New Zealand Remain Firm Favourites on Eve of Rugby World Cup

New Zealand Remain Firm Favourites on Eve of Rugby World Cup

International rugby juggernaut New Zealand remain firm favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on the eve of the quadrennial Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks have three World Cups to their name, including victory in the previous two tournaments in 2011 and 2015. The odds compilers have recognised their dominance on the big stage, pricing them at 6/4 to make it three-in-a-row.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Steve Hansen’s side in recent months. Lacklustre performances have seen them draw again southern hemisphere rivals South Africa and Australia. They have also been leapfrogged by Ireland in the World Rugby Rankings and they now occupy the No. 2 spot. They remain the premier force to be reckoned with according to ex-Ireland rugby international Reggie Corrigan for

Corrigan explained: "The New Zealand squad have more experience having been together that bit longer and having achieved so much. They’ve also shown their ability to bounce back from defeats, which have done them no harm and, in my eyes, they’re peaking at just the right time."

New Zealand will begin their World Cup against South Africa, who they have failed to beat in their previous two encounters. They could also be without 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year Brodie Retallick who suffered a dislocated shoulder back in July when the sides last met.

Europeans Next in Line

Bookmakers reckon this could be a teaser for the eventual final, with the Springboks pegged as 4/1 second-favourites to claim their third World Cup following wins in 2007 and 1995. England are next in line as a 9/2 shot, followed closely by Grand Slam-winning Wales and world No.1 Ireland - both of who are looking to win their first World Cup.

Wales ended a 14-game winning run during their warm-up matches with defeats to both England and Ireland. They also haven’t been helped by in-camp issues after assistant coach Rob Howley was sent home for suspected betting infringements.

A statement from the Welsh Rugby Union confirmed an investigation had been launched, while coach Warren Gatland was adament the controversy would not derail his sides World Cup bid. "We have got to draw a line in the sand on this and really focus on preparing the team for the next five days."

The Welsh open their tournament against Georgia where they will be heavily favoured, while Joe Schmidt and his Ireland side kick-off their campaign with a tricky tie against neighbours Scotland.