Will the mighty All Blacks juggernaut continue? They won the title at home in 2011 and again in 2015 in England, and have rarely been beaten since. Those dual victories delivered on what the Kiwis had always promised: to be the dominant nation in the game they play in Heaven.
Can the host nation Japan rise to new heights this time around after rapid improvement in recent years?
South Africa and Australia are dual winners of the William Webb Ellis Cup, and they can never be ruled out, but they seem to be a long way off the pace of the All Blacks, so New Zealand’s greatest challengers may come from the north.
Can Ireland, so dominant in the Six Nations in 2018, provide a fairytale result, even though they have never even made the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup? They were favoured to do well in 2015 but were embarrassed in the quarter-finals 43-20 by Argentina.
England also have a point to prove after not even making the knockout rounds on their home turf.
Our rugby boffins at the World Gambling List have run the rule over the contenders and pretenders and here’s our breakdown of rugby union’s biggest event…
Quick guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan
First match: Japan v Russia, September 20, 2019, at Tokyo Stadium, Chofu.
Defending champions: New Zealand (defeated Australia 34-17 in the final at Twickenham, London, in 2015).
The draw: There are 20 teams split into four pools. Each team plays all pool rivals once and the top two teams from each pool qualify for the quarter-finals. There are 40 pool matches in total.
POOL A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia, Samoa.
POOL B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Canada.
POOL C: England, France, Argentina, United States, Tonga.
POOL D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji, Uruguay.
Quarter-final 1: winners Pool C v runners-up Pool D – Oita Stadium, Oita.
Quarter-final 2: winners Pool B v runners-up Pool A – Tokyo Stadium, Chofu.
Quarter-final 3: winners Pool D v runners-up Pool C – Oita Stadium, Oita.
Quarter-final 4: winners Pool A v runners-up Pool B – Tokyo Stadium, Chofu.
Semi-final 1: winners QF1 v winners QF2 – International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama.
Semi-final 2: winners QF3 v winners QF4 – International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama.
Bronze final: losers SF1 v losers SF2 – Tokyo Stadium, Chofu.
Final: winners SF1 v winners SF2 – International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, November 2, 2019.
Results of past RWC tournaments
|1991||Australia||England||12-6||UK, Ireland, France|
|1995||South Africa||New Zealand||15-12||South Africa|
|2011||New Zealand||France||8-7||New Zealand|
Created with the HTML Table Generator
Rugby world rankings
(As at March 18, 2019)
1 New Zealand
5 South Africa
Betting on RWC pool winners
Markets are available with Bet365 on who will win each group at RWC 2019 and the only team we could consider backing from a value standpoint is Argentina in Group C. The Argentines are around $5.50 in early betting and are third favourites for the group behind England ($1.50) and France ($4.33). If they can continue their improvement, by the time the teams head to Japan we expect them to have shortened up considerably in this market.
Who will win the 2019 Rugby World Cup?
The top chances and what fans can expect from their team:
New Zealand: Red-hot favourites and anything other than lifting the William Webb Ellis Cup will be considered a failure by their fanatical fans. This pressure for perfection can weigh heavily upon teams but the All Blacks have delivered in style at the previous two World Cups and we think they will make the final again in Japan. Coach Steve Hansen has compiled an incredible record and another title will be the icing on the cake as he comes to the end of his reign.
South Africa: One gets the sense that the Springboks could be again building towards something special. Their best is certainly good enough, as they showed with a rare victory over the All Blacks in 2018 in New Zealand. They have a superstar at fullback in Willie le Roux.
Australia: Have a great record in this event, but their form in 2018 has been patchy to say the least. Coach Michael Cheika needs to revitalise his squad and quickly as there are calls for him to be replaced, though he can always call on the brilliance of Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale. It would be a major surprise to see the Wallabies claim their third World Cup title.
England: Have plenty to prove after the disaster of the World Cup in 2015 when they could finish only third in their group behind Australia and Wales. Still up there with the best in the northern hemisphere and Australian coach Eddie Jones is vastly experienced and has coached in Japan.
Ireland: Huge expectations on the men from the Emerald Isle after a grand slam in the Six Nations in 2018. They are at the pointy end of the IRB rankings but now most prove themselves on the biggest stage. Have a class act in Jonathan Sexton steering them around the park from fly-half. Finally beat the All Blacks after 110 years of trying with a 40-29 win in Chicago of all places in 2016. The Irish have a golden generation of players and will believe this is their time.
Wales: Outside chance of making it through to the last few and along with Ireland and England are the best of the Northern Hemisphere chances. Scored a Grand Slam win in 2019 Six Nations and that has raised expectations that they could be dangerous. Also drawn in the same pool with the struggling Wallabies so could emerge top of the group without surprising anyone.
France: You never really know what to expect with Les Tricolores, but they have made the final three times in the eight World Cup tournaments so far, so they should be respected. The Gallic flair in the backs and brutality up front could come to the fore but they have been off the pace for several seasons.