TOP rugby judge and expert stats man Russ Petty (@RPetty80) shares his best outright bets on the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Rugby World Cup | 18th September – 31st October 2015 | ITV
Will 2015 see the most open World Cup ever?
That seems to the general opinion going into the tournament, backed up by the World Rugby rankings which show that there isn’t much separating Australia in second, South Africa third, England fourth, Wales fifth and Ireland sixth.
Those teams are all capable of beating each other, but can any of them stop New Zealand? You can tell it is getting close to the World Cup when the articles about the haka and aura appear. Sponsors and kit manufacturers start to resemble Johnny Nice Painter from The Fast Show with increasingly frantic references to blackness.
Outright favourites the All Blacks have lost just three times in the 47 matches since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and have nine of the starting side from that final in their current squad. The stability of a settled team has allowed them to build depth in preparation for this competition and their tour last year was used as a practice run for the pool stage, with plenty of squad rotation between games.
Key players were rested during the Super Rugby season but the final was still contested by two New Zealand teams. Steve Hansen’s side fit the experience profile of previous winners with four centurions in their squad, an in-form Ma’a Nonu soon to join that list and an average of 48 caps per player. There will be great motivation to send off the retiring players with a trophy and with Dan Carter featuring for only 152 minutes in 2011 there is a sense of unfinished business on his part.
New Zealand have won their 24 previous pool matches by an average score of 63-12 and beaten the highest ranked opponent in their 2015 group, Argentina by at least 15 points in the seven meetings since 2012. When they win Pool C there will be the benefit of two extra days to prepare for a likely quarter-final against France or Ireland, which makes for a better lead up to the knockout games then some of their rivals.
It is true that their 1987 and 2011 successes came at home and that no side has retained a World Cup yet. It is also the case that the winners in 1999, 2003 and 2007 avoided the All Blacks completely.
If the rest of the contenders are all on roughly the same level, then being hosts has to be seen as a significant advantage for England. Yes that will bring an added pressure, but Stuart Lancaster’s team have also benefitted from a favourable fixture list that sees them avoid any short turnarounds between pool matches.
The lack of experience (average of 25 caps) and established combinations can rightly be identified as problems but England have proved tough to beat at Twickenham recently, with seven wins in a row there and 15 of the previous 18 there since beating the All Blacks in 2012.
They have lost 14 of the previous 15 matches with New Zealand at all venues and have 11 defeats and a draw in the last 12 against South Africa but have the opportunity to swerve both those teams until a potential final, if they can win their pool. Ignore matches against those two sides and it's 20 victories from 22 matches on their own turf since 2011.
Picking the number one ranked team to meet the hosts in the final might sound a bit obvious but then again World Cups aren’t really known for their upsets.
The Tier 1 teams (Six Nations and Rugby Championship) have won 123 of 132 previous pool games against Tier 2 sides and account for 51 of 56 quarter-finalists. Pool winners have a 79% win rate in those quarter-finals and the higher ranked (pre-tournament) team has won 17 of 24 knockout games since 2003.
Rugby World Cup – New Zealand to win outright (11/8 Coral)
Rugby World Cup – Name The Finalists – ‘New Zealand v England' (9/2 Ladbrokes)
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