Thu, Nov 08, 2012 - Page 19 News List

World Cup seedings add spice to Tests

YEAR-END BONANZA:The end-of-year Tests in Europe take on extra urgency as the results will greatly influence nations’ ranking for the 2015 IRB World Cup tournament

Reuters, LONDON

Scotland enjoyed the most successful summer tour, beating Samoa, Fiji and Australia, but that run looks set to come to a halt when they face New Zealand first up on Sunday, seeking their first win in 28 games.

If England, Wales and Scotland took some joy from their tours, it was a dire time for Ireland, who lost three out of three against New Zealand, culminating in an humiliating 60-0 thrashing in Hamilton.

Down to seventh in the rankings and in danger of missing out on second seeding only a year after they shocked Australia to top their World Cup pool, Ireland need to find form and discover it quickly.

Their prospects have been hampered by the absence of Brian O’Driscoll from their games against South Africa and Argentina, though the 33-year-old captain is unlikely to be able to drag his battered body though to another World Cup.

Ireland’s performances, in stark and perplexing contrast to the sparkling displays of Heineken Cup champions Leinster, have piled the pressure on coach Declan Kidney, who is out of contract next year.

Kidney will draw comfort from Ireland’s impressive recent record against the Springboks, winning their last three home games against them, but he knows he has a lot of work to do.

France are also in a rebuilding phase, as many of the players at the heart of last year’s World Cup final-reaching side have retired or been ruled out through injury.

They kick off on Saturday looking to end a five-match losing streak against Australia, before taking on Argentina and Samoa.

Italy’s key battle is their opener with Tonga, then it becomes damage limitation against New Zealand and Australia.

Beyond the bigger nations there is a profusion of other games as the International Rugby Board appears to be making good on its promise to provide more meaningful competition for the tier two and three nations — essential to keep the World Cup from becoming even more predictable than it is now.

Samoa, Tonga, Canada, the US and Russia, who made their World Cup debut last year, will all feature in a mini-tournament in north Wales while Romania, Japan, Uruguay, Portugal, Georgia and even Chile are also in action in what should be a month to remember.

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