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Tue 30 Jul 2019 | 09:42

Rugby world anticipates 'most open World Cup ever'

Rugby world anticipates 'most open World Cup ever'
Tue 30 Jul 2019 | 09:42
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:

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

PV: 2430

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