Wales emerge as World Cup 2019 contenders
Wales’ stunning run the Six Nations Grand Slam has caught many by surprise and forced bookmakers to ask: can they take the next step and rule the world?
In latest betting for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Wales have shortened into $9 equal fourth favourites with South Africa. New Zealand sit atop the betting at $2.20, with England at $5 and Ireland at $5.50.
Warren Gatland’s powerful side defeated Ireland 25-7 at Millennium Stadium at the weekend in a brutal defensive display, with the Irish only breaking their duck with a try at the final whistle.
Ireland went into the tournament as the hot favourites after their Grand Slam-winning display in 2018, narrowly ahead of the dangerous England side, so the Welsh victory was somewhat of an upset.
But given they have won 14 consecutive matches and are within sight of the All Blacks’ world record of 18, it is exciting times for Kiwi Gatland and Wales.
Gatland will leave his post as head coach after the World Cup starting in Japan in September 20, just over six months away. He has presided over the Wales team rising to the No.2 world ranking behind New Zealand.
In contrast to the Welsh revival, Ireland had a dismal campaign, with emphatic losses to their big two rivals England and Wales, and will have much soul searching to do in the next few months.
On the plus side, they have two recent wins over the All Blacks to give them hope, while Wales have not toppled the hot World Cup favourites since December, 1953!
Gatland’s side was hardly dominant in the early stages of the Six Nations, being forced to escape from 16-0 against the unpredictable French.
But as he said after that win: “We’ve become a side that’s probably forgotten how to lose.”
So now Gatland’s attention will turn to Japan and his side must buck history again.
Wales have never reached the World Cup final, falling in the semi-finals in 2011 and in the inaugural tournament in 1987.
But they have at least earned the right to consider them as the best dark horses in the event.
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