It's hard to read anything about the upcoming IRB Rugby World Cup without encountering an article about the appropriately named "Group of Death". For the top two teams, a qualification into the quarter finals and for third place a disappointing early exit from the tournament that could be too close to home for comfort (fingers crossed).
Articles and bookies everywhere predict it to be the world number two ranked team Australia to top the pool and, after their impressive win over New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, seem to be hitting form at the right moment and resolved scrummaging demons which have haunted their past.
This leaves a very hotly contested second place with England and Wales arguably competing for the second spot and to avoid a early bath.
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But what about Fiji?
Rugby fans, especially the English, will look back to the 2007 World Cup and the 38 - 34 scintillating victory to send Wales tumbling out of the tournament. Can they do it again?
Recent performances in Autumn internationals have provided physical and close fought games between the Pacific Island Champions and Wales, although the latter have won eight of the last 10 games between them only losing once. The wins, although numerous, have mostly been a narrow scoreline and what a once that was!
England vs Fiji has occurred five times, with England recording a 100 percent win ratio and with points to spare in those victories. Will home pressure and an as of yet cemented starting team provide the Fijians with the room and opportunities to show the world their flair and charismatic style of play.
Fiji have the ability to upset one of the top pool teams, although, unfortunately for the neutrals and lovers of underdogs it's hard to see them progressing beyond the group stages. A victory against Wales, England or Australia could really open up this pool and add a new element of spice to one of the most jacked up chillies of a group there has ever been!
An easy group for some, well South Africa, and a brutal battle for second place for the rest.
On the face of it, Scotland face a tough game against Samoa who have in the past quite literally taken games by the scruff of the neck and I have penned in the notorious and always physical battle of Samoa vs South Africa as a personal must watch!
Samoa have the players to cause an upset but in comparison to Scotland, who have been developing and progressing fantastically through new coaching staff and strong domestic clubs, unfortunately lack the same stable support, foundation and consistency to beat the top 10 teams, which is a shame due to the viewer friendly, bruising and enticing style of play they represent.
The team to watch in this pool is USA. Bare with me! Yes they lost to Japan, yes they are new to the world scene and prefer throwing it forward still, but what they have done tremendously over the past decade is grow their grass roots fantastically. This has reflected in the numerous american players representing globally and the statement they have made on the sevens circuit and will be fascinating to see the progressions they have made on the 15 a side game.
With a first game against Samoa, I see it as a perfect way to open the tournament for The Eagles. Win and you have defeated a world renowned rugby team and carry some serious momentum into the following crunch game against Scotland.
Lose and the USA have to dig deep and play for their tournament and from experiences playing against Americans in a whole range of sports I'm still undecided about what's worse: playing against USA who have some serious momentum and are pumped up beyond belief or a USA team who are fighting for their lives and are pumped up beyond belief!
The only thing I'm decided on is that they are serious athletes, a serious team and are going to be some tough serious competition.
This tournament has got the potential to be the greatest and closest ever. I'll definitely be watching and I seriously hope you will be too!
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below...
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