Who Will Win the Rugby World Cup?

Who Will Win the Rugby World Cup? Photo by chuttersnap, License The 4 year wait for the Rugby World Cup is over; and the 2019 tournament in Japan is the […]

Who Will Win the Rugby World Cup?

Photo by chuttersnap, License
The 4 year wait for the Rugby World Cup is over; and the 2019 tournament in Japan is the first ever to be held on the Asian continent. The 20 teams will compete for the Webb Ellis Cup, which is named in honour of William Webb Ellis, who is widely credited with inventing the game of rugby when he was a student in Rugby. The legend goes that Ellis decided to pick up a football and run with it, instead of kicking it along the floor.
Although 20 countries compete, only four have ever won the competition since it started in 1987: New Zealand (three times), Australia (twice), South Africa (twice), and England (once).
After starting on 20th September, the Rugby World Cup will continue until 2nd November with the final being held at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama. At the mid way point, there have been some strong performances and there have been several teams who have surprised with their performance, but the favourites continue to be the New Zealand All Blacks.


Photo by Thomas Serer, License
Five Contenders
Despite the All Blacks looking set to continue their dominance, there are five serious contenders going into the competition, more than any other Rugby World Cup. Here is a look at these teams:
New Zealand
They have lost a couple of surprise games recently, including losing to Australia in the Rugby Championship and a game to Springboks. Chinks in their armour have also been shown by the fact that both Ireland and Wales each took their former number 1 spot in the World Rugby rankings this year. Despite this, they remain favourites to win in Japan thanks to their unprecedented dominance of the sport and the fact that the majority of their team is made up of players who have experience playing in a Rugby World Cup.
Ireland
With top players like Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, only fools would discount Ireland as serious contenders for the Rugby World Cup. Like New Zealand, they have had a couple of blips in recent months, but still have the same lineup that put in record performances in 2018. One of the main reasons they are in contention for winning the Webb Ellis Cup is that they have beaten New Zealand in two of their last 3 games.
Wales
Another team from the British Isles, 2019 is Wales’ first World Cup where they are real contenders. They became the world’s number 1 team earlier in 2019 when they won a Six Nations Grand Slam in March. They have a strong team made up of world class players and a powerful defence. Wales could be held back by the absence of several injured players, including Gareth Anscombe and Taulupe Faletau, but they are still a strong team without them.
England
The third contender from the British Isles, and second from the UK, England are regularly in contention for international trophies. They have beaten both Australia and South Africa recently and lost to New Zealand by a single point, showing that they have the form required to be successful. They gave a strong performance in the Six Nations earlier in the year, but there were areas for improvement.
South Africa
South Africa should never be discounted, particularly as one of the few teams to win the Rugby World Cup. Although they have struggled in recent years, they won the Rugby Championship in 2019 and have recently beaten New Zealand. This may be the turning point for the Springboks who look like they back on form. However, their performance will partially be reliant on the fly-half, Handre Pollard, who plays a significant role within the team.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will be a first for a couple of reasons. It is the first time the tournament has been held in Asia, and it is also the first time five teams appear to be strong contenders for the title. New Zealand remain the favourites, but one bad day for them could be enough to swing the tournament in a very different direction.