This years rugby World Cup in Japan promises to be the closest yet. And here's why.....
This is the current standings in the Rugby World rankings. New Zealand retake the number 1 spot from Wales, but is that the full picture??
NEW ZEALAND HAVE STEPPED OFF THE GAS
They may still the best team in the world and yes, they're still the tournament favourites and yes, they did put 92 points past Tonga in their final warm-up match. BUT and this is a big BUT...... they do not look like one of the great All Black sides of the past. That's only because of the ridiculously high standards they have set themselves over the years.
What do I mean by that??:
Since the last World Cup they have lost 6 times in 46 Tests, with 2 draws and winning 38. This gives a win percentage of 82.6%. That's still a winning percentage any top world team would be happy with, but not the NZ All Blacks. During the previous World Cup cycle, from 2011 to 2015, they lost just 3 Tests and won 42. This gave a winning percentage of 89.4%. This isn't a big step off, but it is undeniably a step off when fine margins determine results, at this level.
SIX NATIONS ON THE RISE
England won the Grand Slam in 2016 and then followed it up by winning the Six Nations in 2017. I've never understood why England keep bottling it??!!?? With their player base and the standards of the club sides they should have won more than their only RWC in 2003. Since Eddie Jones took over the coaching role in 2015 its forced the other nations in turn up their game, forcing both Ireland and Wales to perform better. They respectively won in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The truth is there is now very little to choose between these 3 sides, with home advantage usually being the deciding factor in the Six Nations. This puts added pressure on the ALL BLACKS and should New Zealand have stepped off, as the stats show, then Europe has three sides ready to challenge them.
AUSTRALIA AND SOUTH AFRICA ARE READY TO POUNCE
While I just talked up the chances of England, Wales and Ireland possibly winning the 2019 RWC, the two teams to have most recently exposed chinks in the All Blacks' armour lurk in the southern hemisphere.
Australia thrashed the ALL Blacks 47-26 just last month. And South Africa won the Rugby Championship after the side got a draw in Wellington having beaten the All Blacks at the same venue a year ago. If the all blacks have stepped off, then South Africa are probably the best equipped team to steal their crown. That's not to write off Australia who are also capable of blowing any team away on their day, despite consistency issues.
If I were a betting man, then I'd put a cheeky bet on South Africa. I feel they have the ammunition to pip any team on their day, but what do I know.... That's the great thing about a Rugby World Cup, any team can cause an upset on any day.
So why not have a little flutter through my RWC SWEEPSTAKE :
Simply follow the LINK to my previous sweepstake blog where I explain the rules and then send me 4 steem to take part.