The Rugby world cup is finally being hosted by England for the first time in 24 years, with over 500,000 overseas fans expected to visit our shores in the next two weeks, along with British fans who are likely to flood stadiums around the country. In fact, it is estimated that 2.3 million of the 2.45 million available tickets have been sold already to see the 20 teams involved. New Zealand are already tipped as favourites, based on recent form and them being reigning champions from 2011. But what do the experts say? Letís take a look at the stats and compare the odds.
The opening match of the Eighth Rugby World Cup, taking place at Twickenham, pits the Lions against the 9th ranked team in the world, Fiji. If England are to set the standard for the world cup they must build the confidence needed to overcome the tougher opposition that await. In facing Fiji, they come up against a strong line up of experience, in particular players like Nemani Nadolo. It will fall to Anthony Watson to face up to the Fijian giant, but he has proven himself capable of scoring tries and taking on strong competition at international level.
After rising to victory at the Six Nations, will the luck of
the Irish shine through for a second time? Ireland open their World Cup efforts
with what looks like a relatively easy hit-out against the Pool D minnows
Canada. Given its strong team, Irelandís chances of coming out on top again are
looking good this year. However, it would seem the Six Nations left the team a
little complacent as what followed was less than high-flying with a patchy
summer, winning two and losing two of their warm up games. Should Irish coach
Joe Schmidt plan to have his men step up a gear in time for D day, these
results are sure to put fire in their bellies as they prepare to fight for
Wales are looking to comeback with a bang, as star players Liam Williams and Samson Lee will both return to the game with after training incredibly hard. Williams has not played since last season due to a foot problem, while Scarlets team-mate was side-lined after suffering an Achilles injury during the RBS 6 Nations tournament six months ago. Itís no wonder the teamís chances of winning are on the up, with the players building on their strengths and keeping positive as they enter the tournament ranked fifth.
Scotland open their world cup journey against a side that will have two days to recover after their opening match against South Africa. The good news is that the Scots have previous experience as to what is required to beat Japan on the field. Scotland have won all four of their encounters with this side, including World Cup pool matches in 1991 and 2003. This may be some time ago but the team has matured since with favourites like Alasdair Strokosch and Alasdair Dickinson preparing for an unforgettable clash promising rivalry, tension and most importantly supreme quality.