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Sunday, August 22, 2010

World Cup: Day 2 preview

12.00. Wales v South Africa (Pool A)
Last chance saloon for both teams after disappointing starts. Wales should have done much better against Australia, but persisted with the wrong game plan until it was almost too late, then blew a chance to come back in the second half. South Africa, on the other hand, while they were never going to beat New Zealand, showed their opponents too much respect and lost the game in their heads before it had even started.

Now both must win, or risk scrambling to avoid a finish outside the top 10 - and both sides are much better than that. They have met before, both home and away, with wins on both sides. Hard to predict, but unless the Welsh can develop some tactical flexibility, I suspect that South Africa could take this one - may just depend on how well they can put that Black Fern thrashing behind them.

2.00. France v Scotland (Pool C) (LIVE on Sky Sports 2)
Though France won their opening game, they were pretty woeful - especially the backs whose performance would have been embarrassing for a junior club team never mind an international side with ambitions to win a World Cup. Do that again and Scotland - slow and ponderous though their passing may have been against Canada - will clean up as at least the Scottish backs can catch!

In actual fact you suspect, from past evidence, that France will not play like a team that barely knew each other two games running and in front of the TV cameras should put in a far better performance. They forwards certainly are well organised and may well overpower the lighter Scots pack. The first ten minutes or so will tell - if the Scots can hold them, then they should go on to glory. If not then  big French win ca be expected.

2.15. Canada v Sweden (Pool C)
Can Sweden do it again? In your heart you have to support this talented, plucky and very happy team with a bunch of supporters that it is great to mix with. In your head you have to think that Canada will eat them alive. The Canadian pack will be too much for their very light Swedish opponents, and once in position the last thing the Canadians will do is drop the ball at centre all day. On the contrary, speed of handling was a key factor in their win over Scotland - possibly only Australia's back line looked faster. The only possible worry might be Canada's strength in depth - they were very ordinary in the final 20 minutes against Scotland after all the subs came on. If Canada go into for a bit of squad rotation this might be a bit closer, otherwise it'll be maximum points again.

4.15. New Zealand v Australia (Pool A) (LIVE on Sky Sports 2)
Two teams that know each other well, and have maximum points after Round 1. Should be a close game? No, probably not. The Black Ferns will know what to expect and be more than capable of neutralising the Australian back-line who you expect to be starved of any ball at all. New Zealand will dominate all set pieces - its difficult to see Australia winning any line-out ball, for instance - and should come up with an handsome win. Probably not a classic game to watch, unless you love good forward play.

4.30. USA v Ireland (Pool B)
Now this could be a good game - and, if you are at Guildford, definitely more attractive and interesting a prospect than the southern hemisphere clash on Pitch 1. USA will be happy with their win over Kazakhstan, though it took them a while to get going. Ireland, on the other had, were by no means disgraced by England and I suspect could well sneak this one. Little to choose between the teams, and no recent form guide, so it should be an exciting game!

6.30. England v Kazakhstan (Pool B)  (LIVE on Sky Sports 2)
Oh dear. You really fear for the Kazakhs in this game. If they let in over 50 points against the USA, heaven knows what England could run in. Gary Street may well rotate the squad a bit, so the damage may be limited, but expect England to get maximum points especially when their older opponents tire in the second half.

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