There are no seedings at the World Cup and therefore no official favourites. The teams go into pools and play - strong against weak.
But clearly not everybody is likely to be the winner and in the eyes of Joe Rugby there certainly are favourites. It is interesting to try to identify them and even more interesting to see how they have fared.
The World Cup started in New Zealand but New Zealand were certainly not the favourites. The year before had been an unhappy year for New Zealand rugby - a rebel tour to South Africa, the New Zealand Cavaliers, the 1986 New Zealand team barring only two players which the Cavaliers lost. They were also beaten in a series at home by Australia.
Australia on the other hand had had a grand slam tour of the UK and Ireland in 1984 and were regarded as the most creative side in World Ruby
France knocked Australia out in the semifinal when Serge Blanco scored a spectacular try.
4th, after Wales beat Australia in the 3rd/4th place play-off.
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: New Zealand who had a an easy win over France.
The candidates are England, Australia and New Zealand.
England were winners of the Grand Slam and had beaten Argentina 51-0 at Twickenham. Australia had won four out of seven in 1990. Following the 1987 World Cup success New Zealand had swept all before them, playing 50 matches (23 Tests) in succession without defeat. Australia ended the run but lost the series.
Despite a wobble here and there, New Zealand were the favourites in 1991.
Australia, who had just scraped home against Ireland in the quarterfinals, were worthy winners over New Zealand in the semifinals.
3rd, beating Scotland in the 3rd/4th play-off.
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: Australia, beating England at Twickenham in the Final
South Africa were at home but since readmission had not done well - losing to New Zealand and Australia at home, Australia in Australia and New Zealand in New Zealand. New Zealand were not the favourites, losing a series to France in New Zealand and only just winning the home series against South Africa. They also lost to England at Twickenham. Australia had such exciting players -David Campese, Horan and Little at centre, Nick Farr-Jones, Matt Burke, Michael Lynagh, Ilie Tabua and David Wilson amongst them.
Australia were the favourites.
South Africa beat Australia in the opening match. Australia dropped out in the quarterfinal, beaten by England.
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: South Africa, beating New Zealand in the Final with a Joel Stransky dropped goal.
New Zealand. There was no doubt. After all they had the most frightening try-scorer the world had ever seen in Jonah Lomu. They, it seemed, had only to arrive to win. New Zealand played France in the semifinal at Twickenham and Stephen Jones of The Times wrote his [preview of the match. It was all in lavish praise of New Zealand, except for the last line, and an explanation of how they were going to win. Then in the last line he said: "Of course France may win - and pigs may fly." Pigs flew in the second half as France ran New Zealand off their feat and out of World Cup contention.
They got to the semifinal and were beaten by France in possibly the greatest game of the World Cup so far..
4th after being beaten by South Africa in the 3rd/4th play-off.
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: Australia who thrashed France at the Millennium Stadium
New Zealand. There was no doubt about this. They ran away with the Tri-Nations, winning all their matches scoring 142 points to 65 for 18 league points, followed in the distance by Australia with 6 and South Africa with 4.
Semifinal where they were beaten 22-10 by England.
3rd, after beating France in the 3rd/4th play-off
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: England who beat Australia with a Jonny Wilkinson dropped goal in the Final.
New Zealand. They were ranked No.1 on the IRB rankings and had won seven of their eight matches the previous year, losing only by a point to South Africa.
Quarterfinal where they were knocked out by France and went nationwide apoplectic about a forward pass by Frédéric Michalak.
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: South Africa who beat England in the Final
New Zealand. In 2010 New Zealand had run away with the Tri-Nations, winning all six of their matches, scoring 27 log points, followed in the distance by Australia with 11 and South African with 7. In 2011 cracks showed but they were still the top side in the world, playing a brand of rugby everybody envied. And this time, as in 1987, they are playing at home.
To be seen.
To be seen.
Webb Ellis Trophy Winner: Eagerly awaited
Summary: Favourites have not won even one of the first six World Cup Tournaments. In fact favourites have not even reached the Final. It must worry New Zealand.
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