To help you through the 48 matches, ITV has put together a sensational line-up of former winners as part of their coverage team, which will be fronted by Steve Rider. So sit back and hear the views of a quartet who have won more than 250 caps between them. Over the World Cup, these four legends will share with you their views on the tournaments’ big topics…
Who will win the World Cup and why?
Francois Pienaar: It’s New Zealand’s to lose. They’re the top team in the world at the moment, they’ve got balance within their squad and they’re at home. And I think the Christchurch earthquake (in February) will be a factor that will create a lot of emotion and make them even tougher to beat.
Lawrence Dallaglio: New Zealand are undoubtedly the best team in the world, but the key is to get all your best players to the final fit. When England won in 2003 we had 30 fit players to choose from for the final. If New Zealand lose one or two players in key positions, the whole conversation about who’s going to win changes. England and France and all the other Six Nations teams can have successful tournaments even if they don’t end up winning it, whereas if New Zealand don’t win it will be seen as a failure. The players will be champing at the bit to get out there after all the warm-up games. Especially as if you’ve not been playing, then someone else has taken your place – and they could be playing better than you!
Sean Fitzpatrick: If it’s not New Zealand, it will be one of the other Tri-Nations teams who wins it. For me, if everything goes to plan, it will be New Zealand v South Africa in the semi-final, and whoever wins that game will go on to win the World Cup. It would be fantastic if it was a New Zealand-England final, but I also believe that Australia have got a real chance. Traditionally the best defensive teams have won World Cups, and New Zealand’s defence has got better and better since they stumbled at France 2007. I’d love a Sonny Bill Williams or a Ma’a Nonu to be the star of this World Cup because of their ability to break down defences, and offload in the tackle. Which one of those will start will depend on who’s more effective off the bench. When he’s on his game Nonu is as good as anyone, but Sonny Bill’s been playing well outside Dan Carter in the Super XV and gaining valuable experience.
Michael Lynagh: The obvious answer is New Zealand although one of the main reasons for that is also one of the reasons why they might not win it – the fact the tournament is on their home soil. That increases the pressure on them but I feel this year is their year and it’s hard to see past them.
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This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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