By Ross Alford & Duncan Fleming
After all these years, the world’s most prestigious rugby tournament is finally here and Grahamstown will be celebrating this tournament like no other. We give an analysis of the top ten sides – who are you counting on?
RWC History: Known as the consistent side, Ireland made the knock out stages at every World Cup, but never made the semi-finals.
Strengths: Their ability and experience in the back line is advantageous and watch out for players Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara. Weaknesses: The Irish have a knack of losing the plot in the second half.
Arb fact: An Irish rugby fan got locked in Wigan’s JJB Stadium overnight after he fell asleep on the toilet.
RWC History: Argentina has only been in the quarter finals once, in 1999, when they lost to the French.
Strengths: The Argentinean forwards are a force to be reckoned with. The Contemponi twins in the back line will add a new flare to the Puma squad.
Weaknesses: They have been thrown into the deep end of the pool of death, along with France and Ireland.
Arb fact: The Pumas’ nickname arrived out of error as a reporter, who followed the squad on their first tour, attempted to make a catchy pet name. He called the jaguar on their rugby jerseys a puma. The name stuck and is now internationally recognised.
RWC History: They reached the semi finals 20 years ago and the quarter finals only twice preceding this.
Strengths: Wales have a knack for playing at a fast tempo, quickruck ball and offloading before contact.
Weaknesses: Despite their strengths, Wales are on poor form. They have just come out of record defeats against France and England.
Arb fact: Due to legislation concerning the advertising of alcohol, when the team plays in France, the “Brains” (a type of alcoholic beverage) logo on their jerseys is replaced by “Brawn Again”, in a style identical to the original logo. However, for this World Cup the team are using a different kit.
RWC History: The French team has been given a cruel hand. They played in the finals of 1987 and 1999, but lost both.
Strengths: Playing on home soil is a big mental factor and the French are applauded for having a very free style of scoring.
Weaknesses: The French have an inexperienced front row and need to work on their defence.
Arb fact: Last century, France wascommonly held as the most desirable place to stage an invasion.
RWC History: Scotland made the semi-finals only once in 1991, when they lost to England.
Strengths: Their elaborate inventiveness in open play and deftness with the ball aid Scotland in their play. The sheer bulk of their forwards are sure to dominate any opposition.
Weaknesses: They are often weak and shaky in their defence at times.
Arb Fact: During WWII, the ground at Murrayfield (Scotland’s home venue) was offered to the nation and taken over by the Royal Army Service Corps as a supply depot.
Team: All Blacks
RWC History: New Zealand beat France 29-9 for the inaugural cup in 1987.
Strengths: The team have depth in the squad and offer multiple game plans. Talented players such as Daniel Carter (rated the world’s premier fly half) and Richie McCaw are assets to the team. Weaknesses: The mindset of the squad; they are known as the ‘chokers’ of the World Cup.
Arb Fact: The Moaris received a large portion of food poisoning before the ‘95 final against South Africa.
RWC History: England won in 2003.
Strengths: Their good scrums and line out. With Wilkinson back in the squad, the kicking ability of England will be up to scratch.
Weaknesses: Aside from Wilkinson, the majority of the team are a pretty inexperienced bunch.
Arb Fact: The English rugby hymn “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was first sung in honour of Chris Oti after he scored three tries in his Five Nations debut of ‘88.
Team: South Africa
RWC History: They won the 1995 cup.
Strengths: A combination of Schalk Berger’s reliable defence and Bryan Habana’s equally dazzling attack will prove to be tough for any opponent.
Weaknesses: Captain John Smit’s hamstring tear could pose a problem for the team.
Arb Fact: In 1994, South African prop Johan le Roux was given a 19-month ban after gnawing at the ear of New Zealand hooker Sean Fitzpatrick.
RWC History: They won in 1991 and 1999, beating England and France.
Strengths: The experience of Gregan and Larkham, both of whom have played over 100 tests, will be highly influential. Their strong bench has the ability to change a game in the dying minutes.
Weaknesses: Lack of the killer instinct when they play lower teams is a disadvantage. They have a strange tendency to lose the close games.
Arb Fact: Before deciding on their nickname, the Wallabies, the team considered naming themselves the ‘Rabbits’ but decided against it as they didn’t want to be characterized by a foreign animal currently pillaging their nation.
RWC History: Samoa have reached the quarter finals twice, in 1991 and 1995.
Strengths: They succeed with quick pace and good ball skill in the back line, their wing, Tuilagi, is the secret weapon in Samoa’s attack.
Weaknesses: They suffer from the quality and size of their tight forwards and their weak lineout options.
Arb Fact: In 2004 the Samoan Rugby Union gave professional wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson a personalised Manu Samoa Rugby