Well, tonight Australian time, the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals begin. I'm in for a sleepless weekend. 11pm tonight, Australia vs England; 5am tomorrow, New Zealand vs France; all tomorrow, Bathurst 1000; 11pm tomorrow, South Africa vs Fiji; 5am Monday, Argentina vs Scotland. I may just pass on the South Africa and Argentina games as their victories are essentially a foregone conclusion. In any case, at the moment, I'm trying to finish off an essay due on Monday so that the final paragraphs aren't killed by fatigue, tiredness, and complete inattention tomorrow.
But before the quarter-finals begin, I'd like to look back on a group stage. It had its surprises, but at times, it really did seem to be going through the motions and we found out nothing new about the All Blacks except that we need a specialist centre to suddenly discover some form. Damn you, Conrad Smith! You had so much promise, living in Tana Umaga's shadow, but then you break your leg and now that he's retired, you haven't recaptured your spark!
( Group A: South Africa, England, Tonga, Samoa, USA.Collapse )
( Group B: Australia, Fiji, Wales, Canada, JapanCollapse )
( Group C: New Zealand (woo!), Scotland, Italy, Romania, Portugal.Collapse )
( Group D, the Group of Death: Argentina, France, Ireland, Georgia, Namibia.Collapse )
So, my picks for the quarter-finals:
- Australia by roughly 15 over England.
- New Zealand by about 7-10 over France.
- South Africa by ... well, if they field their best team, 50+ over Fiji, but if they don't play some of their best players, maybe only 30 or 40.
- Argentina by 20-30 over Scotland.
Which means the semi-finals would be an all Southern Hemisphere affair, New Zealand vs Australia and South Africa vs Argentina. That would be competitive as hell, and prove that we really do play a far more exciting and superior form of rugby down here. I think New Zealand would beat Australia by a small margin, say 5 or so, while the South Africa vs Argentina game would be almost impossible to pick. The Springboks are rampaging, but the Argentines have originality and could capitalise on it if the Boks are overconfident. Either way, New Zealand to win the World Cup in a grand final thriller. Tonight's the first serious step on the way there. Come on, All Blacks, come on!