Rugby world anticipates 'most open World Cup ever'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: If the All Blacks’ last few games are anything to go by, they are not as firm favourites for the World Cup as they were four years ago.
Steve Hansen’s side drew with the Springboks in Wellington at the weekend, a week after a hard-fought victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires.
The world champions still reign supreme at the top of the world rankings, and are certainly the team to beat going into the World Cup in September, but a growing number of fans across the world feel this tournament is the most open it has been in a long time.
The All Blacks have entered the last three tournaments as strong favourites, winning the last two, but they perhaps lack that indomitable aura that they had in 2015. Since the last World Cup they have lost to Ireland twice (having never lost to them before), as well as drawing with the British and Irish Lions series in 2017.
In the past year alone they have had three nail-biting encounters with the Springboks where neither team could be separated [the aggregate score being 82-82], and were pushed very close by England at Twickenham.
But it is not necessarily the All Blacks’ loss of dominance that makes this World Cup so exciting, but the fact that there is a number of nations that have raised their game.
Northern hemisphere teams have sat at the top of the world rankings alongside New Zealand for a while now. Wales sit in second after a Grand Slam victory this year and a 14-match winning streak, while Ireland are third after a 2018 where they were probably the best team in the world.
The resurgent South Africa have recently taken over England in fourth place, although Eddie Jones’ side have won two Six Nations titles over the past four years and went on an 18-match win streak.
All four teams behind the All Blacks could push them if they met each other in the World Cup, and that is obviously what is exciting the fans so much. This is an unseen level of competition going into the tournament, particularly compared to 2015, where an All Blacks success was practically a formality.
This is what the fans have said on Twitter:
— Roy Heyward (@Roytheboy1988) July 27, 2019
New Zealand look very beatable going into the World Cup. I’d say its the most open Rugby World Cup ever
— coltmanaman (@coltman_steve) July 27, 2019
Can’t help but think that after watching the first 2 weeks of the Rugby Champ that the upcoming @rugbyworldcup is wide open, on their day any one of 6 possibly 7 teams could win it NZ, SA, Aus, Ire, Wales, Eng and possibly even Fra or Arg #wideopen
— Jon Sleightholme, Esq. 😂 (@JonSleightholme) July 27, 2019
Defeat is looming for South Africa in Wellington but there’s much for the @Springboks to be encouraged by. These @AllBlacks don’t look like the world-beaters they’ve been for a decade. What an open @rugbyworldcup it promises to be. Can make a case for 6 or 7 countries. #NZLvRSA
— Martin Gillingham (@MartGillingham) July 27, 2019
Having watched #nzl #aus #rsa and #arg so far I don’t think anybody stands out as favourites for the #rugbyworldcup it’s gonna be so competitive and Japan will fancy their chances of getting out of their group too #cantwait
— RockNRun85 (@RockNRun85) July 27, 2019
The upcoming Rugby World Cup will be really competitive. It’s a MUST SEE TOURNAMENT.
— Martin (@_martindp) July 20, 2019
South Africa shoukd have won this game! Last two weeks results show the World Cup is wide open #RugbyWorldCup
— Dai Jenkins (@dai7jenkins) July 27, 2019
— Michael Doyle (@CJPDoyle) July 27, 2019
— Mr_Black_and_Gold_6 (@MrBlackandGold1) July 27, 2019
Outside of the top five, it is still unwise to write off France or Australia despite their poor form. Both sides have the ability to show up at World Cups and cause upsets, and when looking at the French squad, they have the capability to do that again. Likewise, Argentina and Scotland, although inconsistent, will still push anyone.
With the likes of Fiji and Japan also hotly tipped to impress this tournament, it is no surprise that this could well be the most competitive championship since its inception in 1987.
By Josh Raisey