Mehrtens expects best-ever RWC

2015-02-18 14:33
Andrew Mehrtens (AFP)

London - Former All Black flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens has predicted that Rugby World Cup 2015 will be the biggest and best tournament yet.

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 prematurely.

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 team.

“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 two months.”

This year’s Rugby World Cup, to be staged in England and Wales, runs from September 18-October 31.

Read more on:    all blacks  |  rwc 2015  |  rugby

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