The 2019 Rugby World Cup gets under way in a little over 10 months and for everyone looking to wrestle the William Webb Ellis trophy from All Black hands – the preparations are entering the final lap.
In a post Lions season, it is often difficult to get a true reading on where a team stands. However, following a full pre-season, this Autumn campaign along with the Six Nations and next summer’s warm-up matches represent a significant milestone on the road to the World Cup. As it stands, each of the home nations are in different phases of their build-ups and will have different measurements of success this November. Here, we take a look each of the four teams:
England are in a tough place at the moment, a less than impressive Six Nations and a 2-1 defeat in their summer tour has cranked up the pressure on coach Eddie Jones. It certainly isn’t going to get any easier with matches against the big three from the southern hemisphere and World Cup hosts Japan; the next month could be a make or break period for a team that looked in such a good place 18 months ago. A lack of player game time and experience could be their downfall, a number of eyebrows have been raised at the pack named to face hard hitting South Africa, a match that could set the tone for an Autumn which could end with just one win. At this stage, three victories would be heralded a great success but it’s easy to envisage Eddie Jones putting a positive spin on two – how will the fans react?
After a famous victory against New Zealand in Chicago two years ago, Ireland know what it takes to topple the World Champions.
Defending Six Nations Champions Ireland are currently favourites for the 2019 running and at the moment represent the Northern Hemisphere’s best chance of taking the World title. All eyes will be on their clash with New Zealand on the 17th, number one and two in the World, this match is rightly being branded as the match of the Autumn. The men in green have what it takes to win this one, but will be equally content with a competitive showing. Their only other threat comes from free-flowing Argentina who have improved significantly over the summer – but they will still be targeting three if not four victories.
Gregor Townsend and his Scotland team have won many fans over the past 12 months – their entertaining free flowing style is easy on the eye, but it is now time for them to start putting in consistent performances and results. An impressive finish to the Six Nations and victory in Argentina was complimented by defeat away to the USA in the summer; this is a great opportunity for them to prove they can put in performances week-after-week, something they will need to master in Japan. Tough matches against Wales, South Africa and Argentina will be a real test, three victories would mark a great Autumn, but two from four with solid performances would keep them on track.
Warren Gatland is entering his final year as Wales head coach and will be using the Autumn as a springboard to take his team one further than ever before in Japan.
Warren Gatland’s men always turn up for a World Cup (just ask Stuart Lancaster), sighting the club-like ethos generated in the extended summer together as a key factor. Because of this, Wales hold much less stock in their Autumn form compared to their rivals. Expect to see a number of new caps on show as the race to fill the final few spots in the RWC squad intensifies. Saying that, they’d love nothing more than breaking their ten-year hoodoo over Australia (pool rivals in Japan) and clashes with Scotland and South Africa will pose a tough challenge. They could win all four, but three wins would mark a successful Autumn. Lets see if they’re worth their third place in the World rankings.
Written by James Jones – 02/11/18