South Africa The Pick To Stop All Blacks' Rugby World Cup Hat-Trick Bid

South Africa The Pick To Stop All Blacks' Rugby World Cup Hat-Trick Bid

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Japan becomes the first Asian country to host the Rugby World Cup which gets underway in Tokyo on September 20th.

With 20 teams divided into four groups, it’s a long old competition for rugby betting enthusiasts with Yokohama staging the final on November 2nd.

Stopping The All Blacks

The question on everyone’s lips is whether the New Zealand All Blacks can complete a hat-trick of Rugby World Cup titles. After 10 years on top, Kieran Read’s men slipped to second place behind Wales following a draw with South Africa at home and a thumping 47-26 defeat to Australia in Perth.

In both matches, coach Steve Hansen played Crusaders’ Richie Mo’unga at fly-half with Beauden Barrett - probably the finest 10 in world rugby - switching to full-back to accommodate him with Ben Smith moving to the right wing.

It’s an interesting move from Hansen to be making such fundamental changes so close to a World Cup. Maybe he felt things needed shaking up after the Rugby Championship opener where New Zealand won narrowly over Argentina in Buenos Aires. And Mo’unga and Barrett both showed what they can do as they avenged that Australia defeat in Auckland a week later 36-0 to retain the Bledisloe Cup.

But could you really take a top price of 11/8 with Betfair about them successfully defending their crown?

Yes, they are the best team in world rugby despite what the rankings may say. But the pressure on them will be as intense as ever and there are at least two, maybe three, lively challengers who could potentially beat them on their day.

The first is South Africa who won this year’s shortened Rugby Championship largely thanks to earning that last-gasp draw in Wellington. They actually had much the better of the first half before the All Blacks took charge and converted their pressure into points. Strong all over the park, especially in defence, they have a rock-solid kicking fly-half in Handre Pollard and look out for hot-stepping wing Cheslin Kolbe who is a cross between Bryan Habana and Jason Robinson.

The bookies have the Springboks as general joint-second favourites to clinch a third World Cup triumph. They are in Group B with New Zealand and second place would see them probably meet Ireland in the quarter-finals followed by Wales in the semis. That looks a reasonable path making them an excellent each-way bet at 5/1 with Betway. And if they were to meet the All Blacks again in the final, I’d fancy them to repeat their famous 1995 triumph.

The Northern Hemisphere Challenge

Grand Slam winners Wales go into the tournament with their best chance of winning a first World Cup. But Warren Gatland’s side suffered a huge blow when fly-half Gareth Anscombe tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the recent 33-19 defeat to England, ruling him out of the trip to Japan. No. 8 Taulupe Faletau is also out after breaking his collarbone.

Dan Biggar was man of the match as Wales beat England 13-6 in the return match at Cardiff a week later. But is he a 10 capable of winning a World Cup? My hunch is no although they can beat anyone on their day and I think the 10/1 available with Betfair is a fair price. While I see them getting the better of Australia to win Group D, South Africa in the semis could well be a bridge too far.

I would have harboured similar reservations about George Ford until recently but he really seems to have got the England backline motoring of late. With Owen Farrell at 12, Manu Tuilagi was back to his rampaging best as England clinically dismantled a below-par Ireland 57-15.

The pack is stronger with Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola back to full fitness and Eddie Jones’ side look genuine contenders. They appear to be peaking at the right time and have serious depth to their squad. The draw does count against them though with New Zealand likely semi-final opponents. I would give them a chance in that match-up, but I think backing them to win that match at the time might work out better than an each-way bet at 11/2 outright with SportNation.

Ireland’s embarrassment at Twickenham was the latest episode in the story of a team which has well and truly gone off the boil. As has happened in the past, the boys in green have failed to keep their form ahead of a World Cup. Scotland and hosts Japan may give them something to think about but I expect them to win Group A before falling to South Africa in the quarters. They should be a bigger price than the 9/1 generally available with the best Rugby betting sites.

The Best of the Rest

Apart from that stunning win in Perth over the All Blacks, Australia have looked pretty average of late with the Israel Folau saga not helping matters. David Pocock has been included despite not playing since March and the Wallabies will be praying the standout flanker can stay injury-free.

France are as frustratingly inconsistent as ever as they showed in consecutive weeks against Scotland, hammering them 32-3 in Nice before going down 17-14 at Murrayfield. Fijian-born wing Alvereti Raka scored just two minutes into his debut in Nice and could give would-be tacklers nightmare. But they just don’t look strong enough to suggest that they can challenge the big names and Wales in the quarter-finals look beyond them.

Despite winning just once in the Six Nations, Scotland did show some encouraging signs - not least in the thrilling comeback from 31-0 down to draw 38-38 with England at Twickenham. But they do appear to be some way behind the top teams and a quarter-final place is surely the summit of their expectations.

Only two from England, France and Argentina will get out of Group C with the Pumas likely to miss out this time. Nine straight international defeats, 10 if you include the Barbarians, is far from the ideal prep for a World Cup and they have not won a match in nearly a year.

Guessing the Finalists

This market is really interesting to my eyes. Yes, it requires a bit of guesswork as to who will get through and top each group but there are some combinations near the top of the market which just look wrong. The favourite in the market is a New Zealand-South Africa final and rightfully so. But New Zealand-Ireland is second favourite which is plain daft given recent form.

Sticking to my theme of opposing the All Blacks, the England-South Africa final at 14/1 with William Hill looks huge. England-New Zealand is pretty much the same price across the board but the only way that can happen is if England lose a group game or the All Blacks go down to South Africa in the group stages. Both are possible but unlikely.

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