The northern hemisphere fired the first shots in this World Cup year with the 6 Nations, now it’s the turn of the southern hemisphere giants.
Last year New Zealand took the title with 4 wins from their 6 games and Argentina picked up their first win. Here’s the table:
Country Points 1 New Zealand 22 2 South Africa 19 3 Australia 11 4 Argentina 7
Normally the format of this competition is for each team to play each other home and away over 6 rounds. This year due to the Rugby World Cup though the tournament is curtailed to only 3 rounds. So like the 6 Nations there is an imbalance in home and away games between the teams. Here are the fixtures:
Week 1 New Zealand v Argentina Australia v South Africa Week 2 South Africa v New Zealand Argentina v Australia Week 3 Australia v New Zealand South Africa v Argentina
As you can see New Zealand and Argentina only have one home game each compared to two for South Africa and Australia.
The other factor that will impact the results, is the player management that each side will decide to use in the run up to the Rugby World Cup. This time four years ago, Australia won the Rugby Championship but New Zealand went on to win the big prize. Be sure that there is only one target this year and this is not it for these sides.
The most recent piece of form that we have to go on is from Super Rugby. As we have seen many times, with Wales and the Welsh regions being a prime example, the link between franchise and international form is tenuous. So whilst the New Zealand franchises have lorded it over the others this might not happen at the next level up.
With all these different factors it’s going to be a very difficult to predict how each of the teams will approach this tournament never mind which one might win. The obvious choice would be to go with New Zealand with the form of their Super Rugby franchises and All Blacks over the last few years. However with only one home game and the inevitable resting of players I think we need to look at the other options.
Australia’s only away game is against Argentina where they lost last year. There will be extra motivation to avenge that loss. Also with a new coach on board and Australia’s ability to peek for a Rugby World Cup we should see an improved performance. South Africa’s only away game is against Australia. That is the game that could be the crucial one and decide who wins the competition, with who ever wins that in the first week being in a great position.
I’m sorry but with two away games I can’t see Argentina doing anything but ending up at the bottom of the table. So with South Africa’s poor touring form I’m going with the below finishing positions:
1 Australia 2 New Zealand 3 South Africa 4 Argentina