TWC2019 - Divisional Preview - Mixed Open
April 28, 2019 @ 22:00 UTC
Who will win the medals? Who are the big improvers? Our correspondents have interviewed sources on every continent to make our bold predictions
Our correspondents have spoken with coaches and players on every continent, but the Mixed Open division is still almost impossible to predict, with the Malaysian heat and humidity sure to be a factor.
Although Australia does regularly squeeze out the overall win against New Zealand in a best-of-three Trans-Tasman test series, can they do so in a one-off match, with a Gold Medal on the line?
Mixed Open 2015 Results
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
Pool play will be a slog in the Malaysian heat and humidity, with all teams playing 10 round games before the finals. Getting results in the mixed division will be as much a test of playing ability, as a test of preparation, recovery, and hydration protocols.
Pool A - the UN of Touch
In Pool A, Australia will be joined by a united nations of Touch, with every single continent represented by at least one team.
Scotland, led by coach Robbie Mckenzie, are the champions of Europe and are hungry to break through for an elusive bronze medal. By all accounts, the Scots have brought a team that could achieve this goal. That said, the Scots will need to turn up for every single game though, as England and France are very familiar with their style of play and would love nothing better than to spoil their party.
The rapidly improving Chileans have also had several Australian and European coaches visit in the last 12 months and could well scare anyone who takes them lightly. Only a brave person will overlook Hong Kong, this team has speed to burn and plenty of agility. However, they might struggle against the more physical teams in the midfield grind. The USA has brought a talented, but inexperienced side to the World Cup in Putrajaya in Malaysia, and we expect they’ll improve as the tournament progresses.
Although the South Africans haven’t traditionally had the same level of success in this division as they do in single-gender competition, they showed at the 2018 Youth World Cup that they also now play great mixed touch. So, don’t be surprised if the Africans take some sizeable scalps as the tournament progresses.
The Germans and Italians have had limited experience playing mixed on the international stage, and it will probably take them most of the tournament to get their chemistry right. Lastly, the UAE outfit showed at Euros 2018 that they are capable of scoring against most teams. However, they will need to tighten up defensively to build any scoreboard pressure. Our tip is that Scotland progresses with Australia to the semis.
Pool B - Samoans to mix it up in pool of death
In Pool B, New Zealand will be joined by five Asian nations, three from the Pacific, and two European teams.
From the ‘mini-Asian Champs’ group, Japan is probably the pick of the bunch. Not only have the Japanese competed semi-regularly in Australia, but they’ve also had mentoring from some of the sharpest coaches in mixed touch. Chinese Taipei and the host nation Malaysia are new to this level, and the mixed game can be particularly technical to absorb quickly. As such, both teams will be primarily looking to take plenty of experience back home from this World Cup.
Singapore and China return with many experienced players, and have regularly been playing on the Asian tournament circuit under various guises. Both teams will be vastly improved from 2015, but lack the firepower to consistently trouble the top teams.
Papua New Guinea are the defending bronze medallists from the last World Cup, but this is a very different team to 2015. Our sources say PNG’s preparation has been limited, which will impact their early tournament form. Consequently, the talented PNG players are expected to take a few days of tournament play to make an impression, by which time it might be too late to qualify for the semis.
Fiji has arrived in Malaysia with a creative but inexperienced team. The Islanders can score a few touchdowns against almost anybody, but may let in too many against the tournament’s heavyweights. Pacific neighbour, Samoa is determined to make the semis, with many players bringing high-level experience from playing in Australia and New Zealand, with Michael Rasmussen and Tasi Cordtz able to sniff a touchdown from a mile away. The Samoans will present a strong challenge if they can finetune their defence and rucking. The Islanders will face a winner-takes-all game on Day 2 against Japan, which will stream live via the FIT YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/internationaltouch
The Irish are the first of our European teams in Pool B, and they have arrived in Malaysia with around half of their Euros mixed team. Team sources say some of the Irish are still learning the nuances of the mixed game, but expect them to make their opposition earn every score. The Welsh are ranked second in Europe and play an exciting brand of Touch with Gareth Revell at the helm. By all accounts, the Welsh have come to Malaysia aiming to go one better than their fourth-place finish in 2011. The game against Samoa at 12.10 Malaysian time on Thursday 2 May could well decide who goes through to the semis.
So, who do we thing goes through to semis with New Zealand? The mixed-open division is almost always the hardest division to predict of all the open divisions. We’re going to go out on a limb and predict a three-way tie for second-place between Wales, Japan, and Samoa, with the Samoans progressing with a slightly better for and against record.
The gap between Australia & New Zealand and the rest of the world is still significant, and the semis should see both favourites go through.
The Bronze medal game though should be a great battle of different game styles, but our crystal ball suggests the Scottish are going to be rewarded for their acclimatisation week in KL before the world cup and will be running a little better than Samoa at the end of a long tourney.
In recent years, the Aussies have typically had a slight edge over NZ in the mixed given the team’s experienced coaching staff and senior players who have won the big tournaments before. However, the loss of Australia's world-class attacker Dyl Thompson and young gun Alex Langbridge probably negates this advantage and will make the gold medal game an absolute coin toss. Make sure you make some extra popcorn to watch the Mixed Open final, because we think this match will go into extra time.
Subscribe to the FIT YouTube Channel and watch it and all matches here: www.youtube.com/internationaltouch
- Australia (in a drop-off)
- New Zealand
- Scotland (by two)