Rugby: World Cup is up for grabs, says former England international Brian Moore

Former England international Brian Moore (in white) giving tips to youth at Singapore Cricket Club's Dempsey Field yesterday. He believes that the margins among the top eight teams now are very fine and every team need to be in peak condition to win
Former England international Brian Moore (in white) giving tips to youth at Singapore Cricket Club's Dempsey Field yesterday. He believes that the margins among the top eight teams now are very fine and every team need to be in peak condition to win the Rugby World Cup, which starts on Sept 20.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

South Africa, NZ, England, Wales & Australia all contenders for 'most open' tournament

New Zealand may be the two-time defending champions of the Rugby World Cup, but former England international Brian Moore believes the All Blacks are by no means overwhelming favourites for this year's tournament.

In fact, Moore described the Sept 20-Nov 2 competition in Japan as "the most open World Cup" and told The Straits Times: "There are potentially five teams I think could win it - South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales and Australia.

"I don't normally sit on the fence but the margins are so small... there will be a bit of luck involved, there will be a bit of brilliance involved or a disaster and that will turn the fortunes.

"I wouldn't put much money on anyone, because anyone who says they know who will definitely win the World Cup is a fraud."

Moore, who has 64 caps and played in three World Cups including the 1991 final where England lost to Australia at Twickenham, was in Singapore alongside fellow ex-internationals Eric Rush (New Zealand) and Shane Byrne (Ireland) for last night's World Cup Rugby gala dinner organised by the British Chamber of Commerce.

The trio also conducted a training session for students of Dover Court International School, Tanglin Trust School, Dulwich College (Singapore) and the SCC Rugby Academy at Singapore Cricket Club's Dempsey Field yesterday.

Evidence of Moore's perspective can be found in the world No. 1 ranking, which has changed hands thrice over the past five weeks.

Wales last month ended the All Blacks' reign at the top, which the latter had held since November 2009.

New Zealand, who have lost to the Springboks, the Irish and the Wallabies in the past 12 months, then reclaimed the top spot two weeks later, only to be dethroned by Ireland this week.

Moore, 57, also referred to results like England's 57-15 rout of Ireland at last month's World Cup warm-up and the 16-16 draw between South Africa and New Zealand - who face each other in their opening Pool B match on Sept 21 - at the July Rugby Championship to further illustrate his point.

He added: "It just shows if you're slightly under par by five per cent and the other team is absolutely bang on their game, that's all you need to be out.

"There used to be a time in previous World Cups where if you weren't quite there, you were still the best team or better than the other teams. The margins among the top eight teams now are very fine."

One outsider he will keep an eye on is Japan, who stunned two-time world champions South Africa at the 2015 edition and narrowly missed out on reaching the quarter-finals.

This time, Japan are in Pool A with Ireland, Scotland, Russia and Samoa.

Moore said: "You got to remember they won three games in 2015 but didn't get out of the pools which was terrible really.

"They're not going to win the tournament but if they can get out of the pool, that would be a huge success for Japanese rugby."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2019, with the headline 'Cup is up for grabs: Moore'. Print Edition | Subscribe