The 2019 Rugby World Cup will kick off in just 18 days. All participating teams are currently getting their final preparations done before their respective fates will be decided in Japan. As is usually the case, New Zealand are currently the favourites at 5/4 to be crowned World Champions this year. However, the All-Blacks are far from certainties to walk away with this year’s tournament.
The All-Blacks have essentially entered all World Cups as the favourites since fittingly winning the inaugural tournament in 1987. Despite this, New Zealand have won a total of just 3 World Cup titles. This is still an impressive achievement. New Zealand have won more World Cups than any other nation. However, despite being the most dominant team in world rugby for the majority of the last 32 years, New Zealand have shown to be beatable on the day in world cup fixtures.
New Zealand’s consistency as the undisputed best team in world rugby has been astonishing in the past decade. The All-Blacks have won the last 2 World Cups. It was also only in the past month that they were dethroned from the top spot in the World Rankings, falling just short of completing a full decade as the world’s number one ranked side.
However, as New Zealand’s World Cup history shows, this tournament is decided based on form, rather than consistency. This is the nature of the knockout tournament format. Over the past decade, teams had become accustomed to losing to New Zealand. However, in the past couple of years, cracks have begun to show in the All-Blacks’ once unbreakable armour. Their opponents have showed less fear in recent times, and have taken results away from games vs the All-Blacks.
In the past 12 months, New Zealand have lost to South Africa, Ireland and Australia. This makes up a quarter of the All-Blacks’ losses since they started their run as the world number ones in November 2009. This says a lot about New Zealand’s consistency over the past decade, but it also tells us that they are currently experiencing their worst spell of form in the last decade. World Cups are short tournaments, lasting just over a month. No matter how good the quality of the team is, if they are in bad form, it is hard to consider them clear favourites.
On top of that, New Zealand don’t look nearly as strong as they did for the last two World Cups. In 2011 and 2015, New Zealand had a clear number one squad. As well as that, they had scarily good strength in depth, and a well drilled system which everyone knew. This allowed them the luxury of not having to worry about injuries, as they had capable back-ups who could slot in and keep the New Zealand machine ticking along. Currently, it is difficult to determine the All-Blacks’ best side. They look reliant on certain big players to not get injured, and they don’t look as comfortable and confident as they have for previous campaigns.
New Zealand 5/4
South Africa 9/2