The Big Three
New Zealand media completely dismiss Wales and Ireland and claim only three teams can win Webb Ellis Trophy
Tokyo: The New Zealand rugby media have written off Wales and Ireland’s World Cup chances .... despite both being at the top of the global rankings during the summer. Instead outspoken Kiwi columnist Chris Rattue sees the shoot-out for the Webb Ellis Trophy as a threeway fight between the All Blacks, Springboks and England. Warren Gatland’s Wales headed off to Japan yesterday as the 2019 Six Nations champions and having usurped New Zealand as the No.1 team on the globe last month. The number one accolade is now in the hands of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland having done the double over Wales during the four-Test World Cup warm-up campaign.
But Rattue has largely written off the northern hemisphere challenge in the Far East, giving only 2003 winners England any hope of mixing it in the latter stages with South Africa and the All Blacks.
The New Zealand Herald also placed Wales as only fifth favourites for the competition. Writing in the Herald, Rattue who has previous with Welsh rugby, said: “And then there were three. “The closer the Rugby World Cup gets, the further away an upset result feels. It will come down to New Zealand, South Africa and England – all previous winners - surely. “Wales need more magic to score enough tries but individually their backs don’t look threatening enough.
“The Welsh DNA is defence orientated and the loss of No.8 Taulupe Faletau cripples their limited attack.
“So much depends upon the warrior spirit of mighty lock Alun Wyn Jones, who will take a hammering. “Ireland should have gone into this tournament on a high, following a great couple of seasons, but they are skidding into Japan. “Too many of their best players – including Johnny Sexton - are below top form, and like Wales they are a much tougher proposition at home.
“Australia are easy to evaluate. They can beat anyone, but won’t beat enough of them. If they get to the final, they’ll be ripe for the picking, as in 2015.
“Depth and power is what the World Cup is all about, and that’s where South Africa and England have the edge. “Ultimately, it’s impossible to go past the Big Three.
CK TO PLAY CHOIR TO
“England - with Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Jamie George and Co - are building a mighty pack with a horses-for-courses loose forward combination. South Africa have an abundance of frightening power.
“I’d be far more bullish about the All Blacks if Brodie Retallick’s full fitness was assured and his best form established by the play-off stage.
“The injury prone Retallick is like Ireland, limping at the wrong moment.”