World Cup 2023 Getting There – Italy / Georgia / Japan

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Three teams that are getting closer to being competitive are Italy, Georgia, and Japan. 

Are they going to cause major upsets, probably not, but there are a few things going in their favor. 

Italy has the impossible task of either beating France or New Zealand to progress. That isn’t happening but I hope they push them close. They will however be very exciting to watch and will be too much for Namibia. 

Georgia is becoming more and more of a competitive team. Their u20s were a formidable team at the recent championships beating both Italy and Argentina to finish second after South Africa, so they are building some depth. They beat Wales last year and their players are mostly playing professionally in France. Monsters in the forwards can dominate opposition teams and they will push Wales, Australia, and Fiji close with possibly an upset win in there. Will it be enough to get to the knockouts? Probably close but just not enough yet. 

Japan encompasses all of the beautiful parts of the game. They love the game as a nation, their players are respectful of the game and they play with passion and joy. This has brought them their fair share of shock wins at the previous two World Cups famously beating South Africa and Ireland! With the unpredictability of the subpar form of England, they might sneak through with Argentina. Samoa might not agree and will bring brute force to the party! 

Overall these three have steadily improved in recent years. Still a little off the pace but I fully expect them to have breakthrough years at the next World Cup in 2027.

World Cup Losers 2023 – Argentina

Reading Time: < 1 minute

There isn’t a lot that would keep Argentina from going far in the World Cup but they will likely fall just short of the finish line. 

They have players who are accustomed to the playing conditions in France, with most of their players playing in France or the UK. They are also in the weakest pool with England, Japan, Samoa, and Chile. 

They should get out of the pool stage, beat the Pool C opponent in the quarterfinal but then be up against it in the semis.

That is where things will most likely fall apart:

  1. The big guns in the semis – in the semi-finals, they will meet one of the monsters from either Pool A or B. A team that has probably gone through hell to make it there and who will be battle tested. This can be New Zealand, France, South Africa, or Ireland.

  2. Inconsistency – when they get to the semis, it is hard to tell which version of Argentina you will get. You will 100% get the passion but that doesn’t mean the execution will be there. Since the start of 2022, they only won 6/16 games.

If they get to the final, it might result in a fairy tale ending, especially for someone like the iconic Augustin Creevy. 

Everything needs to work in their favor in the semis though to get to their first final.

World Cup Losers 2023 – Scotland

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Scotland will likely not get far and it feels unfair. 

The heart that Scotland shows when they play and their recent performances against France, show that they are an absolute top side. They deserve to be one of the top 5 teams in the world and they don’t just make up the numbers. 

They do however have a couple of the biggest obstacles to overcome if they want to get to the final:

  1. The pool of death – they are part of Pool B where they will compete with Ireland and South Africa as well as a much improved and dangerous Tonga. Just getting out of the pool stage will be massive for them.
  2. The quarters – the quarterfinals are not better in any way. They will be up against either New Zealand or France in the quarter-finals should they make it out of the pool stage.
  3. No Hogg – Stuart Hogg would have retired after the World Cup but he announced his retirement in July and won’t be playing for Scotland. Hogg has always been deadly for Scotland, is their leading try scorer, and is an icon of Scottish rugby. In combination with Finn Russel and Duhan van der Merwe, they would have been a frightening force.

Everyone loves an underdog and Scotland will definitely be one at the World Cup. 

I just feel there are just too many hurdles in their way as they try to get to the final.

World Cup Losers 2023 – England

Reading Time: < 1 minute

It is easier to figure out why England won’t win the World Cup than why they would. 

I don’t want to make a 20-minute video about it so I will try to keep it short(ish):

  1. Ill discipline – they have been serial offenders and have the horrible example of Owen “no arms” Farrell setting the example. If you get 3 cards at the same time in a single game, your discipline is non-existent.
  2. Steve Borthwick is not up to it – a standout player at Bath and Saracens and a good coach at Leicester but it hasn’t yet translated into anything notable for England.
  3. Bad form – they have won 8/19 games since the start of the year. They sit in 6th position and if Argentina sneezes hard enough they will drop down to 7th.
  4. They aren’t a team – the 6-Nations-dominating team from 2016, 2017 and 2020 is a distant memory. They don’t craft wins as a cohesive unit, they hope for them. Very few people quiver at the site of that white jersey with the rose on the chest.

Will they be better at the World Cup? Yes. 

Will they be good enough to go deep in the tournament? I highly doubt it.

World Cup Losers 2023 – Australia

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Australia runs the very real risk of missing out at this World Cup. Let’s see why.

I am a big fan of Eddie Jones and I believe his style of coaching and the success he had with England for a long time, will help Australia in France. 

There are a couple of outstanding players for Australia that can really turn a game on its head but I don’t think that would be enough. 

Here are the reasons why I think they might fall short: 

  1. No Michael Hooper or Quade Cooper – Quade was left out of the squad, which was a little shocking if you take into account his experience and steadily improving form over the past year. The absence of Michael Hooper, an icon in Australian rugby leaves a hole that the massive Skelton probably can’t even fill.
  2. One flyhalf – They will only be taking Carter Gordon to the World Cup. By the time the tournament starts, he would only have racked up half a dozen caps. That is next-level insanity.
  3. Inexperience – 16 of the players will go into the World Cup either uncapped or with less than 10 caps to their name. Will Skelton, who I really enjoy as a player, also suddenly is now the captain in place of James Slipper.

Strange decisions to say the least and very difficult to predict how this will all turn out. They are lucky with the pool draw they have and their quarter-final opponents but it would be shocking to see them get past the semis.

World Cup Losers 2023 – South Africa

Reading Time: 2 minutes

What will make South Africa lose out on a World Cup? There are a couple of reasons why this might happen.

The Springboks have the most brutal set of forward on the planet at the moment and when they are firing they crush the opposition at lineouts, scrums, rucks, and mauls. 

In recent times they have also developed a really creative back 3 that can rip apart defenses. 

They do however have a couple of hurdles to overcome that can stop them from getting to a final and should they get there, stop them from winning:

  1. Goal kicking – In the 2019 World Cup, Handre Pollard was kicking like a machine. He looks to be getting back to health but is only on the backup list for the World Cup. Manie Libbok kicked brilliantly for the Stormers but has had a few under-par performances for the Springboks and those missed kicks can and probably will cost South Africa in vital matches.
  2. Missing personnel – Lood de Jager, Handre Pollard, and Lukhanyo Am are huge omissions from the squad. Lood de Jager usually racks up the most tackles in the team around the rucks to go with his good work in the lineouts. Handre Pollard is both the vice-captain and a dependable kicker. Lukhanyo Am is however a key piece in the Springbok backline both running the defense and the creative spark that allows that exciting back 3 to shine.
  3. 80 minutes of concentration – Over the years the Springboks have gotten better at this but they still let themselves down at times. They can be utterly dominant but then have times when they are just flat. This has allowed many teams to come back at them and grab wins, especially the All Blacks. 

I hope they have solid answers for those areas to ensure they advance through the pool, quarters, and semis but it will be an uphill battle.