- Rugby World Cup 2011
By Dinouk Colombage
World Cup fever is catching on and the countdown to the 2011 Rugby World Cup has begun. As New Zealand prepares to host its second World Cup, and its first as sole hosts, attention now turns to the teams in an effort to mark out the favourites.
Hosts New Zealand are overwhelming favourites with the bookmakers at odds of 4/7 followed by Australia 7/2, South Africa 8/1 and England 10/1. Asia’s lone flag bearer Japan are quoted at odds of 2500/1 in an indication of the gulf that exists between Asia’s best and the others.
Today, the Sunday Leader reviews two of these teams – New Zealand and England.
The winners of the inaugural World Cup back in 1987, as the then joint hosts the All Blacks defeated France 29-9 in the final. Despite winning this tournament and dominating the sport since, the All-Blacks have failed to lift another trophy.
Despite this disappointing return by the team, individually they continue to hold a host of World Cup records including the most points in a game (145 versus Japan). They also hold the most cumulative points of all World Cups (1,711), the most tries overall (232) and the most conversions (173).
The have inherited a jinx of being unable to make it past the semi-finals, having made a record three semi-final appearances. The All-Blacks currently boast the number one ranking ahead of their southern hemisphere rivals, Australia and South Africa. Led by their open-side flanker and joint most capped player, Richie McCaw, New Zealand is once again going into the tournament as favourites. The presence of arguably the greatest ever fly-half, Dan Carter, and fullback Mils Muliaina, joint most capped player, presents a strong argument for the favourite tag. They also have the innovative and relatively inexperienced Sonny Bill Williams to call on, who will certainly make for exciting passages of play. On paper it looks very hard to overlook the host nation as favourites.
New Zealand’s last outing the in the 2007 World Cup ended with their worst ever performance, when they were beaten in the quarter final by the host nation France. Despite this loss the All-Blacks have bounced back to dominate every tournament they have played in since. They have won the tri-nations (annual southern hemisphere tournament) in 2008 and 2010, while producing undefeated series in their spring tours of the northern hemisphere.
The champions of the Northern Hemisphere and 2003 World Cup champions, England will enter this year’s tournament with an outside chance of winning their second title.
England has never dominated the sport, however, have a record in World Cups any nation would be proud of. Not only has England won the trophy but they have also appeared in the finals on three occasions. They also boast of the highest overall points score in World Cups in the form of Johnny Wilkinson as well as the highest number of drop goals (18).
Coached by former England captain and World Cup winner, Martin Johnson, the English have one of the more experienced, and older, squads going into the tournament. Alongside the dynamic Fly-half Toby Flood, Johnson will also have the services of Wilkinson who despite falling out of form will certainly lift his game for the big stage.
England’s recent form has been encouraging with them securing the six nations title as well as boasting the lead scorer in the form of Flood. Their last outing against Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium ended in defeat for the visitors, a wake up call for the three lions.