Tue 26 Jun 2018 | 11:02

It's still a one-horse race

It's still a one-horse race
Tue 26 Jun 2018 | 11:02
It's still a one-horse race
SHARE

JUNE ANALYSIS: The June internationals have come and gone. Jan de Koning looks for pointers to what we can expect at the World Cup in Japan next year.

There may have been hints of a resurgence by South Africa, England broke their losing streak and Ireland remains a threat.

However, two clear pictures emerged – New Zealand remains light years ahead of the rest and refereeing is in a much bigger mess than we can ever imagine.

Enough has been written about referees to fill a volume of books. Consistency is not a word that features in their vocabulary and in many cases, the word ‘ego’ is at the forefront.

However, when it comes to the teams, the one unanswered question is: Who will be the All Blacks’ biggest threat at the World Cup?

Apart from Ireland, the rest are still far too erratic – see graph below.

It's still a one-horse race

I am going to look at the top 10 teams and, based on the June form, rate their chances at Japan 2019.

New Zealand: They are, by some distance, the most consistent team and the quality of their game – even without some key players, like Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick, they are a dominant force. Forget about the horror show that was the refereeing performances. Even without those howlers – and taken into account the Kiwis’ off-day in the second Test – the All Blacks would still have won by more than 30 points in the Tests.
World Cup prediction: Champions

Ireland: They still have their lapses and consistency can improve, but they are New Zealand’s biggest threat – given the manner in which they came back after a first-Test loss to edge Australia two-one in the series. They have a solid set piece, one of the best halfback combinations – in Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray – and they have the best gameplan with which to counter the All Blacks. Their ball-retention is currently among the best in the game, close to the All Blacks. The only way to beat New Zealand is to keep the ball away from them and tackle like demons. Ireland needs some work, but they are well ahead of the rest in terms of chasing the Kiwis.
World Cup prediction: Runners-up

Wales: They are an enigma. Minus 10 of their British and Irish Lions, they were still good enough to beat South Africa and a very poor Argentina. They were particularly good against Los Pumas and showed some great attacking skills. South Africa did play a very young and inexperienced team against the Welsh in Washington and there are suggestions the Argentinean players threw the Tests to finally get rid of Daniel Hourcade. In that, they succeeded, but it makes it tough to gauge Wales accurately.
World Cup prediction: Quarterfinal losers.

England: Questions remains over Eddie Jones’ ability to be more flexible. Given that their win at Newlands was in conditions far more familiar to the English than the Springboks, it leaves a lingering doubt. November will answer some of those questions, but England currently doesn’t look like a team that can go much further than the quarterfinals. Their pack is solid, but they have problems at flyhalf. I am not convinced Danny Cipriani is the answer.
World Cup prediction: Quarterfinal losers

Video Spacer

Australia: They are still some way off the pace and their pack remains a liability. Yet, they showed they have the backline skills to upset most teams. Consistency may also be an issue. If they can solve their set-piece issues, they will move into the Ireland bracket – a real threat to New Zealand. One of the dark horses.
World Cup prediction: Semifinal losers.

South Africa: There were some really good signs in Rassie Erasmus’ first Test series. Washington and Newlands showed just how much work remains. However, the masterstroke was finding the right overseas-based players – Willie le Roux, Francois de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen – to bolster the undoubted talent back home. Defence remains a major issue and then flyhalf poser has not been solved. Handre Pollard was great in the dry weather, but – like Elton Jantjies – he struggled in the wet weather at Newlands when the pack was going backwards.
World Cup prediction: Semifinal losers

Video Spacer

Scotland: They will be competitive, but remains one of the most inconsistent teams among the top 10. They have a great set piece, lots of heart and an astute coach. However, they lack depth and a couple of injuries to key players make them a soft target.
World Cup prediction: Won’t make it past the pool stages.

France: Another team that showed signs of improvement, but are clearly still a long way off from the front-runners. They appear to be a 40-minute team – very competitive, but the heads drop far too quickly. They have a year to fix their problems, but look no better than last year when South Africa beat than by more than 20 points in each of their three Tests.
World Cup prediction: Won’t make it past the pool stages

Video Spacer

Fiji: Entertaining and willing, but are there to make up the numbers. They just don’t have enough time to prepare and some of their key players are always ‘held hostage’ by European clubs.
World Cup prediction: Won’t make it past the pool stages.

Video Spacer

Argentina: I am not going to judge them on their June form, as there was clearly discontent in the camp. Now that they have managed to get rid of Daniel Hourcade, the key is who will coach them. If Jaguares coach Mario Ledesma steps in and gets the same value out of the Los Pumas players than he does with them in Super Rugby, the Argentinians will be a major threat.
World Cup prediction: Quarterfinal losers

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com

PV: 2794
It's Still A One-horse Race - Argentina | Rugby365