Rugby Celebrity Corner

And then there were three…

So what has the phoney war told us about the World Cup to come.

New Zealand are the favourites. The most passionate rugby nation on the planet playing in their own back yard. You have to have good reason to look beyond them to see who could even get close.

Well, on the basis that whoever is going to challenge them has to be able to win away from their own patch that leaves you with 3 contenders. Australia who won in S Africa and France and England who both won in Ireland

Fresh from a win against New Zealand at home Australia seem like the real deal. But it is just over a month since they lost to Fiji and S Africa were riddled with rust when the fell to the Wallabies. Perhaps the most damning argument might be that no-one with a front five as average as theirs has ever won a global tournament. It is stretching credulity that they can win knock out rugby again and again with a tight five that frail. Remember England demolished them up front in Australia last year.

So to England. Probably too little too late. Not enough tries in the team. They have not really moved on since thrashing Australia at Twickenham last autumn. Some brilliant offensive talent but not enough consistency or intelligence. How they lost in Cardiff remains a mystery. Too inexperienced this time.

So to France. For half an hour in Dublin they looked like world beaters and then lost concentration. They are very big and very talented behind the scrum. Whether they have the smarts to react to adversity without becoming fragile we will see. But they seem ripe and ready. Perhaps they alone can strangle the All Blacks and beat them at the same time. The hammer and the rapier.

On reflection though France look like they will go closest for me New Zealand will still edge it. Lots of people talk about the fear factor damaging New Zealand. I see it the other way round. They are truly terrified to waste this opportunity. Truly terrified to let a golden generation Carter, McCaw, Nonu. Mulliaina pass without a crowning glory. Too afraid to let their countrymen on the sidelines down. Fear works both ways. Only New Zealand know they really have to win. That is why they will.

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