New Zealand goes in quest of an unprecedented third successive title, and till lately would have been most followers’ choose to take action.
All these groups, plus 2003 champion England and Wales — which loved a file run of 14 video games undefeated earlier this yr — are the strongest contenders. That is earlier than you contemplate the likes of France — traditionally a robust performer at World Cups — and Argentina, at all times aggressive with the world’s finest sides.
The earlier eight World Cups have produced simply 4 completely different winners, however Eire and Wales — each of whom have loved current stints on the prime of the world rankings — are the most definitely candidates to jot down their names onto the Webb Ellis trophy for the primary time.
With lots to dissect prematurely, CNN Sport requested among the World Cup’s acquainted faces — from file try-scorers to previous winners — to foretell the 2019 event winner, which workforce would possibly spring a shock and potential stars of Japan 2019.
Who’s the favourite?
Former Wales captain Sam Warburton: It is so troublesome. I am probably not snug with saying anybody workforce but when I needed to I might say South Africa. I do not know why however they’ve had some actually large performances within the final 12 months. They will get by means of the group phases and I feel they’ve nonetheless acquired one other six or seven weeks to construct to a quarterfinal and they will get higher and higher.
Former Eire captain Brian O’Driscoll: If I needed to choose a favourite I might in all probability nonetheless return to one of many earlier winners. England are actually exhibiting properly, they’re simply peaking on the proper time and have a pleasant mix of energy and tempo in forwards and backs. Good goal-kicker, good ability ranges, and I simply suppose if they will get fortunate with accidents they will be proper within the combine. The reemergence of South Africa is nice for the sport as properly so possibly a closing between these two.
2003 World Cup winner with England, Lawrence Dellaglio: Let’s make no bones about it, New Zealand are nonetheless the workforce to beat. Though they don’t seem to be the primary facet on this planet they’ve been probably the most constant facet. Their win ratio is over 90%, there’s not many sides that may say that. They’ve gained the final two World Cups. They have a coach who’s gained the final two World Cups and their squad is filled with gamers who’ve gained the World Cup already.
Former Wales wing Shane Williams: I feel it is thrilling as a result of we’re going into World Cup now as Welsh folks, victorious in a string of video games, Grand Slam champions, taking some large scalps alongside the way in which in a World Cup yr, in order that’s nice for us. We’re very assured as a nation now, the gamers, having spoken to the likes of (captain) Alun Wyn (Jones) are trying ahead to the World Cup to begin. I’ll again the boys.
Which sides might trigger an upset?
Previous tournaments have been recognized to supply moderately lopsided scorelines. Australia hammered Namibia 142-Zero in 2003, and England put 111 previous Uruguay in the identical yr. However that is to not say upsets do not happen.
So which workforce might write its personal film script this yr?
Former South Africa wing Bryan Habana: I feel Fiji are going into this World Cup as a workforce that would actually upset the apple cart. They have some gamers which can be plying their commerce within the northern hemisphere, the High 14, the Celtic league and within the Premiership. The standard of these gamers is extremely particular. They’ve accomplished some unbelievable issues in a really brief time frame now and if one appears to be like again to 2007, bar a sort out from JP Pietersen in that right-hand nook (South Africa) have been in all probability about 5 to 10 minutes from shedding that sport. So I feel that Fijian flare may very well be a really troublesome banana to not slip on.
2003 World Cup winner with England, Will Greenwood: I feel Japan will beat both Eire or Scotland (within the group phases). I feel Japan might win one among their two large video games. Fiji might scare the dwelling daylights out of Wales and Australia if you happen to go in with a backline that is acquired (Levani) Botia and (Semi) Radradra within the center and you have (Vereniki) Goneva and (Josua) Tuisova at 11 and 14, and (Semi) Kunitani the Olympic Sevens legend at seven, they might do something there.
Italy flanker Sebastian Negri: I might be mendacity if I stated we (Italy) did not wish to get out of our pool (over New Zealand or South Africa). That is a practical and an bold aim. Now we have to take one sport at a time however we wish to make historical past and do the whole lot that we are able to to get out the pool. It is not straightforward, it is a huge problem however we’ll do the whole lot we are able to and actually work arduous collectively to try to create historical past for Italy, I feel that will probably be one thing very particular.
Who’re the gamers to observe?
There have been some gorgeous particular person performances within the Rugby World Cup’s 32-year historical past.
Sam Warburton: One participant I’ve talked about a number of occasions is Joe Cokanasiga for England. I noticed him play towards the Barbarians a number of months in the past and he is simply acquired that X-factor, that stardust that you simply want within the backline the place he can create one thing from nothing. I am trying ahead to seeing him on the world stage. I can think about him simply excelling on that world stage and actually saying himself as a world class winger. I might like to see it from a spectacle standpoint. We’d like folks like that within the sport, large, thrilling, skillful wingers.
Bryan Habana: Being a winger and looking out on the guys, Cheslin Kolbe has been completely phenomenal since getting his first style of worldwide rugby in New Zealand final yr in that very well-known victory down in Wellington. He is been lighting up fields within the northern hemisphere within the High 14 and the Heineken Cup and he is been doing the identical for the Springboks. If ever anyone embodied dynamite in small packages it is him. I am trying ahead to him hopefully setting this World Cup alight.
Brian O’Driscoll: I am trying ahead to seeing Damien Penaud who’s lighting it up with France in the intervening time. He is trying like a little bit of a attempt machine. He was superb on the Six Nations. He appears to be like like a French participant of outdated, one thing we’d have seen again within the 80s in his father’s heyday. He appears to be like as if he is acquired electrical energy in his legs. One thing’s going to occur when he will get the ball, he is acquired that pleasure about him. These are the types of gamers you need on the massive stage and to propel themselves in entrance of the world and to indicate their skills off. I hope from his perspective and from France’s perspective they will get into the knockout phases no less than.