Multiple teams are currently biting at the heels of the All-Blacks. New Zealand are not in form at present, and could be set to lose their crown as World Champions. One slip up is all it could take for this World Cup to become anyone’s to win. Here are four sides who should be considered as potential winners.
South Africa are the most obvious second favourites at present. They will face New Zealand in their opening World Cup game. This promises to be a can’t miss fixture. South Africa and New Zealand have both beaten each other in the past year. Their most recent fixture was a draw in the Rugby Championship. South Africa went on to win this tournament.
The Springboks’ form is clear for all to see due to their recent success. New Zealand have never lost a pool game in any of their 8 World Cups. This record could be broken on the 21st of September, in this major fixture. South Africa could gain the psychological edge over New Zealand in their opening fixture. A win could make them the team to beat in the tournament.
Wales are another in-form team at present, who could challenge New Zealand to take this year’s World Cup. Wales became the first team, besides New Zealand, in almost a decade to claim the world number one ranking spot. Though their spell on top of the World Rankings was brief, it shows their quality. Wales are currently in the conversation alongside New Zealand. This is more than any other team for the past decade could say. This attests to their quality at present. When fielding their best side, Wales look like a potentially unstoppable force at present. All sides should worry about them at this World Cup.
England, at present, are a dangerous team. It is tough to predict how the World Cup will go for England. They have been fielding some experimental sides as of late, and they have achieved success. Lately, they have been playing without fear and as though they have nothing to lose. This is a mentality which will be a worry to all sides set to face England. They aren’t an unbeatable side, but they are a side with a lot of quality and a lot to prove. This makes England dangerous ahead of the World Cup. They probably shouldn’t be favourites, but England should not be written off at this tournament either.
Lastly, but certainly not least we need to discuss Ireland’s prospects at this year’s World Cup. Ireland are currently the world’s second best ranked side. The Irish have endured a mixed bag of results in 2019, including a recent heavy loss to England. It has been looking as though Ireland peaked a year too soon with their incredible performances of 2018. However, Ireland picked up a good win over Wales this past weekend. This win will restore some confidence in the Irish side. With one more warm-up to come vs Wales, another good performance and positive result will be a big boost to the side before kicking off their World Cup campaign vs Scotland on the 22nd of September.
Restored confidence could be the key to unlocking the Ireland of 2018 for this World Cup. With the way the pools have been drawn, Ireland could be set to face New Zealand in the Quarter-finals. Should that happen, and should Ireland once again topple the All-Blacks, they could be odds on favourites for the tournament.
All in all, the favourites should probably still be New Zealand. They are the standard by which other teams are judged. However, they are much less of a certainty than they have been in previous years. The 2019 World Cup could be a very open tournament, with many top sides waiting to pounce on an All-Blacks slip-up.