In a partnership with Ladbrokes, Stephen Ferris published his debut blog for the betting company as Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off in Japan.
Read Stephen’s Preview below:
I remember the buildup of excitement and just being eager to kick things off in 2011. You think about the weather, the atmosphere, the fans, the stadium and just have to take it all in. You’ve got to think about the processes in place and the lead-up to the match. I concentrated on my training. The last thing you want is to go into matches and not be in good shape, dropping balls and getting nervous and anxious. Waiting to go, you have the nerves, the energy and the buzz. But as soon as that first whistle blows, you go into match mode and everything else takes care of itself.
Japan being the host nation they will want to get off to a quick start. They finished their World Cup prep with a heavy 7-41, defeat to South Africa. Russia haven’t been great and have conceded a lot of points. I think Japan are going to cruise to a pretty easy victory. This will give them the momentum that not only the team needs, but the whole country to really get behind their team. For teams like Japan and Russia, it is getting tougher. Tier two nations seem to be finding it difficult to get big victories. If there is going to be an upset, it might be Japan again. It could be Ireland or Scotland that they get one over on. Being the home nation might give them that extra few percent to get a big victory. But honestly, I cannot see a tier two nation springing a massive surprise and beating one of the big guns.
South Africa are back to play New Zealand on Saturday. It is going to be a ridiculous game! The two teams I fancy to get to the World Cup final are playing each other in the first game of their pool. Whoever wins this game will most likely play the loser of the Ireland v Scotland game and vice versa. If Ireland beat Scotland, they can gage who they are going to be up against in the quarter final. It is a huge game and I fancy South Africa for the win. They are a strong team, no injuries and Kolisi is back!
Ireland v Scotland
The Ireland v Scotland game is going to be very tough for both sides. Ladbrokes have it at around 9 points spread on the game which I think is crazy. Considering whoever wins the game is more or less guaranteed to get through to the World Cup quarter finals because of the opposition in the rest of the pool matches, both are going to field their strongest men and biggest performers of the season so far. The Irish team might struggle a little without Robbie Henshaw. He is a valuable player. But my main worry is Rob Kearney, as he is currently struggling with an injury.
I hope Ireland can slow it down, kick the ball in the air plenty and try to win those 50/50s. If they try to play this expansive wide game, it will fall into Scotland’s hands. Scotland are very unpredictable. If somebody like Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell or Hamish Watson turn up on the day, they are very capable of beating anybody. I think a lot of Irish fans will be disappointed to not see Devin out there but obviously Joe Schmidt sees these guys train every day and has made a coaching decision. If Ireland win a Rugby World Cup, this will quickly be forgotten about!
With the weather forecast not being great, it will affect the game and obviously slow it down. There will be a couple more mistakes, more scrums due to knock on and handling errors. With the likes of Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong along with the big second rows Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn and James Ryan, they have a little more fire power than Scotland. With the versatility of Johnny Sexton’s kicking game, we should be able to pull Scotland around the pitch and use the weather conditions to our advantage.
Ireland being ranked number one in the world doesn’t really add up. Realistically getting beaten 57 points to 15 against England then two weeks later being ranked number one in the world after a couple of average performances. Are Ireland better going into bigger tournaments as underdogs? I don’t think so, but with the pressure and expectations the Irish fans now have, it might work in our favor.
I’d go with Iain Henderson to call the lineout. He called the lineouts a lot for the Lions in 2017, giving him experience on the big stage. I’d choose Jacob Stockdale as the top try scorer. He’s got a bit of luck, a little bit of class and is always in the right place at the right time.
England are a well-oiled machine who are looking strong and playing very well. With key players like Owen Farrell and their second rows Itoje and Kruis. They also have got that superb balance in the back row with Curry, Billy and Sam Underhill. They are at a stage now where they are peaking at the right times. Eddie Jones coached Japan and spent a lot of time out there, so he knows the culture, people and the stadiums. This will play a massive part in England’s success. I think they will go far and be a hard team to beat.
My dark horse is Scotland. If they get into a quarter final and have the performance of this lives who’s to say they couldn’t do it?
My finalists are New Zealand and South Africa. Ireland are going to come to meet one of these teams in a World Cup quarter final. I think they are the two best teams in the world at the minute. If everything went well for those two teams, they will meet each other in the final. Over the last 3-4 years from the last World Cup, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland have been the most consistent and best teams.
If I could give advice to the guys it would be, stay in the right frame of mind and the right shape physically and mentally to take the challenge! I will be back next week with more Rugby World Cup talk in my exclusive Ladbrokes blog!
Japan to win against Russia
South Africa to win against New Zealand
Ireland to win against Scotland
England to win against Tonga
Johnny May for England top try scorer
Jacob Stockdale to be leading try scorer
Scotland to make it to the quarter-finals
South Africa and New Zealand to make it to the final