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Rugby World Cup drinks match-ups

Whisky, wine and beer producing nations are all going head-to-head in this week’s Rugby World Cup action.

A great number of countries in this year’s competition don’t just produce great rugby players and teams but great drinks too.

Here we run down the key match-ups and our picks.

Note: These do not represent all of the games taking place this week.

Wednesday 23 September:

14:30 – Scotland v. Japan

It’s a whisky head-to-head for what is now an eagerly anticipated match following the Japanese minnows’ thrilling take down of the mighty Springboks last week.

Scotland is the land of whisky for many people and an established rugby nation but one that has struggled badly in recent years despite some solid talent and signs of improvement in its game.

Japan based its whisky industry entirely on the Scottish model and is rapidly becoming some of the most collectible malt whisky in the world. Its rugby heritage is less glorious despite several appearances in the world cup and in they have lost all of their previous four encounters with Scotland. However, they showed their class against South Africa and Scotland by contrast present arguably less of a challenge for what is clearly a motivated and well-coached team.

Verdict: Japan shows that the student…has become the master.

20:00 – France v. Romania

Two wine producing nations but it’s unlikely there’ll be too much of an upset here.

France is the world’s most celebrated wine producer with a fearsome rugby team to match. Although the team can be stroppy and temperamental when it wants to be and sometimes fail to fulfill its potential they look in pretty fine fettle so far – much like the 2015 harvest.

Romania is rebuilding its winemaking industry and has a proud tradition upon which to do so but its rugby institution is less storied. They’ve appeared in world cups before and play good, physical rugby but it’s not going to be enough.

Verdict: Gallic flair and expertise trumps all.

Thursday 24 September

20:00 – New Zealand v. Namibia

Beer is the best match-up here but really what is there to say? The champion All Blacks versus a team which is only partly professional. In a wine head-to-head New Zealand would still give every team a run for its money and with an exciting craft beer industry to throw into the mix, they simply outclass Namibia who have a technically proficient if not overly exciting beer in the shape of “Windhoek”.

Verdict: All Blacks and you’re crazy if you think otherwise.

Friday 25 September

16:45 – Argentina v. Georgia

The vine motif on the back of the Georgian shirt

Back to wine and we have a situation not unlike that of France v. Romania. In this instance though it’s Georgia with the winemaking heritage – it’s likely the country in which Vitis vinifera originated and their strip even incorporates vines into the design – cool huh?

Argentina may be a relative newcomer to winemaking but has rapidly made a name for itself with Malbec.

The wine styles of both countries suit themselves to the two teams’ playing styles, both counting on pack-heavy, physicality to overpower their opponents. Georgia’s is perhaps more rustic and Argentina’s more polished but this is going to be a beefy encounter and no mistake.

Verdict: Argentine beef beats Georgian brawn.

Saturday 26 September

14:30 – Italy v. Canada

Italy is still struggling to truly make a mark in international rugby despite victories against Scotland and, occasionally, France. Its winemaking is not in doubt however and it certainly has an edge over an improving Canada in that department but also in rugby playing prowess too.

Verdict: Italy scamper to the win.

20:00 – England v. Wales

Hard to pick a drink here as both countries produce cracking wine, beer and spirits. English wine, particularly sparkling, probably has the edge, its beer industry is bigger and there’s more buzz around English gin and whisky distilling currently.

Throw in Wales’ injury woes and England’s home advantage and it’s hard to see this going against the men in white.

Verdict: England win but don’t count on the bonus points.

Sunday 27 September

12:00 – Australia v. Uruguay

Shiraz takes on Tannatin what, frankly is yet another mismatch and can only go one way. Like Namibia, Uruguay’s team is not entirely professional, their wine industry is small and little known outside of South America. Australia is a winemaking and sporting behemoth and hugely popular in the UK for one of those attributes. Little contest here.

Verdict: A brave effort from Uruguay but Australia skate home (and they’ve won an Olympic gold in that too – so depressing)

14:30 – Scotland v. US

The final booze match-up of the week goes back to whisky; Scotch v. bourbon. Like Japanese whisky bourbon is gaining in popularity on these shores although the clamour for it in the bars and clubs hasn’t translated so far into wider popularity at home where trusty Scotch still reigns.

The US has a talented team but Scotland for all its faults is still better. Japanese whisky may have stolen a march on it but nothing coming out of Tennessee is going to outplay Speyside just yet.

Verdict: Scotch whisky/rugby ain’t done by a long shot.

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