England have drawn a fearsome group for the second successive tournament, New Zealand and South Africa will meet in pool play for the first time, while Australia and Wales are in the same group once again.
The next Rugby World Cup kicks off on Sept. 20, 2019 and will visit 12 venues across Japan before its conclusion on Nov. 2. With well over two years to go, ESPN’s global contributors make some bold predictions of what we can expect in Japan — and who will make it to the quarterfinals.
The Wallabies didn’t have the best year under Michael Cheika in 2016. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Not even in Michael Cheika’s wildest dreams would he have entertained the idea of a Wallabies pool consisting of Wales and Georgia, but that ideal draw is exactly what he’s got.
Despite some ordinary club level form in Super Rugby, Cheika will back the players selected to perform on the big stage and Australia should comfortably progress through their group.
Questions remain on whether they have enough ball carriers in their pack and how strong they are at No. 8, but if they can sort out these deficiencies, they’re every bit a chance to return to the Rugby World Cup final.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Argentina, Australia, Wales — Jake Michaels.
Former England captain Chris Robshaw at the 2015 World Cup. David Rogers/Getty Images
England are ranked second in the world, and with good reason. With back-to-back Six Nations titles to their name, and a youthful squad heading to Argentina, Eddie Jones is developing essential depth and weighing up who will form the squad in two years’ time.
His focus in the meantime will be to develop their attacking game and their mental edge, but with just one game against the All Blacks before the tournament kicks off, we may only gauge just how good England are when they are in the midst of their World Cup pool stage.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, France, Wales, Australia — Tom Hamilton.
Will Baptiste Serin lead a France revival? Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
The dullard days of Philippe Saint-André may well have given way to those of the mildly more enlightened Guy Noves yet this is a France team still battling to rediscover itself.
Talents such as Baptiste Serin, Yacouba Camara, Camille Chat and Darly Domvo may, in two years’ time, be household names but with both France’s senior and under-20 teams currently struggling to string together a meaningful sequence of results there is every chance the three-time runners-up will be home in time to watch the quarterfinals on the television.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Argentina, Australia, Wales — Martin Gillingham.
Johnny Sexton will be key to Ireland’s World Cup chances. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Rugby World Cup’s perennial underachievers.
Ireland and Italy are the only Tier 1 nations who haven’t reached the semifinals in the history of the tournament. Two years out, its unthinkable that Ireland wouldn’t top Pool A and be favourites [once again in a quarterfinal] against South Africa.
But what Ireland need is to build depth. Johnny Sexton needs a sabbatical. Waiting for injuries to blood players worked with Garry Ringrose, but they need to look past Six Nations campaigns to have a squad capable making history.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Argentina, Wales, Australia — Killian O’Connor.
Italy head coach Conor O’Shea. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Only a miracle will prevent Italy ending the next Rugby World Cup campaign in the same way it has concluded every edition since 1987: flying home at the end of group stages.
Locked in the 15th ranking position the Azzurri ended up in the same pool of reigning World Champions New Zealand and unusually seventh ranking seeded South Africa.
While the All Blacks are still an age ahead and out of reach, South Africa have recently been beaten for the first time in Italian history in Florence. Very few, however, will believe the Springboks won’t find a remedy to their embarrassing slide in international competitiveness in the next two years.
Italy must run at full throttle from now till the 2019 but it probably won’t be enough.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, France, Australia, Wales — Enrico Borra.
Beauden Barrett (L), Jordie Barrett Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
Wrap Beauden Barrett up in cotton wool. The Hurricanes fly-half, and his brother Jordie, will be pivotal to the All Blacks’ chances of winning a third successive World Cup.
The focus once the Lions is over has to be on Japan, and Steve Hansen and company can’t be afraid to lose a few Tests by blooding some talent — particularly in the forwards — before the tournament.
The draw is favourable, but the All Blacks can’t let complacency become a factor as they did before 2011.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, France, England, Australia, Wales — Nick Bewley.
Scotland will have an interesting transition period under Gregor Townsend. Getty Images
It’s a pretty positive draw and while Japan could cause a few problems, Scotland will be pleased with it.
They’re now going into a new spell with Gregor Townsend and the majority of the players are experienced in the Scotland shirt, but they will go through a transitional period while they bed into his ethos.
There’s so much to build on from Vern Cotter’s time in charge but they will look to give the youngsters more experience to go alongside the higher capped players like Greig Laidlaw.
Failing to make the quarterfinals would be a huge disappointment.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, France, Australia, Wales — Rory Lawson.
Could Sir Graham Henry end up coaching the Springboks? David Rogers/Getty Images
The Springboks are going to have another nightmare season in 2017 and Allister Coetzee will be replaced before the end of the year.
SA Rugby will turn to someone like Graham Henry to get the South Africans in fighting shape ahead of the World Cup. The new man will banish the veterans and put his faith in youngsters such as Curwin Bosch.
The Boks will lose to the All Blacks and finish second in their group. But, with Bosch coming into his own at flyhalf, they will beat Ireland in the quarterfinals, before being knocked out in the semifinals.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Argentina, Australia, Wales — John Goliath.
Ospreys’ Keelan Giles could be unleashed for Wales at the World Cup. Photo by Dan Minto – CameraSport via Getty Images
Wales stand at a crossroads.
The squad picked by Robin McBryde to face Tonga and Samoa this summer contains some seriously exciting talent — Steff Evans, Keelan Giles and Rhun Williams are all on the plane — but there is still a feeling in Wales that players not being picked on form.
James Davies and Dan Evans are unlucky not to be going, and the team’s chances in Japan will hinge on how well the side is refreshed over the next 12 to 18 months.
Quarterfinalists: Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, England, Argentina, Australia, Wales — Martyn Thomas.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19348861/way-too-early-predictions-2019-rugby-world-cup
Way-too-early predictions for RWC 2019
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY