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World Cup Outsiders (Pt. 1)

Getofmeland

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This year’s Rugby World Cup will, unless an unfeasible series of lamentable disasters befalls them in the next 6 months, be dominated by the Tri Nations teams with the majority of the 6 Nations teams filling losing quarter final places. However there will be other teams looking to upset at least one of the big boys during the group stages and while I don’t expect any of these teams to still be in the tournament come October I’d thought I’d take at look which teams could give the big boys an uncomfortable 80 odd minutes during September.

Fiji are ranked 10th in the current IRB world rankings, just 1 place lower than Scotland but they are currently ranked as a 1000-1 shot compared to Scotland’s odds of 100-1 ! The Fijian’s love of open space combined with their sheer physical presence will provide much excitement during the tournament. Wales in particular will be nervous about facing a team who they have struggled against of late. Of late Fijian imports have been atop the shopping lists of many a rich rugby team owner in France’s Top 14 competition and currently 9 of their squad play their trade in this division. Fijian backs are particularly en vogue in the French league and players like the 106 kg Centre Seru Rabeni, 6ft 3 inch Winger Napolioni Nalaga and the equally tall and 104 kg Winger Albert VuliVuli will provide even the sternest defence a problem or two. Fiji’s biggest obstacle in previous tournaments has been their lack of a number 10 who can organise and keep his head under pressure, however the displays of Isa Nacewa in Leinster’s Heineken Cup winning season are reason for optimism on that front. If Fiji can maintain their discipline and stay away from set piece laden games they will be exciting to watch.

Fiji start their campaign with a game against the 5000-1 shots Namibia while the 2 “big guns” in their group South Africa and Wales face each other in a bruising encounter a day later. A week later they face their toughest test against South Africa and unless Wales can manage an almost thinkable upset in the first week South Africa would probably settle for a comfortable win and no injuries with games against Samoa and Namibia rounding off their group fixtures. Fiji’s penultimate group match will be a hotly contested clash with their Pacific Island neighbours and rivals Samoa. While the 2 teams have only met 3 times in the last 3 year Fiji do hold a slight edge with 2 victories and 1 loss and another victory in their group game would provide a mouth watering finale to the group with Fiji taking on Wales for second place in the group and a place in the Quarter Finals.

Fiji’s near neighbours Samoa are another of the teams who are expected to struggle in the group phase of the tournament, but despite being ranked 11th in the world by the IRB they are priced as 500-1 shots for the cup. Their physicality is undoubtedly their strong suit but in the last 4 or 5 years the rise of their 7’s team has seen Samoa’s skills improve drastically. The 7’s side have also unearthed some seriously quick players and the likes of Mikaele Pesamino of Sale Sharks, Lolo Lui and back rowers like Alafoti Fa’osiliva will relish any open space they can find. Like Fiji set pieces have always been problematic for Samoa but with the experience of front rowers like Census Johnson, skipper Mahonri Schwalger combined with the size and strength of 19 stone 23 year old Na’ama Leleimalefaga from Top 14 play off finalists Montpellier should stabilise their scrum.

Samoa’s first group fixture is also against Namibia and will provide them with a valuable chance to familiarize themselves with World Cup rugby and should give them their first bonus point win of the group. Their second group game against Wales will bring back happy memories for Samoan fans and Coach “Dicky Tafua since 2 of their most famous wins were against Wales in World Cups, once in 1991, when Tafua captained the team in a game played in Cardiff Arms Park and again in Cardiff in 1999 at the Millennium Stadium. Their third group game is the Pacific Island derby against Fiji and that could provide a very tense affair as it could be the game that decides second place in the group. Samoa will hope to have secured second place before their final group match which sees them pitted against group favourites South Africa.

While I can really only see South Africa winning group D given Wales recent drab performances, lackluster form and the expected improvement from both Fiji and Samoa second place should be very hotly contested.

Blog by @Buck_Mitchell
 

peks89

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Was a good read..fiji really needs to fix the scrum.
 

Shaggy

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Was a good read..fiji really needs to fix the scrum.

Yes, and they will need to overcome the financial issues to get them to the tournament ... hopefully this wont disrupt their preparation, and their play too much
 

superprop

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Is Nacewa playing also he can't really control a game at 10 but is a brilliant 15. Isn't VuliVuli a centre ?(has looked very good there anytime I've seen him). Finally has the whole thing about N.Z. not letting military personnal in being cleared up?
 

TRF_stormer2010

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Yes, 2 big question marks for Fiji are 1) will they even show up; money problems and the NZ sanctions and the other which is related 2) will they be able to field their best possible team?; Nacewa will probably not play, there is the sanctions again and is there the funding/availability of their top players? It's also a massive pity that these players won't get enough time as a team together as well to really be able to compete at their top potential.

But yes, pool D is probably the most open. Wales have pushed SA close but one has to admit that those encounters have been in Cardiff with the Springboks usually tired and a few journeymen on tour to be tested IE not the real deal. Fiji pushed a Bok team close in the QF of 2007 although again, several players were rested and SA cannot afford to take these islander team lightly.

Smaoa I feel have the more structured game and because of it are a more consistent threat IMO. They have some added skill and pace as you've said and Samoa has always been a tough physical challenge; I'm sure no-one has forgotten the 'chiropracter' folding poor Derrick Hougaard double. JdV got taken out of the tournament against Tonga in 2007 but to be honest I think these tough pool games were the reason SA and England ended up facing off in the final last tournament; they allready had their scares and scars early on and were up for a scrap. And the RWC play-offs is nothing other than scrap. Anyone pitching up hoping to play or see vintage rugby is sadly going to be disappointed IMO.
 

psychic duck

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But yes, pool D is probably the most open. Wales have pushed SA close but one has to admit that those encounters have been in Cardiff with the Springboks usually tired and a few journeymen on tour to be tested IE not the real deal. Fiji pushed a Bok team close in the QF of 2007 although again, several players were rested and SA cannot afford to take these islander team lightly.

Who specifically did South Africa rest against Fiji in 2007?

Smaoa I feel have the more structured game and because of it are a more consistent threat IMO. They have some added skill and pace as you've said and Samoa has always been a tough physical challenge; I'm sure no-one has forgotten the 'chiropracter' folding poor Derrick Hougaard double. JdV got taken out of the tournament against Tonga in 2007 but to be honest I think these tough pool games were the reason SA and England ended up facing off in the final last tournament; they allready had their scares and scars early on and were up for a scrap. And the RWC play-offs is nothing other than scrap. Anyone pitching up hoping to play or see vintage rugby is sadly going to be disappointed IMO.

Yes spot on, but I hope there will be matches like Northampton Leinster in the knockout rounds
 

@buck_mitchell

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I've no idea if Fiji will be there, I read about them "boycotting" the WC after I'd mailed this in (bloody typical) ! lol, I imagine they will be, they do have a history of publicising just how poor they are to makes sure they get more money from the IRB or the wealthier nations, wasn't their last tour of the UK paid for by the home nations ?
 

TRF_stormer2010

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Who specifically did South Africa rest against Fiji in 2007?

I had a look and it seems my mind has left me. It is the game against Tonga where we made whole-sale changes; only 4 of the incumbents played that game. Against Fiji we had pretty much our strongest available line-up and it was still a tough match.

Here's holding thumbs Fiji don't make it to the RWC *tongue in cheek*.
 
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profitius

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Thanks for the info! The Fiji and Samoa could be decent outsiders to back. I think its a horrible group for Wales to be in.
 

Rugbyfan1982

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I think Fiji could upset a team but they have little chance of winning the tournamentIf they have one great game that would be great but to win they would have to be consistant and i feel a team such as scotland has more sturuture and more chance of winning a number of games
 

RJAH777

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Wales will get banana skinned by one of these teams and miss out again. Can't wait
 

SelimNiai

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Cant rule out Japan maybe springing a shock or two, they won the Asia Cup of Nations recently and always do decently at World Cups. We have a seriously tough group both in terms of quality of sided and physicality, key for us is to stay injury free in those group game which, on paper, we should win most if not all..

Argentina have lost the key of their very good side due to age etc but they do well too, I won 300 quid on their win vs France in 07.
 

Thingimubob

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Like that Wales have been written off already, we can do well when no-omne expects us too ;)
Don't think that it's entirely fair to say it's unthinkable that Wales can beat the 'Boks, especially considering that our last couple of games have all been within 5 points (and don't give me rubbish about weakened teams, as that wasn't the case for every match, never seems to matter to people when it's a 2nd string Welsh side anyway). Don't think our 6 Nations was THAT bad, 3 wins out of 5 is hardly a disaster, and we were winning tight games that we dont usually win.
Am worried about the matches against the Pacific Islanders, will be tough and we need to bring our best game. We've struggled against both in the matches we've had recently (16 - 13 vs Samoa, 16 - 16 Fiji) though neither we're the strongest Welsh teams (both with Biggar at 10, who has a habit of losing his composure a fair bit) so we badly need to roll out our strongest teams for both. Main thin I'm worried about is injuries with 3 tough, physical games awaiting us. We're a far better team than we were 4 years ago and just need to play with composure for the full 80mins.
The warm up games are gonna be huge for Wales. We're always fired up for matches against England (unless you're Gareth Jenkins and decide to name a 3rd string side <_<) so if we win them it will be a fantastic platform for the WC as Wales have always been a team that runs on momentum and confidence, especially after wins against the English.
Also hasnt Nacewa said that he's not gonna play for Fiji?
 
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SelimNiai

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After watching Samoa against the Aussies I think sides have learnt that the Samoans are psycopathic when it comes to rucking, not always legally but they fought for every single ball and won most of them.
 

AfakasiAssasin

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After watching Samoa against the Aussies I think sides have learnt that the Samoans are psycopathic when it comes to rucking, not always legally but they fought for every single ball and won most of them.
While we had a great result vs Australia and just because we've done well against Wales in the past, by no means am I following that game thinking that we're not the underdogs. Wales is a very strong team and at their best should be able to overcame any of the Island teams. They have struggled in the past against the Island teams and I am confident in my teams ability to put one over Wales again... but I am by no means expectant.
 

Tom943

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Think that samoa could cause a huge upset at this world cup because they played well against the aussies and gave the scots a good game last november. The have solid forwards and some good backs and if alesana palys well on the wing he could easily be player of the tournament and help samoa have a great tournament. Reallistically i can see them getting at least to the quarter finals beating wales in the pool stages
 

aganatiq

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While we had a great result vs Australia and just because we've done well against Wales in the past, by no means am I following that game thinking that we're not the underdogs. Wales is a very strong team and at their best should be able to overcame any of the Island teams. They have struggled in the past against the Island teams and I am confident in my teams ability to put one over Wales again... but I am by no means expectant.

England played very well the last time Australia played them but I don't think that will have much bearing when Australia play them again in either the World Cup or in future Tests. It will be very interesting that England will play against Australia in New zealnd Tornament. Check this http://rugby-world-cup.boylesports.com There is interesting information.
 

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