All Blacks remain the team to beat as Rugby World Cup draws closer
There is now less than a month to go until the start of the Rugby World Cup, and the tournament is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.
The competition, which kicks off with a match between hosts England and Fiji on Friday 18th September at Twickenham, will involve 20 nations battling it out over six weeks to decide the world’s best.
In truth, only three or four of the teams have a realistic chance of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, but the competition between those leading nations will be intense.
To start, the teams have been divided into four pools of five. The top two teams from each pool qualify for the quarter finals, and from there on it’s knockout all the way to the final which will be back at Twickenham on October 31st.
If any of the pools is to gain the ‘group of death’ nickname, it will probably be Pool A where England, Australia and Wales will be desperate not to be the team that misses out on a spot in the quarter-finals.
South Africa are clear favourites to qualify from Group B, with most of the attention being on the identity of the team that will accompany them - Somoa, Japan, Scotland or the USA.
Pool C features reigning champions New Zealand, along with Argentina, Tonga, Namibia and Georgia. The All Blacks, favourites as usual to win the competition, have been buoyed by an excellent performance in the recent Bledisloe Cup match against Australia, when they retained the trophy with a thumping 41-13 victory.
France and Ireland will expect to qualify from the last group, Pool D, but Italy will also be in contention. Canada and Romania will no doubt be doing not much more than making up the numbers.
As well as Twickenham, matches will be staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium, Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park and the Olympic Stadium in east London. A number of football stadiums, including Elland Road, Wembley and St James Park, will also host matches.