The Rugby Championship 2016 Preview

The top 4 teams from the Rugby World Cup will go head to head once again. With teams in transition and Argentina’s first seasons with a Super Rugby team backing it up there’s plenty of intrigue.

Last year was a shortened version due to the Rugby World Cup and with Australia’s victory over the All Blacks in Sydney they took the championship. Also it was the first time that the Pumas didn’t finish last.

Country Points
1 Australia 13
2 New Zealand 9
3 Argentina 5
4 South Africa 2

The structure of the tournament sees Australia and New Zealand play each other home and away as the South Africa and Argentina do the same. Them South Africa and Argentina visit Australasia for 2 games before Australia and New Zealand travel to Africa and South America.

Round 1
Australia v New Zealand
South Africa v Argentina
Round 2
New Zealand v Australia
Argentina v South Africa
Round 3
New Zealand v Argentina
Australia v South Africa
Round 4
New Zealand v South Africa
Australia v Argentina
Round 5
South Africa v Australia
Argentina v New Zealand
Round 6
South Africa v New Zealand
Argentina v Australia

This season there are no conflicting priorities with a Rugby World Cup so we dont’ have to worry about players being rested or rotated. It will be a straight shoot out.

Australia have been reinforced by their French foreign legion and whilst this might not be a long-term solution it certainly strengthens the squad. With injuries and illness reducing the options at 12 this was always the obvious move. Cheika also complained about the conditioning of players not being up to scratch in June. This meant the Wallabies couldn’t play the game plan they wanted. With the Super Rugby sides not going deep into the playoffs he will have had more time with his squad. 3-4 weeks isn’t enough to sort out fitness but it does mean the squad should all be on the same page as far as game plan goes.

New Zealand have been storming in Super Rugby and a step above all others except the Lions. This is a double-edged sword for the All Blacks, it does mean the player are in form but they have played more and travelled more than the other sides having gone deep into the playoffs. This is countered by the holistic playing style that they have in New Zealand. There are differences between the Super Rugby sides but the philosophy is similar. I’m sure the All Blacks will get up to speed quickly but as they showed in June they can be slow starters. That first game in Sydney will be interesting.

Argentina have had most of their players together for most of the year in the Jaguares. Whilst as a Super Rugby side they have had poor results that has been in part to lots of rotation. The Pumas were up and down in June but they will have their French based players back as well. With a feeling that the whole seasons has been structured for this tournament rather than winning games we could be in for a surprise. The results suggest they will struggle but we have seen before at Rugby World Cups that they can target tournaments.

EDIT: I know that Argentina said they were only going to pick Super Rugby and domestic players but I didn’t think they would go through with it. However they have and players like Lobo who plays for Toulon have not been called into the squad.Maybe I have been a bit bullish in their prospects after all.

The Boks are going through a transition, not only in players but also in style. Or are they? Is Coetzee bought into the style that has served the Lions so well and appears to be the way rugby is evolving? From his statements it doesn’t look like it but he is selecting more Lions players and you don’t buy a Ferrari and these it to tow caravan. This is going to be a really interesting evolution to watch and see how much growing pains they are going to have.

So where does all that leave my prediction for the final table?

1 New Zealand
2 Argentina
3 Australia
4 South Africa

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