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Sonny Bill Williams was subject to a recent rumour saying his Rugby World Cup was over because of injury.
OPINION:It has been a frequently asked question these past few months.
“Do you think the All Blacks will win the World Cup?”
“No, I don’t,” is my usual response, provoking looks that suggest I should be permanently encased in a rigid pink blancmange for this sort of faithless treason. After a horrified pause, comes the inevitable follow-up question.
“All right, then, so which team do you think is most likely to win the World Cup?”
“The All Blacks,” I respond.
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*Guide to RWC coverage on Stuff
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*RWC 2019: A beginner’s guide
*Download Stuff’s RWC wallchart
*The ABs out to make RWC history
Mmm, it’s a puzzle. It’s a riddle, hidden in a conundrum, wrapped up in a falafel. But it’s really not that complicated. If you offered an even money bet on either the All Blacks or on every other team in the tournament, I would collectively back ‘the field’ to provide a team that will beat New Zealand. But if forced to put my money on just one team, then the dollars go down on New Zealand.
A lot of people are calling this the most open World Cup ever. I am not sure about that. 1991 was open, 2003 was wide open and so was 2007. But this World Cup is up there with those other tournaments. The likelihood is that the eventual winner will come out of pool B – New Zealand or South Africa – but England have a good chance and Wales, Ireland, Australia and even France are not entirely without hope.
History and Eddie Jones also tell us that if New Zealand lose their opening match against South Africa, then they will not go on to win the World Cup. But I am not sure that is true even though every previous winner has been unbeaten. I remember when the Chiefs won Super Rugby in 2013. The Crusaders put 40 points on them in the penultimate round of the group stages.
But the Chiefs went on to beat the Crusaders by a point in the semi-final and win the title. Wayne Smith later told me that he thought whoever had lost that group match would go on to win the rematch. There would just be enough extra edge from what had gone before. That scenario may well be repeated if New Zealand and South Africa go on to play each other in the final.
But there are so many variables to get through before then. The first is injury. There are
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