The showpiece event of the rugby calendar is fast approaching, and punters should be quick to jump on the best prices possible with STS. The action gets started in September in Japan, but the best time to get the ultimate value on your bet would be immediately. The reigning champions are New Zealand, but there are plenty of challengers vying for their crown.
The All Blacks are undoubtedly the team to beat after winning the competition in 2015 to regain the crown that they won in 2011. However, the Six Nations is a good indicator of how the European sides are shaping up, while Australia will once again be a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Let’s explore the teams that could possibly knock off New Zealand at the 2019 event.
The Irish have yet to even reach the semi-finals stage of the World Cup, but their 2018 form means that they remain a hope and a potential clash with the Welsh in the semi-finals will be enough to get rugby fans excited. In 2018 they achieve the Grand Slam in the Six Nations as they won the title while remaining unbeaten throughout the competition, and despite a disappointing showing this year they remain a talented squad that should be taken seriously in Japan.
Other teams around the world have been quick to realise the talent in the Irish squad, with the Welsh manager claiming that his side were facing ‘the best rugby side on the planet’ before their showdown in the Six Nations. Although the Welsh did beat them on that occasion, it is difficult for a team to emulate Six Nations glory with a World Cup success; with only England achieving that feat in 2003.
They do say that records are there to be broken and Wales will be looking to equal that record set by England and win a second significant title in the same calendar year. While it is difficult to ignore the fact that sides don’t tend to win both competitions; it is essential to remember that this isn’t any ordinary Welsh side. They will begin the 2019 World Cup as the second best side in the world according to the rankings and should they start their group campaign strongly then there is no reason why they can’t win the competition.
They ended the recent Six Nations as Grand Slam winners, with the most important victory of that campaign coming in a 21-13 victory over the English. The Welsh enjoy going into competitions as underdogs, and that is a tag that Warren Gatland prefers his side to carry. Gatland himself will be looking to end his record-breaking time at the helm with the Welsh on the ultimate high before he steps away from the national side after the World Cup. Wales have been drawn in a comfortable looking group with Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay. The team that finishes top of this pool will have an excellent chance of making at least the semi-finals where they will likely come up against Ireland for a place in the World Cup final.
The final country from Europe that can claim to have an excellent chance of winning the World Cup are the last European side to achieve the feat - England. It has been a disappointing two years for the country in terms of performances in the Six Nations; with both competitions ending in tears after defeats to Wales and Ireland. However, Eddie Jones admitted after the Six Nations that he used the competition as a way to test tactics ahead of the World Cup. Immediately, that means that pressure will be on him for the competition and he will need to hit the ground running in a tough Pool C, which also includes Argentina and France as genuine quarterfinal hopefuls.
While their Six Nations campaign ultimately ended in disaster by finishing second, they did at least produce a wonderful performance in Ireland. They beat the reigning champions 32-20, and this could be significant ahead of the World Cup. The country’s Autumn internationals at the end of last year may be a better indicator of how England might perform, as England beat South Africa and Australia but narrowly lost to New Zealand. England remains a contender to win the World Cup, but the pressure on Jones may be a crucial factor in their ultimate downfall.
The best hope of challengers away from European sides is Australia. They are rarely considered a dark horse for a World Cup, but they have endured a difficult 12 months, which has been overpowered with low points and now many positives. The inexcusable actions by Israel Folau have left the country with a gaping hole in the middle of their team, and not many players that are capable of filling it. Along with that, the questions surrounding their manager have ensured that they remain outsiders to achieve anything in Japan.
Michael Cheika has increased optimism slightly by encouraging a feel-good mood in the camp, and that could play a part. However, it is difficult to see how their performance levels have changed, but we will have to wait and see from their pre-World Cup warm-up matches for the answers to those questions. Their recent form over the last seven matches will have to change, as they have only one once. The start they make will be crucial in the World Cup, as anything other than a first-place finish would mean that their World Cup could be over instantly. They are drawn in Pool D alongside Uruguay, Georgia, Fiji and Wales. If they top the group, then they could be handed a fortunate route to the semi-finals where they could play the USA before a semi-final showdown with Ireland. It’s unlikely that they will top the group, however. Unless that is they have completely transformed from the last time that we saw them on the rugby pitch.
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