Cape Town - Former Springbok coach Jake White has predicted that the 2019 Rugby World Cup will be the most competitive to date.
White shared his views via a column for the All Out Rugby website where he said World Rugby is in a "helluva good space".
In contrast to the 2015 World Cup in England when clear favourites New Zealand comfortably defended their title, White said "more than five nations" are capable of winning the 2019 event.
"The All Blacks are favourites to win their third straight world title, but the gap is much smaller than four years ago when there was clear daylight between New Zealand and everyone else, and that’s one of the reasons everyone is excited about the 2019 event," White wrote.
White added that all of Wales, Ireland, England, South Africa, Australia, Scotland and France will be contenders.
"If you ask anyone in Cardiff they'll tell you that Wales, the Six Nations champions, are going to win the 2019 RWC. Their current 14-Test win streak broke a 100-year record, they’re second on the world rankings and they've been tipped as genuine contenders.
"Third on the list are Ireland, European champs a year ago and the one team with a positive record against the All Blacks since the last World Cup.
"England will be close to unstoppable if they return to their form of a couple of years ago. South Africa and Australia have each won the tournament twice. The Wallabies were runners-up in 2015 and the Boks are upbeat after edging the All Blacks in Wellington last year.
"Scotland stopped the Wallabies twice in 2017 and, while France are battling right now, they’ve been to three finals.
"It's phenomenal that the ninth Rugby World Cup, hosted for the first time in an Asian country, is lining up to be the most competitive."
White, who coached the Springboks to World Cup glory in France in 2007, added that rugby fans should be proud of the work done by the governing body, World Rugby, and that the game was "in a great place".
The 2019 Rugby World Cup runs from September 20 until November 2.
READ Jake White's full column on the All Out Rugby website