We are still a week out, and this is the time the mathematicians like to start presenting us with scenario's. As always however there's not much in the way of intrigue or unexpected results, and those hunting for quarterfinal spots have their fates very much in their own hands.
Winner B(Australia) v Runner-Up A(Tonga/England)
Winner C(New Zealand) v Runner Up D(Ireland/Argentina/France)
Winner A(South Africa) v Runner Up B(Wales/Fiji)
Winner D(Ireland/Argentina/France) v Runner Up C(Scotland/Italy)
Pool A - South Africa has this pool wrapped up, despite being given a fright by the Tongans. England and Tonga square off this week to decide who will go on to the quarterfinals. My heart begs for Tonga, but the head says England will bungle their way through to be cannonfodder for the Australians.
Pool B - Australia strolls in at the top of group B. Wales and Fiji face off for the chance to go through, though winning is almost a booby prize with a quarterfinal against the South Africans.
Pool C - As expected new Zealand was never really tested, their closest game being the weekends 40-0 beating of the Scottish. Scotland and Italy decide their own fates, and on the lack of initiative showed by both sides so far I'm expecting a 0-0 draw. Incidentally - Scotland go through on a draw due to their 2 bonus points.
Pool D - The pool of death has delivered the scenario we suspected - that the number 2 and 3 placings would be decided by the final match between Ireland and Argentina. The number one spot will almost definitely hang on that game as well. But first France play Georgia in a game called "Can we win with a bonus point". A bonus point would take them to 15 points, which is enough to make the semi finals regardless of what happens in Paris. Considering that the Georgians will be backing up from their 'final' against Namibia 4 days earlier, this should be a given. It then comes down to whether the Irish can beat the Argentinians and by how much. If they win and get a bonus point, France will finish top on 15 and Ireland and Argentina will be tied on 14. If they win without a bonus point France will finish top of the pool with 15, Argentina second on 14 and Ireland third(and eliminated) on 13. What will really get the maths geeks salivating is the prospect that France wins without a bonus point and Ireland win with one. That will leave all three teams tied on 14 points.
There are a number of ways that the winner is decided should teams be drawn on points. The first method of deciding is the head to head. In the case of all three teams being tied that would be discarded as each team has a win and a loss to the other two teams. In the case of France qualifying top and Argentina and Ireland being joint on 14 - Ireland would progress by virtue of their 1 on 1 win. The second method is points scored for and against in all pool matches. If it gets to this decider Ireland can pack their bags. They would need to defeat Argentina by 87 points to crack this one. There are four more criteria for tie-breaking after that one, but it's all academic anyway.
Ireland don't have a hope.
Quite frankly it amazes they find their way out of the dressing rooms let alone to the try line. They lack structure, passion and consistency. They show no initiative on attack nor desperation on defense. For all the home nations talk of the All Blacks peaking too early(probably true) - they need look no further than the Irish for a team who are twelve months past their peak. Their preparation has been ludicrous and their performance thus far has suffered as a result. Argentina will beat Ireland, not by much, but comfortably. They will qualify top of the pool and go the 'easy' route, probably bowing out in the semi final against South Africa, but a reasonable long shot bet to make the final(and if they make it they could win it).
That will leave the final that was anticipated since the draw was announced being rescheduled to happen two weeks earlier - France vs New Zealand - quarter final. And what a match that will be.
Victory Haka by the Samoa Rugby Team.
Brilliant All Black team try v Scotland (2005 Grand Slam Tour)
Clips from the 87, 91, 95 Rugby world cups.