RWC Preview - the Group of Death
03 April, 2011
The will to win, or the fear of losing - South Africa (3), Wales (7), Fiji (10), Manu Samoa (11).
|Fiji v Wales - the will to win. |
The above are not projected results but the current IRB world rankings
for Group D that also includes Namibia, who are placed at 22.
With three teams vying for the second spot to join the Springboks in the quarter-finals Namibia, with all due respect, are making up the numbers, but will be important if it comes down to points difference, tries scored, etc for that second place.
Though I recall the Welsh thought much the same about the Flying Fijians in 2007, until they turned up in Nantes, only to find themselves being outgunned at the 'Stade Beaujoire', 38-34, in one of the best, and most exciting RWC games ever played.
Logically the Springboks should top the group (Logic? Remember last November’s result in the Autumn Tests – South Africa losing 21-17 to Scotland – albeit with a weakened squad but still good enough to beat both England and Wales)
thus the question - who to join them in the quarter- final draw: Fiji, Wales or Manu Samoa?
At this point I should declare my colours; Welsh, and living in France, but an advocate for anything that is good about the game of rugby, whichever team that may be.
My summary of the three teams goes like this, and includes both strengths and weaknesses. Wales - 'The fear of losing'
The talent and flair of welsh rugby is often talked about, but nowadays rarely seen. The 6 Nations has just finished, and the perpetual problem was there to see again - three victories but rarely a glimpse of any fluent play.
There are a lack of ideas in attack, despite a solid set scrum; it’s almost as if the Welsh are merely going through 'the phases' as if in a practise match. There seems to be no real inspiration. Whether this is in the mindset of the players, or something that has been coached out of them, is hard to judge.
The autumn tests (including a 16-16 draw against Fiji) were the same. The coaching staff put it down to the players, and the players to the game-plan. Either way unless the likes of James Hook, Jamie Roberts and Lee Byrne rediscover their touch, their 'pool' opponents should not have too many sleepless nights.
'The fear of losing' continues to exist. Manu Samoa - 'The will to win'
The proximity of Samoa to Fiji must obviously lead to intense rivalry, which will undoubtedly be at its peak on the 25th September at Eden Park. By the time that game takes place, both teams will have a good idea of what they are playing for, and not just national pride.
In Europe the Samoans are known for their strength, more so in the scrum than in the backs, who are not to be ignored, as many a Welsh player who has taken one of their tackles will vouch for.
As with the Fijians, many of Samoa’s top players are to found in the best European club teams, Gavin Williams, Tasesa Lavea, Cecu Johnston, and so the list goes on, boasting experience at the highest level.
Again, like Fiji, what counts against them is to gel together as an international team; no 6 Nations or Tri-nations for them, only the Autumn Tests , where the selectors, have a matter of days to put together a coherent unit.
Their results against Ireland, England and Scotland showed how little exists between Oceania and the IRB's 'preferred seating partners'.
I am not the one to judge or predict the result at Wellington, Samoan forwards against Fijian backs, but I hope to be there, for what should be an epic battle to be written into the annals of RWC folklore for eons to come. Fiji - 'To Win'
If they can come up with a little more cohesion amongst the forwards, and thus the chance to provide ball to one of the best back divisions in world rugby, with or without Napolioni Nalaga and Micheal Tagicakibau, I believe Fiji can repeat their 2007 quarter final appearance, then who knows!
Playing near to home and in front of many fellow countrymen will only help. Unlike the Welsh, they won't freeze: "No" to the 'fear of losing'. Just passion to play the game as it should be played, and "To Win". Story by Marc@Rugbymarc