“There won’t be a dark horse. All the teams that could win it are known”, ex-England and Lions hooker Brian Moore bluntly tells me as we try Wimbledon Brewery’s Brian Moore inspired beer, ‘Pitbull.’ Moore believes this World Cup is different to previous years as there is no clear favourite. “There has usually been two or three teams that genuinely could win it, there are about 5 maybe this time.” England? Ireland? New Zealand? South Africa? Wales? Perhaps Australia, France and Scotland could be thrown into the mix too. Whilst New Zealand are probably still favourite, it is not as clear cut as previous years, with the All Blacks having lost to Australia just one month prior to the World Cup. Maybe this could be England’s year with them looking incredibly strong in their recent warm-up games against Wales and Ireland.
“The winner will come from the usual suspects,” Moore states and although it may be unclear at this stage who is going to win, Moore is certainly confident he knows who isn’t going to win. However, nations such as France and Argentina have got to finals and semi-finals before and caused major upsets along the way. Just think back to 2015 when Ireland were beaten in the quarter-finals by Argentina 43-20. Could we see a repeat of a smaller side like Japan defeating a giant like South Africa this year? Could Fiji cause an upset in their upcoming match against Wales? Moore certainly believes this could happen and that there are now second-tier sides who “could actually on a one-off basis beat a top team.”
Will England Win?
But the story all English fans want to know is can they emulate their 2003 World Cup victory. Moore certainly does not have any doubts that if “England get on the front foot and play well no one will want to play them.” How can England win it though? Moore focused in on England’s ball carrying expertise and that when “all are fit and available you have probably 10 or 11 genuine ball carriers.” England’s ball carriers come in all forms, ranging from the upfront brute strength and power of Billy Vunipola to the dazzling feet of Anthony Watson and Jonny May.
“If defences know who the runners are you can cover them, when you possess two or three more, as England do, you don’t know how to organise your defence.” England’s backline is certainly a terrifying sight for opposition sides, possessing the power of Cokanasiga and Tuilagi and the pace of Daly and May. Not to mention the capability of England’s powerful and intelligent forwards who possess the skill to handle the ball in the wide channels as well as to crash it up in the midfield.
One major worry for all teams in the Rugby World Cup is injuries. A few key injuries can completely change a team, how would Scotland cope without Hogg and Russell? Similarly, what would happen if Wales lost Alun Wyn Jones and Liam Williams? Moore believes Manu Tuilagi is the player to watch this tournament, a player who we have never seen the best of in a major tournament due to his multiple injuries. However, if Tuilagi, both Vunipola’s and Farrell stay fit Moore appreciates this will be major.
However, Moore fears if England “get in reverse like they have done in a couple of games in the past, can they sort it out, have they learned their lessons?” Can England keep their discipline? Something they have failed to do so in the past, just think back to the tests against South Africa last summer. Nevertheless, in all likelihood, it will not be until England’s fixture against Argentina on Saturday 5th October when they face their first real test. Has this side matured into a team who can produce on the biggest stage of all?
Brian finished our discussion with some bold statements, believing it is England’s “best chance since 2003.” A powerful statement considering the 2007 England side made the final. Should we expect this from England? Brian certainly thought so stating “anything less than the final would be an underachievement.”