We’re almost there – rugby fans who’ve not put a boot through the 40″ in frustration at a build up more dreary than a family holiday to Stationery Warehouse will have actual rugby to digest in less that 24 hours time.

Fans of ‘stats’ and ‘facts’ have had plenty of chances to scratch that itch elsewhere. sportreview.net.nz presents a RWC 15 guide to the All Blacks’ opposition, and a pointer to the potential pain the nation’s about to experience together.

Australia

It's the World in Union - everyone enjoys Australian defeat.

It’s the World in Union – everyone enjoys Australian defeat.

World cup history
Twice winners, but the last time was ’99 and it’s been more barren than a post-Matt Dunning Koru lounge buffet since. The golden generation of Eales, Gregan, Larkham, Horan etc are long since retired, the recent coaching change circus and playing roster rabble are having a hard time measuring up.

Can they win it?
Technically yes, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Cheika era is flattering to deceive. He’s developed a big old forward pack and some fair backline talent, but their ability to actually win when it counts seems as likely as a Tony Abbott comeback.

How bad would they be to lose to?
Four more years bad. They’ll be tough all right, but on current form and depth, we should smash them like a kebab on the way home from the pub.

sportreview.net.nz stat attack

Four Gregans.

Four Gregans.

 

England

CARPARK_3110738b

England fans. What a pack of dorks.

World cup history
Winners in 2003 with a forward pack carved from granite, the complicated Johnny Wilkinson and not a lot else. Bit of a mixed bag apart from that, best known for providing comedy opposition to Jonah Lomu’s early start to the ‘get the Union Jack off our flag’ movement in 1995.

Can they win it? 
Bloody probably. Twickers with its hooray Henrys and indomitable bloody roar is their Eden Park, and they get to play all their tough matches there. Everyone’s openly hoping they don’t make it out of the Group Of Death, but that seems unlikely.

How bad would they be to lose to?
Awful. With fans and sponsors starting the usual / irritating ‘bantz’ about the Haka early doors, by the time we actually get to play them in a knock out match in about nine weeks time the tension will be unbearable. Every All Blacks fan takes each loss to England during their life time as an extremely personal insult. To do so in the world cup would basically End Of Days.

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Woodward

Two youthful Clive Woodwards.

France

French rugby fans all look like this and are extremely annoying.

French rugby fans all look like this and are extremely annoying.

World cup history
Thrice finalists, never won it. All Blacks fans who’ve sucessfully repressed the memories will be interested to learn the French knocked us out of the tournament gloriously in ’99, and in treacherous fashion in ’07.

Can they win it? 
They’re as crazy as a crocodile locked in your desk drawer, and you wouldn’t want to open it to find out. Look, people around the country will spend the next month telling each other that the French are unpredictable, so sportreview.net.nz is unlikely to figure it out here and now.

How bad would they be to lose to?
The absolute worst. Mike Hosking long form interview on scout.co.nz bad.

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Laporte

Six Bernard Laportes.

South Africa

South Africa - famous the world over for its rugby passion.

South Africa – famous the world over for its rugby passion.

World cup history
Twice winners, they’re always tough and more than happy to run through brick walls to get through. Then again, they’ve had their fair share of quarter final exits and look best when they stick to grinding it out and relying on a deadly kicker to get the lollies.

Can they win it? 
Yes. But it seems unlikely. They’ll be at the business end like a japanese executive ignoring the last drinks call in a karaoke bar, but it seems there’s more likely options elsewhere this time around.

How bad would they be to lose to?
They’re arguably our greatest rivals and encounters tend more fiery than Gareth Morgan versus a cat. It could be worse, much worse.

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Os

One Os du Rant.

Everyone else

An old codger talks to his pint and his imaginary dragon. Bless.

An old codger talks to his pint and his imaginary dragon.

World cup history
 Some of the most memorable games involve those outside the big teams above, like Samoa’s defeats of Wales and Ireland taking down Australia at Eden Park last time, but there’s been some match ups more one sided than hamburger v tofu along the way.

Can they win it?
No. Wales and Ireland seem the most likely to spring surprises and will be tough quarter finals opponents, but most teams outside the ones above will be very happy to get out of the group. Rugby, which is run by old boys clubs, is a game where the old boys clubs are most likely to achieve, unsurprisingly.

How bad would they be to lose to?
A small part of every New Zealander would not begrudge Wales a world cup win. Same goes for Ireland, but seeing as we’ve never lost to them and this is the world bloody cup, it would be bad. Really bad. If the All Blacks are eliminated by anyone else, expect our national sport to be Lacrosse when 2019 rolls around.

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Tualigi

Five Alesana Tuilagis.