering in this years World Cup.
Man To Watch: Diogo Mateus. Recently signed for Munster. They’re pretty good.

romania.GIFRomania
Associated Blogs:
Bookies Odds:
5000/1
Best Performance: One win in a World Cup (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003)
Will they win?: Will challenge Portugal. May come close against Scotland, but an outside chance at that at best. Won’t qualify from their group.
Man To Watch: Romeo Gontineach. The first Romanian to play in four world cups.

scotland.GIFScotland
Associated Blogs: Sarah, Duncan, Melissa, Blogging Tips
Bookies Odds: 150/1
Best Performance: Fourth (1991)
Will they win?: Probably not, in a very tough group as well, so there’s a real posiblity that they could finish third in their group and fail to qualify for the quarter finals. Certainly will not progress into the semi finals.
Man To Watch: Jason White. Just recovered from knee surgery in time for this World Cup. Best player in the Scottish Squad by a country mile.

Pool D

argentina.GIFArgentina
Associated Blogs:
Bookies Odds:
40/1
Best Performance: Quarter Finals (1999)
Will they win?: Argentina must be livid at their group draw. Pool C instead of Italy and they would be a fairly sure bet for the Quarter Finals, Pool A and B and they could take both England and Wales on their day. In this group however, I fear that France and Ireland will be too strong for them.
Man To Watch: Juan Martin Hernandez. If Argentina do well, this guy could be the player of the tournament.

france.GIFFrance
Associated Blogs: Petite Anglaise, Zhu
Bookies Odds: 6/1
Best Performance: Runners Up (1987, 1999)
Will they win?: The best chance of a Northern Hemisphere team winning it, and likely to be the only Nortern Hemisphere team in the semi-finals. Must win their group and avoid New Zealand in the quarter finals, but even if they come against the All Blacks, there could be a chance of an upset. May just be their year, especially being at home.
Man To Watch: Raphael Ibanez. A crowd favourite, a true professional, a great player who deserves to win the tournament.

georga.GIFGeorgia
Associated Blogs:
Bookies Odds:
5000/1
Best Performance: No games Won
Will they win?: I think Georgia will beat Namibia, but apart from that, I can’t see them doing anything much.
Man To Watch: David Khinchaguishvili. He’s half French.

ireland.GIFIreland
Associated Blogs:
Bookies Odds:
16/1
Best Performance:
Quarter Finalists (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003)
Will they win?: Another strong Northern Hemisphere side, though probably less likely than France to beat the All blacks. Could have an easy route to the final if they beat France and results go their way.
Man To Watch: Brian O’Driscoll. Single handedly took France to the limits early this year. Miracles do happen with him on the pitch.

namibia.GIF Namibia
Associated Blogs:
Bookies Odds:
5000/1
Best Performance: No games won
Will they win?: Highly unlikely. Just here making up the numbers.
Man To Watch: Percy Montgomery. Namibian. Damn shame he plays for South Africa, isn’t it?

So, that’s my comprehensive run down of the 2007 World Cup. I hope you like it, and take an interest in the second best world sporting tournament (behind the World Cup). It all kicks off tonight with France taking on Argentina. The greatest nation in the world kicks off against Canada on Sunday. I can hardly wait (especially as I have the added attraction of seeing France vs. Ireland in Paris, as well as Scotland vs. Italy in Rome). Cymru am bydd!

You can now mock my opinions and mock other nations chances in the comment box. To start, I’d like to say that the English are a bunch of public school pansies and if there is any justice in this world will be on the first plane home.

If you’re North American, just smile and nod, we know you’re not interested!

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