Rugby World Cup 2019 tips and latest odds - who are the key contenders in Japan?

Telegraph Sport
The Telegraph
Richie McCaw was the last captain to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy, in 2015 - AFP
Richie McCaw was the last captain to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy, in 2015 - AFP

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup well and truly underway, Telegraph Sport takes a look at how the contenders are shaping up with the bookmakers.

This year's tournament is expected to be the most open for some time, with several nations all capable of getting their hands on the William Webb Ellis trophy. But, as ever, New Zealand remain the bookies' favourites, but will it be captain Kieran Reid making it three victories in a row for the All Blacks on Saturday November 2? 

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New Zealand 6/4

Despite a more temperate year by their own lofty standards, New Zealand still possess ample class, and count some of the world's very best performers among their squad. The pool match win against South Africa could be crucial, setting up an easier route through the knockout stages.

England 9/2

England seem to be peaking at just the right time, and are carrying virtually no injuries into the tournament. Question marks remain over the team's ability under pressure but, when they get it right, there is little doubt that they are a serious contender for the tournament.

South Africa 9/2

Rugby Championship winners for the first time since 2009, South Africa's squad looks fearsome. They have strong depth in their rampaging forward pack; measured, pragmatic half-backs, and a punishing back-three. A pool-stage loss to New Zealand, however, has made their task tougher, as the Irish rather than the Scots would probably be in waiting.

Ireland 10/1

Last November, you would not have found such good odds on Ireland winning the tournament. Conquerors of the All Blacks in 2018, Ireland were on the top of the world until a mediocre Six Nations campaign stunted their progress. Nonetheless, they are the No 1-ranked side in the world heading into the tournament, which will give them confidence.

Wales 12/1

Six Nations champions Wales will be desperate to give departing coach Warren Gatland the perfect send-off but, having lost first-choice fly-half Gareth Anscombe, their backs are against the wall. They lost three of their four warm-up matches, too, but this Wales team is always most dangerous when they have already been written off.

Australia 20/1

Consistency is key for the Aussies. One week, they're thumping New Zealand; the next, they're the ones being thumped. They have star-quality across the board and, with flanker David Pocock set to return the back-row they cannot be ruled out. Topping the pool and avoiding a quarter-final with England will be the main goal.

France 33/1

At some point, it must come together for the French. They have the players and the infrastructure to rival any other nation, and they are the prime example of a team that is nowhere near the sum of its parts. If they progress from the pool stages, which is not guaranteed, they will face a tough quarter-final against either Wales or Australia.

Argentina 50/1

Argentina have a knack of raising their game in time for these tournaments but their latest Rugby Championship effort might suggest otherwise. One of the historical strengths of Argentinian rugby, the scrum was an area in which Los Pumas have seriously struggled  and, with both England and France traditionally strong in that area, a lack of improvement could be fatal.

Scotland 80/1

Scotland's progression from the pool stages is by no means guaranteed, particularly after defeat to Ireland in the opening match. One of South Africa or New Zealand await in the quarter-finals, however, so they will probably be made to wait for their first semi-final since 1991.

Japan 300/1

The odds of the hosts progressing from the pool stages are slim, and so winning the tournament looks unlikely. However, with recent wins over Fiji, Samoa, and the USA, they are cannot be written off. And, in captain Michael Leitch, they have a leader for the ages.

Fiji 500/1

Fiji have the back division to threaten any team at this year's tournament, but lack of consistency and forward organisation have always prevented them from fulfilling their full potential. To win the tournament, this would be throwing money away, but to reach a quarter-final could be worth a flutter.

Our three things to look out for

Tier 2 to beat Tier 1

Japan, Fiji, and Georgia all have the capability to upset the apple cart. Australia in particular, will have hoped for an easier opening match than against the lethal-if-inconsistent Fijians. If Argentina do not resolve their scrum issues, too, then USA and Tonga could cause problems.

A controversial refereeing decision to decide a match

With refereeing decisions playing a part in deciding results of key matches in both the 2011 and 2015 tournaments - Sam Warburton's tackle and Scotland's quarter-final against Australia spring to mind - you would not bet against history repeating itself this year, especially with World Rugby's tightening of laws around the height of tackles. Owen Farrell is currently at 16/1 with Ladbrokes to receive a red card in the tournament, incidentally.

A treble-figure scoreline

One does fear for the likes of Namibia and Canada in a pool with two of the tournament favourites, New Zealand and South Africa. The largest ever World Cup hammering was in 2003, when Australia beat Namibia 142-0, and a similar scoreline at this year's tournament would present a major backward step for the sport.

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