The outcome of the Rugby World Cup final on October 28 might seem predictable to many. In a sport that hasn't reached full globalization, only a select few nations possess teams that can truly vie for the Webb Ellis Trophy. Since its inception in 1987, only four countries have clinched the trophy in the nine tournaments held every four years, and a mere five nations have ever made it to the final.
The Boks, France, Ireland, New Zealand
Ireland (6.00) has been on a winning streak for several seasons. Thanks to their well-structured game plan and seasoned players, most of whom have trained and played with Leinster throughout the year.
While signs point to the Northern Hemisphere claiming the World Cup - something that hasn't happened since England's triumph in 2003 - South Africa (3.65) are in France as the reigning champions, having clinched the title in Japan in 2019. The Boks are known for their formidable and unyielding pack of forwards, plus some quick and imaginative backs!
New Zealand (5.00), after an off couple of seasons and a loss against the hosts, their recent victory in the Rugby Championship and a long-standing reputation as "the best team in the world" cannot be dismissed.
For the first time, France (4.00) entered a home World Cup as the top contender, at the start of their campaign. Since 2019 and the prior World Cup, Coach Fabien Galthié has been keen on assessing numerous players. He's prioritized giving his elite players ample game time to ensure they are well-prepared to face New Zealand in the inaugural match with a seasoned core team, which paid off well for Les Bleus!
In Pools C and D, traditional rugby powerhouses like England, Wales, and Australia, once favourites for the World Cup, are now struggling to retain their dominance. While they could face challenges from teams like Fiji, Samoa, and Argentina within their respective pools, there's still a possibility that one or more of these teams could make it to the semi-finals, despite their current hurdles.
England, the only Northern Hemisphere team to have won the whole thing, has now slipped to the 6th position in global rankings. There's a cloud of doubt over their ability to progress beyond the pool stage.
Australia, previously two-time world champions in 1991 and 1999, seems to be just a fraction of what they once were. Now at 9th in the world rankings, their recent defeat by the French at the Stade de France speaks volumes.
Wales, once the giants of international rugby, are facing challenges on multiple fronts. The iconic Red Dragons are grappling with an ageing squad, and their performance in the latest Six Nations Championship was underwhelming, plus with off-site issues... it is going to be a tough campaign.