The Rugby World Cup is now just three weeks away, as what seems like the longest build-up to a major tournament history finally approaches its conclusion. Now that the competing sides are in the final stages of their preparation, we can begin to look forward to a stellar tournament.
Attempting to pick a definitive winner at this stage is futile, but there are certainly a handful of participating sides capable of claiming the prestigious world crown. In fact, this promises to be one of the most open competitions in years, with usually omnipotent Southern Hemisphere sides such as South Africa and Australia lacking in strength.
With this in mind, here are three of the most likely winners of the forthcoming Rugby World Cup: -
In the seven previous instalments of this competition, the host nation has at least reached the final on five occasions. This augers well for Stuart Lancaster’s men, who performed well in the summer Six Nations and have a number of exciting players within their ranks.
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According to ticketbis.net, which has compiled an in-depth preview of the upcoming tournament, England is quoted at 4/1 to win and their current form reflects this lofty status.
With the exciting Jonathon Joseph and the powerful Anthony Watson adding a unique X-factor to an already strong and talented squad, Lancaster’s men have the perfect opportunity to at least reach the final and stake their claim for glory.
The defending champions and the overwhelming favourites, New Zealand’s unique blend of experience and form will make them difficult to stop on English soil.
Unbeaten in more than 50 matches since a defeat to Australia in 2011, the New Zealand squad boasts some of the most iconic players of the modern era and more than four centurions in terms of caps (Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Dan Carter and skipper Richie McCaw).
Incredibly, the All Blacks have also uncovered a new gem in fearsome, 16 stone Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo, who scored 13 tries in 17 appearances during his debut Super Rugby Season last year.
He is threatening the kind of impact that Julian Savea and the legendary Jonah Lomu have had at previous tournaments, and he may ultimately be the difference during the latter stages.
Ireland have had a competent and effective side for a prolonged period of time, although Joe Schmidt’s team have never really been considered as favourites for the world crown.
They are now ranked third in the world, however while the side has also recorded back-to-back Six Nations’ successes (despite the heroics of England last time out). The Irish have an incredible chance to reach the semi-finals at the very least this year, while a fully-fit Jonathan Sexton could afford them a critical edge that enables them to achieve the ultimate success.
With the experienced and peerless Paul O’Connell also leading from the front, this could be the year that Ireland finally achieves its full potential and shock the world.