Future rugby betting hints New Zealand dominance to continue
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 3, 2015
New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup final victory over Australia proved a feat of firsts, but will it be a watershed in the sport that the All Blacks have dominated in recent years?
Under Steve Hansen, the Kiwis have collected three Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championships and retained the Webb Ellis trophy. Moving him from assistant to head coach following Graham Henry has brought clear continuity and sustained success.
Coral make New Zealand firm 5/4 favourites for a third successive Rugby World Cup triumph in Japan come 2019, and the All Blacks are also heavily odds-on at 1/4 to win the British and Irish Lions series when they come on tour in 2017.
Changing of the guard?
The big question going forward is will dynamic duo Dan Carter and Richie McCaw now stand aside and retire from international rugby? Nothing official from either about calling time on their Kiwis careers has materialised yet but, in a sport as physical as rugby, age catches up with players in their mid-30s indiscriminately of their accolades.
It’s more than their inspirational captain and almost flawless kicker that New Zealand will lose to the ravages of time, though. Centre duo Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are expected to hang up their boots, while it’s hard to see flankers Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam or props Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks at the next Rugby World Cup. Brother Owen should be there, however.
Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu is also finished at 36, but was only on the All Blacks roster this time round as backup. There’s still enough exciting youth throughout this current crop to cover the loss of such experience, especially in the back row through wingers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea, as well as fly half Beauden Barrett.
Six Nations can soothe disappointment in spring
When put up against the Southern Hemisphere heavyweights, the elite of European rugby were found wanting and perhaps a little unfortunate. That has led to much soul-searching, which in some quarters still continues as the dust settles on the World Cup.
England are the eyebrow-raising 2/1 favourites to take the 2016 Six Nations title, but there are too many imponderables at this stage to regard them as a safe bet. Head coach Stuart Lancaster still has the Sword of Damocles hanging over him, and could pay the ultimate price for his failure to bring the Red Rose out of their Rugby World Cup pool.
Wales and Ireland come next at 11/4 each, but there is continuity and change to consider. Warren Gatland will be hoping his injury-hit Dragons roster will be eased over the winter, while Irish coach Joe Schmidt has a Paul O’Connell shaped hole in his forward line to plug.
France have rebuilding to do at 5/1, while there is something temptingly long about a cheeky punt on 16/1 shots Scotland. Beaten by a single point and controversial penalty awarded in their agonising Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss to Australia, if Vern Cotter can knock a pesky happy of poor starts out of his Tartan team, then they could be contenders.
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