The 2015 Rugby World Cup is set to dominate the sporting news in this country for the next couple of months as the tournament gets underway in England on September 18, with the final being held at Twickenham Stadium on October 31.
Loveaflutter is going to take a look at five players from the top teams to watch out for at the Rugby World Cup, covering New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France and, of course, England. We will also look at the odds for the tournament.
Dan Carter – New Zealand:
The 33-year-old Canterbury Crusaders fly-half is the man of world rugby at the moment. He won the 2011 Rugby World Cup with New Zealand and was named as the International Rugby World player of the year in 2005 and 2012. He has the highest points total in Test match rugby and is arguably the rugby’s greatest ever fly-half. To date he has 106 caps for the All Blacks. He has had his injury woes, in the past, but when he is on the field Carter is a point-scoring machine. He is superb kicking at goal and with the ball in hand. However, added to that his passing an all-round game is superb, something you don’t necessarily see in most players in his position.
Willie le Roux – South Africa:
The 26-year-old Stellenbosch-born full-back is coming into the Rugby World Cup on good form. He has played 25 Test matches for the Springboks, winning 75 per cent of those games. That included victories over England, New Zealand, Australia and France. Le Roux is a very creative player in the South African side and he is at his best when he is running at the opposition with ball in hand. He was runner up in the Rugby World player of the year in 2014 and has scored seven tries in Test matches for the Springboks.
Anthony Watson – England:
With only nine England caps to his name, Watson would not, perhaps, be everyone’s player-to-watch out for from the host nation going into the Rugby World Cup. However he, like, Le Roux, is a player bang in form. He scored two tries in a recently friendly with France at Twickenham, added to the two tries he scored in the 2015 Six Nations. He plays for Aviva Premiership side Bath as a full-back, but England head coach Stuart Lancaster likes to play the 21-year-old Ashford born player on the wing as he is strong and fast.
Quade Cooper – Australia:
The Auckland-born fly-half looked as though he was in the international rugby wilderness following the last Rugby World Cup. He suffered a bad anterior cruciate ligament knee injury in the third-fourth play-off game against Wales with only 20 minutes on the clock. And on the back of a shocking semi-final performance against arch-rivals New Zealand, as the Wallabies lost 20-6 at Eden Park, his international career seemed to be over. However, in August 2015, Australia’s coach Michael Cheika took the selection gamble of his career as he started Cooper at fly-half in the Bledisloe Cup decider against the All Blacks at Eden Park. Australia lost the match, but Cooper has worked his way back into the squad for this year’s Rugby World Cup. He is talented, unpredictable and out for redemption.
Pascal Papé – France:
One of the most under-rated players in the French Rugby World Cup squad. The 34-year-old lock, who currently plays for Stade Français, is experienced having started his professional career at Bourgion in 1998. He made his first start for Les Blues in 2004, when he scored a try in France’s 37- 17 victory over Ireland in the Six Nations. However, he was overlooked for the 2007 Rugby World Cup squad for France as he struggled to get a starting place under coach Marc Lièvremont. However, he was part of the French side that won the Grand Slam at the 2010 Six Nations and was in the was in the starting XV in France’s 2011 Rugby World Cup Final team, which saw Les Blues narrowly lose to the All Blacks 8-7. Therefore, he knows the Rugby World Cup stage well and his workmanlike performances for France will be crucial if they are to emulate their second place finish last time out.
So, which teams are in with a shout of winning this year’s Rugby World Cup? Well, undoubtedly defending champions New Zealand are the favourites with the majority of bookmakers having them priced at 11/8 to lift the Rugby World Cup on October, 31. However, with home advantage, England are currently second favourites at around 7/2. After that South Africa (11/2) and Ireland (8/1) are seen as good outside bets. Ireland of course won this year’s Six Nations, but only just; they, England and Wales all finished on eight points. Wales at (20/1) look like a good each-way bet, while France, who finished this year’s Six Nations Championship in fourth, with two wins and three defeats, are also favourable priced at around (18/1) .