Why I think England will beat Wales, and other #RWC15 musings

It’s been OK so far, hasn’t it? Scrap that, it’s been way more than OK, what with unexpected victories for Japan and Georgia, winning starts for the Home Nations and a general feeling that the gaps between the Tier 1, 2 and 3 nations are closing.

That has to be a good thing for the game and you only had to witness how Argentina pushed New Zealand hard and then powered past Georgia in the second half to show what sort of progress can be made when teams are given opportunities, funding and support.

Look at Italy, who were stuffed 101-3 by the All Blacks in 1999 and now hold their own among the best in the world. South Africa put 87 unanswered points past Namibia in 2011 but even they gave New Zealand something to think about and even scored a try against them, keeping the points against to less than 60.

I felt the decision to keep the Rugby World Cup at 20 teams was a good one. Whereas cricket wants to reduce the number of countries able to play at the highest level, rugby seems to going the right way about things by supporting the less well-established countries and allowing the sport to become part of the Olympics.

OK, that’s enough about the big picture, what about what’s actually happened on the pitch?

England’s win over a Fiji side that most were underestimating was a case of ‘job done’. Five points, a win on the board, and move on. World Cup openers – in any sport – are rarely classics and Chris Robshaw’s men handled the occasion very well.

Now comes a much sterner test with Wales, but it’s one I think they’ll win. Not by much, mind, but they have a cleaner bill of health, a stronger bench and they’ll try to use every bit of advantage playing at Twickenham can give them.

All credit to Georgia and Japan for their victories over Tonga and South Africa respectively. While some may have picked Georgia to win their game, was anybody predicting a Japan win? I highly doubt it and it has to go down as one of the biggest upsets in sporting history, never mind rugby.

This is perhaps not a vintage South Africa side (watch them go and win the thing now!) and one that was turned over by Argentina at home, remember, but it was a game that sent shockwaves through the sporting world, and rightly so.

Scotland saw Japan off comfortably enough though, and I have a feeling they will surprise a few people. The way the pool is set up now, they have every chance of topping it and then who knows? Knockout rugby might just bring the best out of them.

That’s just a hunch, mind. Don’t expect any technical analysis or in-depth insight here.

Before the tournament began, I picked Australia, England, Ireland and New Zealand as the semi-finalists with an England-Ireland final.

I’m going to stick with that, but I now make Argentina an outside bet to shake things up a little.