Why a Wallabies great thinks the All Blacks are RWC 'favourites'
While the All Blacks had a mixed campaign this year, which included historic losses at home against both Ireland and Argentina, they began to hit their stride towards the backend of the season.
But with the World Cup almost nine months away, the All Blacks’ greatest challenge awaits them in France next season.
The All Blacks are always under pressure to perform, but for a rugby mad nation like New Zealand, the sports biggest event simply means more.
As the attention of the rugby world begins to shift towards next year’s World Cup, Wallabies legend Tim Horan has explained why he thinks the All Blacks are “the team to beat.”
“I still think, and I said this a couple of weeks ago, the All Blacks in my opinion are still the favourites to win the World Cup,” Horan told Martin Devlin on The Platform earlier this week.
“Yes you’ve got Ireland (who are) number one in the world, yes you’ve got France who are going to be very hard to beat in their home World Cup.
“That first Test match for the All Blacks against France will be incredible to watch that.
“I still think the All Blacks, when they get a few players back from injury, got very good depth and understand how to play the game. I just think the All Blacks in my opinion are the team to beat in the World Cup.”
The All Blacks do face an almighty challenge at the World Cup though, having been drawn in Pool A along with hosts France.
France, who are ranked second in the world, won all of their Test matches in 2022 and are widely believed to be among the favourites for the sports ultimate prize.
As these two traditional rugby rivals go head-to-head in search of World Cup glory, they’ll likely have to play either Ireland or South Africa in the quarterfinals.
World No. 1 Ireland have never made it past that stage of the tournament, while the Springboks are of course the reigning world champions.
“At the moment with the way the seedings are you’d think (one of those four teams would win it), but two of them are going to get knocked out,” Horan added.
“You look at the way England played in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, they had that one massive match against the All Blacks in the semi-final to put them into the final.
“Of course the Wallabies in the pool will end up finishing one or two in the pool, and end up playing Argentina or England in the quarterfinals.
“It’s a really competitive World Cup. There’s still a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and there’s going to be some injuries to some key players and that might hurt some teams.”
The Autumn Nations Series has proved to rugby fans around the world that the sport is simply more competitive that it ever has been before.
Georgia recorded a famous win over Wales in Cardiff last month, Italy beat the Wallabies for the first time ever, and Argentina ended a lengthy drought at Twickenham against England.
As Horan said, there are “probably seven or eight teams” capable of winning big Test matches on their day.
“I think you could probably pick seven or eight teams at the moment, even Argentina, they can upset someone, Japan might upset someone in their pool.
“I think Scotland could beat Ireland in their pool the way they’ve been playing.
“The hard thing on the draw is the top four teams at the moment in the world, Ireland, France, the All Blacks and the Springboks, are of course all on one side of the draw.
“Two of those teams won’t make a semi-final. It’s going to be probably the most competitive World Cup that we’ve seen for a long time.”