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My annual disclaimer: I’m not too knowledgeable about forwards!

Here’s my 32-man squad:

Hookers

Hikawera Elliot
Andrew Hore
Jason Rutledge

Props

Ben May
Owen Franks
Charlie Faumuina
Wyatt Crockett

Locks

Jeremy Thrush
Ali Williams
Brodie Retallick
Brad Thorn
Luke Romano

Loose Forwards

Victor Vito
Luke Braid
Liam Messam
Sam Cane
Richie McCaw (not coming back this year?)
Kieran Read

Halfbacks

TJ Perenara
Aaron Smith
Andrew Ellis

First-Fives

Beauden Barrett
Aaron Cruden
Gareth Anscombe (injured?)
Dan Carter

Centres

Conrad Smith (injured?)
Francis Saili
Robbie Fruean

Wings

Julian Savea
Israel Dagg
Rene Ranger

Fullbacks

Andre Taylor
Charles Piutau

 

Update - the 38-man training squad has been announced.

Players that I picked who missed out are:

Andre Taylor
Robbie Fruean
Gareth Anscombe (injured?)
Andrew Ellis
Luke Braid
Brad Thorn
Richie McCaw (not coming back this year?)
Jeremy Thrush
Ben May
Charlie Faumuina
Jason Rutledge
Hikawera Elliot

 

I guess one key point of difference is that I am purely selecting for this year, with no consideration towards the next World Cup.

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With three weeks to go I reckon the final standings will be like this:

  1. Chiefs
  2. Stormers
  3. Brumbies
  4. Crusaders
  5. Bulls
  6. Reds or Sharks

Playoffs:

Brumbies v Reds/Sharks – I don’t care who wins, none are likely to win the tournament. For the Sharks it would be an away game, not helping them.
Crusaders v Bulls – Crusaders will have a home town advantage, but it will be a close and thrilling game.

Semfinals:

Chiefs v Crusaders - I can’t tell. Too close to call. History suggests the Crusaders
Stormers v Brumbies – Stormers at home for certain

Final:

Stormers v Crusaders - Crusaders to win in South Africa

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The rest of the pool matches should be without upsets… except for:

  • NZ will thrash France by 30 points [thrashed them by 20]
  • Australia will have a low-scoring win over the USA [67-5]
  • USA will defeat Italy by 5 points [lost 27-10]
  • Samoa will beat Fiji, but only just [quite easily 27-7]
  • Samoa will lose to South Africa by 15 points, but could, just maybe, beat South Africa [lost by 8, but nearly, nearly won]

If Samoa beats South Africa, then they should edge out Wales for runner-up in Pool D.

The Quarter-Finals should look like this, with my predicted scores:

  • England 28 / France 13 [France = unpredictable]
  • NZ 35 / Argentina 12 [33-10 :)]
  • South Africa 18 / Australia 15 [9-11, close as predicted]
  • Ireland 22 / Wales 15 [got this one well wrong]

I think the only certainties to make the semis are NZ and England. The other places will go to whoever places best on the day, and Samoa is a remote possibility…

My Semi-Final predictions are:

  • England 24 / Ireland 14 Wales 24 / France 7
  • NZ 25 / South Africa Australia 25 (with NZ winning in extra time)

And the final will be NZ defeating England in another very close match. Wales easily.

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