Euro 2016: Group A

Group A is comprised of Albania, France, Romania and Switzerland. As the hosts, I would imagine that the French team will have been delighted with the draw as their three games look very winnable in what looks to be one of the weaker groups at the tournament. France are one of the favourites for the tournament and will be expected to top the group with three wins. The other three teams will all be targeting qualification and with potentially three teams qualifying from the group, all will believe they can achieve this. I would expect Switzerland to be strong enough to ensure qualification as group runners-up, with Albania and Romania battling it out for third spot.

My prediction for the final Group A table:

1. France
2. Switzerland
3. Romania
4. Albania

Italy 32-22 Romania

Italy established enough of a lead to withstand a late flourish from Romania and claim a second victory and third spot in Pool D, guaranteeing automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup. Italy took a good lead into half time, playing little, but scoring when they did. With time running out, Romania were able to create and score some chances, but had left themselves too much a deficit to make up.

Large parts of the game were forgettable, with Italy seemingly happy to sit back on a comfortable lead they had established. Romania battled on throughout, but didn’t have the creativity to consistently carve open the Italian defence and score points. Italy have recorded 2 losses against Six Nations opponents in the group, whilst gaining 2 unconvincing victories against tier 2 opposition. Although a Six Nations side, Italy are showing few signs of developing as a rugby nation and it is easy to see why the likes of Romania and Georgia are calling for promotion and relegation within the premier European tournament.

Ireland 44-10 Romania

Ireland recorded a bonus point victory over a resolute Romanian side in Pool D. Romania defended and tackled well, with Ireland only securing the bonus point in the final quarter when Romania went down to 14 men and they were able to run in a couple of tries to put some gloss on the score, although Romania scored a late try.

Ireland have secured two bonus point victories from their opening games against the two weakest teams in the group, which they would have expected to do. They will surely be confident about beating Italy and setting up a big final game against France, the winners of whom will surely top the group. Romania have played France and Ireland, two games that they would not have been expecting to get anything out of. They now have games against Italy and Canada, which they will surely have targeted to get something from. Whilst they have impressed with their workrate, it is difficult to see them winning either, although they could achieve a bonus point for losing by less than seven points.

France 38-11 Romania

France recorded their second victory in Pool D to put them in an excellent position against a tireless Romanian side making their first appearance of the tournament. France scored their tries in bunches (two in the last ten minutes of the first half with Romania down to 14 men and three in the final 15 minutes) and secured a bonus point. Romania also scored a try through a lineout in the final ten minutes of the game, but France deserved their victory.

To make use of a cliche, it was a very French performance – full of flair and incision at times, whilst at other times ponderous and lacking direction and precision. France will need to play better to be considered genuine contenders or to beat Ireland. However, having beaten Italy already and with Canada still to play, France look all but certain to already be in the quarter finals. Romania were generally solid defensively and competed ferociously at the breakdown, but were severely lacking in creativity, which is going to make winning games difficult for them.

Rugby World Cup: Pool D preview

Countries competing in Pool D (IRB ranking in brackets):

Canada (18)
France (7)
Ireland (6)
Italy (14)
Romania (17)

Pool D (on paper at least) appears to have two clear favourites in Ireland who should qualify reasonably comfortably. However, I think that this will be quite a tight group, as Ireland seem to have had difficulties at the World Cup in the past and then there is the favoured cliche of which French side will turn up. Italy will certainly be waiting in the wings waiting to take full advantage of any slip from them and qualify; they played well against Wales in a recent World Cup warm-up, showing strong defence and out-scored the hosts in tries. I expect France V Italy to be the key match for qualification, with the winners joining Ireland in progressing from the group. For Canada and Romania, the game between them will be important and will decide who will finish fourth.

Predicted final table:

1. Ireland
2. France
3. Italy
4. Romania
5. Canada