All Blacks still a threat in Rugby World Cup 2023 despite form
The first three weeks of July has treated rugby fans to a smorgasbord of oval-ball delight.
Four North vs South series have unfolded, with the results split between the hemispheres.
Now, a touch over one year out from the first anthem of the Rugby World Cup 2023, how are rugby’s top teams positioned heading into the sport’s most prestigious tournament?
There’s no better litmus test of this than by looking at the latest odds bookmakers are offering.
Who won the battle between hemispheres?
New Zealand vs Ireland.
Australia vs England.
South Africa vs Wales.
Argentina vs Scotland.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
Coming off the back of a strong end to the 2021 season, four Northern Hemisphere teams headed south with a point to prove: Their strong results over the Southern Hemisphere were no fluke.
Did they prove that point?
Yes, and no.
Ireland defeated New Zealand 2-1 on their own soil, as did England with Australia. However, South Africa were able to save their series against Wales, winning 2-1, and Argentina did the same against Scotland. The cumulative score reads 6-6 between the hemispheres—not comprehensive enough for the Northern Hemisphere to say they’re now the new superpowers of world rugby; but close enough for everyone to recognize that the gap has well and truly closed between the world’s top teams.
Gone are the days of New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia having their way with the teams from up north. Ireland is regularly beating the All Blacks now; England have Australia’s number; Wales have proved they’re not just strong at home; Scotland put together some strong patches of play.
What does all of this mean for the Rugby World Cup?
France ahead, but New Zealand not far behind
One team that hasn’t been talked about much in July is France.
Despite their low profile, Les Blues are running hot—they’re undefeated and on a ten-game winning streak. Their last defeat was a narrow away loss to Australia a year ago, and since then, they’ve picked up the scalps of New Zealand, England, and Ireland and rocketed to No.1 in the world rankings.
This form, combined with the home advantage of hosting, has France leading the odds for the Rugby World Cup 2023 at +250.
Interestingly, despite having slipped to an all-time low of No.4 in the world rankings and losing four out of their last five Test matches, the All Blacks are still the second favorite to take down the title, only narrowly behind France on +275.
England and Ireland are joint third favorites, coming in at +500, while South Africa is just behind on +550. Australia is off the pace with odds of +900 to win the tournament, with Wales even further adrift at +1600.
Home advantage swings odds towards the north
It’s clear that bookies are considering the location of next year’s Rugby World Cup as crucial to each team’s chances of winning.
Three of the top four teams in the odds are Northern Hemisphere teams. Despite South Africa being No.3 in the world, they have the fifth best odds to win the tournament, while England on the other hand, are No.5 in the world but have the third best odds.
July has shown us that if Northern Hemisphere teams can perform so well on the road, chances are they’ll perform even better in home conditions.
The only exception to this is the All Blacks—the odds defy form and home advantage; however, this is simply reflective of the sheer legacy that the team carries. Despite currently being out of form, there’s no denying the All Blacks dominance of world rugby over the last century. After all, they have won two out of the last three world cups.
Right now, the Rugby World Cup 2023 is set up to be one of the most hotly contested tournaments in decades. As the odds indicate, there are half a dozen teams that will consider themselves serious contenders.
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