Rugby World Cup: How are the favourites shaping up?
Who’s hot amongst the world’s top nations?
We’re just over 15 months away from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan as New Zealand look to defend their crown.
The summer international series have come to a close with varying results for the various teams. But the hard work begins now.
It’s really at this point that nations begin moulding their squads with coaches looking to hone systems and blood as many options as possible.
The Coral News Team take a look at the top contenders to win the Webb Ellis Cup.
The All-Blacks are the most dominant rugby union nation on the planet and rightful favourites to win a third consecutive title.
They were the same odds at this stage four years ago and look primed for another massive campaign. Their mix of skill, physicality and sheer mentality is difficult to stop.
They’ve had another good season, winning the Rugby Championship for the fifth time. And Steve Hansen’s squad has only been beaten once in their last 13 tests.
Led by the mercurial out-half, Beauden Barrett with a squad involving Brodie Retallick, Kieran Read, and Sonny Bill Williams, the All-Blacks are – as ever – the ones to beat.
At 15 months out, it’s difficult to tell how well-placed Ireland will be to challenge New Zealand. But if the tournament was to begin this September, Joe Schmidt’s side would pose an incredible danger.
The Irish have arguably just had the most successful season in their history. Schmidt’s squad won the Six Nations and the Grand Slam.
They followed that up with their first series win against Australia down under for the first time ever. Leinster – filled with a number of the Irish squad – also won the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Schmidt has developed a squad rich with options in a number of positions. Led by Johnny Sexton, with a group of players sprinkled with high-class veterans and prodigious youngsters, Ireland are simmering nicely.
It’s all gone a little pear-shaped for Eddie Jones’ England squad in the last 12 months or so. After an incredible start to his tenure, the Australian has now presided over six defeats in seven.
That included three defeats in the Six Nations, a defeat to the Barbarians, and a 2-1 series loss in South Africa. But all is not lost for Jones and England.
There is still a core of world-class players to build around. Maro Itoje remains one of the best players in the world. Owen Farrell and the Vunipola brothers could also be counted in that bracket.
Jones has looked to blood various new players including Elliot Daly and Tom Curry on the South Africa tour. And that could stand the squad in good stead come tournament time in the Far East.
But Jones still has a lot of work to do between then and now. And he’ll be looking to the November internationals and the Six Nations to sort it out.
The two Southern Hemisphere giants can’t be discounted but the odds suggest at present they have a lot of work to do.
And the odds would be right. Although the Springboks came away with a series win over England, it was on home soil. And we’ve already been at pains to point out, England are not in great shape right now.
Australia have also just lost to Ireland on home soil for the first time. The Wallabies were unlucky, though. And the series was actually tied on points over the three games.
The Rugby Championship kicks off in August and the pair will be looking to that tournament as major preparation for the showpiece next September.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing