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With the 2019 Rugby World Cup getting well and truly underway, Telegraph Sport takes a look at how the contenders are shaping up with the bookmakers.
This year’s tournament is expected to be the most open for some time, with several nations all capable of getting their hands on the William Webb Ellis trophy. But, as ever, New Zealand remain the bookies’ favourites, but will it be captain Kieran Reid making it three victories in a row for the All Blacks on Saturday November 2?
New Zealand 6/4
Despite a more temperate year by their own lofty standards, New Zealand still possess ample class, and count some of the world’s very best performers among their squad. The pool match against South Africa is crucial: a win sets up an easier route through the knockout stages, providing other results go as predicted.
England seem to be peaking at just the right time, and are carrying virtually no injuries into the tournament. Question marks remain over the team’s ability under pressure but, when they get it right, there is little doubt that they are a serious contender for the tournament.
South Africa 9/2
Rugby Championship winners for the first time since 2009, South Africa’s squad looks fearsome. They have strong depth in their rampaging forward pack; measured, pragmatic half-backs, and a punishing back-three. A pool-stage loss to New Zealand, however, will make their task tougher, as the Irish rather than the Scots would probably be in waiting.
Last November, you would not have found such good odds on Ireland winning the tournament. Conquerors of the All Blacks in 2018, Ireland were on the top of the world until a mediocre Six Nations campaign stunted their progress. Nonetheless, they are the No 1-ranked side in the world heading into the tournament, which will give them confidence.
Six Nations champions Wales will be desperate to give departing coach Warren Gatland the perfect send-off but, having lost first-choice fly-half Gareth Anscombe, their backs are against the wall. They lost three of their four warm-up matches, too, but this Wales team is always most dangerous when they have already been written off.
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