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The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is almost upon us, and it is set to be arguably the most open edition ever, with around half a dozen sides theoretically contenders for the Webb Ellis trophy.
We have given our Telegraph Sportrugby columnists the tough task of making their pre-tournament predictions, while the majority are optimistic for England’s chances, they have found it challenging to look beyond a southern hemisphere victor.
Winner: New Zealand
I think New Zealand will win the World Cup unless England can manufacture a second place in the group. If England lose to France in the final game they go into the better side of the draw become eventual winners.
Runner-up: South Africa
Runners-up is a really difficult one to call. I think the likelihood is either New Zealand or South Africa – the Springboks look good at the right time.
Top try scorer: Jonny May
May will be the top try scorer with seven as Eddie Jones seems to like to play him in every game, and England should score a lot of tries in the opening two matches.
Dark horse: Scotland
Scotland are the dark horses for me under Gregor Townsend, if they beat Ireland in the pool stage I could see them defeating South Africa in the quarter-finals.
How England will do
Everybody is talking them up and they have all the components to go all the way. I would just prefer that they met New Zealand in the final rather than the semi-finals and avoided Wales if at all possible. Whilst I never like losing to France, I think this could be the time.
Winner: South Africa
Power, pace, a great goalkicker and lineout gurus. Springboks look the full package.
Will just come up short having knocked out New Zealand in the semi-final!!
Top try-scorer: Makazole Mapimpi (South Africa)
Seven in the pool stages will put him beyond the reach of most…
Dark horse: France
Wales beware in the quarter-final…
How will England do:
They’ll do epically well and end up as losing finalists, though I hope I’m wrong about getting beaten by South Africa in the final. Keep the Vunipolas fit and there’s no reason why we can’t win the whole thing.
Sir Ian McGeechan
Winner: New Zealand
Far from invincible but the All Blacks will have learnt lessons from recent defeat by Australia and draw in South Africa. Still the team to beat.
Warren Gatland’s team have proven they can win tight games of rugby. Very good under pressure.
Dark horse: England
I can’t see Australia or France winning three knockout games in a row. England my third pick after New Zealand or Wales.
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