London - Former All Black flyhalf Andrew
Mehrtens has predicted that Rugby World Cup 2015 will be the biggest and best
Mehrtens won just about every honour there
is to win in the game - except a Rugby World Cup winner’s medal.
Twice the flyhalf suffered disappointment
on the biggest stage of them all, in 1995 and 1999, as the All Blacks failed to
justify their pre-tournament favourites’ tag.
As reigning champions and the No 1-ranked
team in the world, a status they have enjoyed for over five years, Steve
Hansen’s men will be expected to do what no other side has done and successful
defend the Webb Ellis Cup - even if their past European campaigns have ended
Mehrtens, though, says the competition is
tougher now than it ever was in his glittering 70-cap career and predicts that
any one of five teams can realistically win the tournament, with a few shocks
thrown in along the way.
“I think they (New Zealand) are
definitely good enough to defend their title, whether they will or not is
obviously another matter,” Mehrtens told the official Rugby World Cup website.
“The great thing is that it is going to be a genuine World Cup; there are a lot
of teams going in there who will have a lot of confidence.
“Teams like Australia aren’t traditionally
short of confidence. At the moment they have been living through a pretty lean
period in their rugby in terms of the trans-Tasman rivalry with the All Blacks
but they are still very dangerous and have a lot of good players.
“South Africa clearly have history on their
side and have big strong guys and every motivation to do well.
“I think playing at home - and the
resources they can put into their rugby - makes England a huge threat. The club
scene there is really advancing in terms of the players’ skill levels and
there's more of an attacking attitude, and that can only help the national
“Then you’ve got to look at Ireland and how
well they’ve been doing lately. They have shown a lot of cohesion and passion,
as you’d expect from Ireland, but it is being very well channelled at the
moment under Joe Schmidt.
"You can never count the French out,
maybe not over three games from the quarters through to the final, but on their
day they can beat anyone.
“I think it is going to be the best
tournament ever and thankfully I’m going to be over in the UK following it for
This year’s Rugby World Cup, to be staged in
England and Wales, runs from September 18-October 31.