International rugby has never been so competitive and unpredictable.
As rugby fans continue to count down the days until this year’s World Cup, the prospect of what lies ahead is incredibly exciting for the sport.
For rugby-mad nations including New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland, the pressure and expectation to win has never been so fierce.
There is genuine belief among rugby fans scattered around the world that this is their year; there team has a right to World Cup glory, but it’s up to the players to prove it.
In practically every tournament since the first time the rugby world united in 1987, the All Blacks have been labeled the favorites – but time and time again, for 24 years, they faltered under the pressure.
Expectation and scrutiny can be a heavy burden to bear.
But over the last four years, new nations have emerged as genuine World Cup contenders, and will have to carry the responsibility of that pressure throughout the highly anticipated World Cup.
According to former England coach Eddie Jones, who is one of the greatest rugby minds in the history of test rugby and World Cups, there are six teams who could bring the Webb Ellis Cup home with them.
“Six teams can win it. Australia have beaten South Africa, drawn with New Zealand and lost to France by one point. So they’re one of the six with England,” Jones told The Guardian.
“New Zealand and South Africa are ranked third and fourth.
“Ireland and France are the popular teams. They might be slightly ahead but in nine months they might not be and that’s all that counts.
“At most other World Cups New Zealand have been way ahead with a group of teams fighting to play them. Generally, it’s South Africa who have won the World Cup three times. That’s changed now.”