A look at the home nations’ chances at rugby’s showpiece tournament
Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 – A Preview
Whilst the ninth Rugby World Cup may still be five months away, the Six Nations tournament has really whet the appetite for the sport’s showpiece occasion in Japan.
New Zealand remain the overwhelming favourites to land their third consecutive title and fourth overall, but teams like Australia and several of the home nations will also fancy their chances of winning rugby union’s most coveted prize.
But which of the home nations have the best chance of winning the World Cup? And can one of them really break the Kiwis’ grasp on the tournament?
Let’s take a look…
Wales and England Leading the Charge
Arguably, Ireland were leading the charge prior to the 2019 Six Nations, but Joe Schmidt’s men endured a disappointing tournament in which it appeared as though they’d been worked out.
In fact, they were beaten by both England and Wales this year, as they struggled to move the gears and deliver the cutting edge required to beat the very best sides. So, whilst they remain the third-ranked team in the world and boast the pedigree to go all the way in Japan, they’ve undoubtedly slipped against some of their closest rivals.
Interestingly, Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners Wales are now considered to be the second best team in the world, with their 25-7 win against Ireland securing their first Six Nations title since 2013 and stretching their record winning run to 14 Tests.
In short, they’re in the best possible form ahead of the Japan showpiece, with their discipline, defence and physical strength making them genuine contenders to win a first World Cup.
England finished second in this year’s Six Nations, with their record undermined by defeat against Wales and a thrilling draw with Scotland at Twickenham. However, they’re undeniably capable of achieving special things in Japan, as they go in search of their first World Cup win since 2003.
Concerns remain about their consistency and levels of focus, of course, with these shortcomings painfully apparent whilst letting a 31-0 lead slip in the aforementioned clash with Scotland. England also struggled with considerable expectation levels in the 2015 World Cup, before eventually being eliminated in the pool stages.
What About Scotland as Outside Hopes?
Scotland are also sure to catch the eye in Japan, despite flattering to deceive during the Six Nations. In fact, it’s fair to say that they struggled to build on the excitement of their Six Nations run in 2018, although they were undoubtedly undermined by a raft of unfortunate injuries.
Make no mistake, however, Scotland remain a match for anyone at full strength, with their creative flair and the mercurial talents of Finn Russell capable of overcoming any opponent.
This was most evident in a bewildering 25-minute spell in the second half against England at Twickenham in March, when the Scots plundered five tries and 31 points to eliminate their rival’s lead.
You would be unwise to bet against them, although those looking for a punt either way can check out Leo Vegas’ sign up bonuses for their sportsbook offerings.
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That said, Scotland were atrocious in the first half and lacked any kind of defensive structure, and this kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde performance will make them a loose cannon in Japan. The Scots also came within a minute of making the semi-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and they’re known to raise their game on the biggest occasions.
So there you have it, our brief guide to the home nations and the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan. But who do you think will perform well?