Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Tyrone Howe: Group of death, but England must face Aussies at some point

It must be written in the stars. Two days before the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw was held in London, the hosts went and shocked the champions in a stunning 80 minute performance.

Is that a marketing man’s dream or what?

Stuart Lancaster and his men, however, find themselves in a juxtaposition of self-belief and concern.

Their Pool of Death draw could not be much tougher with Wales and the Aussies, but if ever there was a sign they might just be up to the challenge it came last Saturday.

If England are to lift the World Cup on home soil, they will in all likelihood have to beat all three Southern Hemisphere giants.

So, really does it matter when you meet them?

Well it does and it doesn’t. Those same marketers will be praying that they aren’t two shocks in Pool A — were England to lose and go out at the qualifying stages, it would take real excitement out of the tournament.

There is nothing quite like the home nation doing well, as the Olympics showed last summer.

But the great thing about the draw is that it offers something to every single Six Nations team.

It is a terrific draw for Ireland, who will really fancy their chances — France and Italy represent the best ever opportunity of topping the group.

Of course, the latter will sense a shock, while the former will already see themselves in the semi-finals against the All Blacks.

Whatever happens, it will lend an extra dash of spice to the corresponding Six Nations games over the next three years. Maybe most importantly the All Blacks defeat gives hope and inspiration to other leading nations that when the stars align, on any given day, when you get everything right, the mighty men from New Zealand are beatable.

2015 represents the best chance for every Six Nations team to realise their ambitions and send out the strongest message to their Southern Hemisphere rivals that World Cup glory may just end up on this side of the equator for a change. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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