The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of International Rugby Union. Contested every four years since 1987, we have seen four different nations lift the Webb Ellis Cup. So, the question that supporters and punters alike want answered is “Who is going to win the 2015 edition of the Rugby World Cup?”. In my opinion there are at least seven teams that come Grand Final day, could be sipping out of the cup. However, the four teams that currently hold the strongest claims for cup glory are Australia, Ireland, France and New Zealand.
Australia rugby has been in somewhat of a lull over the course of the last decade, with their last world cup win coming with the golden era of 1999. However, a recent change of coach for the 2014 end of year tour saw the ambitious and sometimes controversial Michael Cheika thrust to the helm. With this, we have seen a slight resurgence in the Australian game, leading to a first win over the All Blacks in four years to take out the Rugby Championship earlier this month. Despite possessing what I believe to be the best attacking fullback in world rugby at present, Israel Folau, I still think that the Wallabies lack the composure and consistency that is imperative to a successful World Cup campaign.
The Irish team, having flown under the radar since the last World Cup, have recently snuck into second place in the world rankings ahead of Australia and England. With veteran leader Paul O’Connell leading them around the park, Ireland are sure to not let the occasion get on top of them. Alongside this comes the unparalleled ability of fly-half Johnny Sexton to read the game as it unfolds ‒ something that is central to all successful World Cup teams. Moreover, with recent victories over both England and the always-tough Welsh, be sure to keep an eye out for the clover green towards the business end of the tournament.
Next we have les Bleus. The French seem to be the one team that no matter what, rise to the occasion that is the World Cup. Perhaps the most consistent team in World Cup history, France is a team that can never be written off in any match, whether they are down by three points or thirty. They may not have the amount of star players present in teams like England, the All Blacks and Wallabies but they have proven time and time again that they can be the most dangerous team in world rugby.
Finally, we come to New Zealand, the form team in world rugby for the better part of a decade, losing only 4 games since the 2011 World Cup. Whilst they lost to the Wallabies in the recent Rugby Championship, the following week saw the Men in Black re-establish order with an emphatic 41-13 win over their trans-Tasman rivals to retain the Bledisloe Cup for the thirteenth straight year. With six players retiring after the World Cup, the All Blacks are fielding a relatively old team, however their experience is invaluable in securing a win. Add to this the pure talent of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter, along with some young blood and you have a mixture that once again is going to be hard to beat.
No matter what happens, this promises to be one of the closest and most exciting World Cups so far. As far as the winner goes, my heart says New Zealand, but, my brain is telling me that Australia and Ireland are not at all far behind.