Our Predictions for the UK Nations: IRB Rugby World Cup 2015by Leana Kell
With less than 8 months to go until the start of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015, how will the UK nations fare? Take a look below at our predictions.
England: Pool A
Given an IRB ranking of 4, England are one of the favourites to win the group. With the home advantage in 2015 on their side, there's a good chance they can make it through the knock-out stages and even go on to compete in the final. Despite a 3-0 series defeat in New Zealand last June, much progress has been made under coach Stuart Lancaster, and this autumn presents a perfect platform for the team, led by Chris Robshaw, to really show how far they've come on. And let's not forget a recent stat, England's goal kicking success is currently 82%, second only to Wales.
Wales: Pool A
With an IRB ranking of 6, it's hard to say where Wales could finish in this year's tournament, but if the team can finally put an end to their battle with southern hemisphere opponents this autumn it will do wonders for the team's psychological state and perhaps give them the all-important boost they need to be in with a chance of winning the group stage. In terms of second-half scoring, Wales still have a long way to go, averaging just 8.4 points and 0.8 tries at the end of 2014. However, with triumphs such as the South Africa finish in June, the team's presence in this year's cup should not be underestimated.
Scotland: Pool B
Ranking 8 by the IRB, Scotland's performance under Scot Johnson in the last six nations was poor, but since Vern Cotter arrived from Clermont, the team showed a marked improvement in the summer. Despite a hammering from South Africa, they managed to win in Argentina and the team has a number of exciting young players such as the Matt Scott and Alex Dunbar partnership, who should continue to progress well under Johnson's lead. The November tests further cemented their potential and suggest they could be capable of qualifying for the pool, perhaps finishing second behind South Africa. They would then need to win against Samoa on October 10th to be in with a chance of taking the cup, and with a lineout of 97% - the most successful of the November series - they might just be able to pull it off.
Ireland: Pool D
With an IRB ranking of 5, and one of the only two teams to manage an unbeaten campaign at the November tests, Ireland are in a strong position to do very well in the autumn tournament. With an exciting backline to include Jonny Sexton, and an unrivalled Paul O'Connell who continues to stare age in the face and beat it, the team is already looking fierce. The added advantage of having teams such as France and Italy in their pool mean Ireland has a good chance of advancing to the semi-finals at the very least, and could even get a shot at the main prize. With the formidable Joe Schmidt as coach and last season's Six Nation's title under their belts, they are certainly one of the teams to watch very closely this autumn.