Ahead of the Rugby World Cup, which gets underway when hosts France play New Zealand on Friday, Monaco Life spoke with former England international Dan Luger to get his predictions for the upcoming tournament.
Luger, a Rugby World Cup winner with England in 2003, spoke with Monaco Life on the eve of the tournament to discuss the potential favourites and flops in the 10th edition of the tournament.
It’s a tough one, but I’d say South Africa, and that was before they smashed New Zealand (35-7), because of their physicality. However, my heart says France because they’re playing at home, but that’s always tricky… Taking my heart out of it, I’d say South Africa.
France have been building. For the past 10 years, we’ve been saying that if they got the right coach, they would be one of the best teams in the world. They have the best league in the world, and that’s always been there, and they have the biggest strength-in-depth. They had to get things in order, and they have under Fabien Galthié. It was a matter of time and I think it’s a great thing for rugby. People said they peaked too early and then they were fantastic against Australia (41-17).
They’re a very professional team, they know what they’re doing and they’re trying to peak at the World Cup. I think France are there, even with the injuries. Romain Ntamack has been unbelievable, but Matthieu Jalibert is a fantastic player as well. He can make the difference. It really shows France’s depth.
Out of the home nations, who will go furthest?
I think Ireland and Scotland are fantastic, but they’re in the hard part of the draw. They’re in the “pool of death” and they don’t deserve to be playing against each other. I think Scotland look amazing, I love the way they play rugby. They both look fantastic.
You look at England and Wales, they’re both looking relatively poor but the players are good enough, the coaches are good enough. They just need a couple of little tweaks. We will know much more after Week One, and if England have a decent performance against Argentina, even if they don’t win, and look like the real England again, suddenly you’re on the good side of the draw and you can make the quarter-finals. At that point, they have a great chance of being in the semi-finals.
I think Wales either don’t make it out of the pool because they lose to Fiji, or they make the semi-finals. It’s a toss-up and it’s very open, which is why I love this tournament, anyone can get to the semi-final. Purely on form, Ireland should go the furthest and then Scotland are the wildcard and could cause an upset, knocking one of those big teams out.
Who will be the surprise package?
I would say Fiji. When you look at what they did against England… England aren’t playing well, but you have to give Fiji more credit. As much as I want to see Wales do well, Fiji would deserve to be in the quarter-finals.
Which team won’t live up to expectations?
It’s all about that pool of death. It’s one of those teams that won’t live up to expectations (South Africa, Ireland, Scotland). Ultimately, if there’s one [that will fall short], it’ll be Ireland. Scotland could do a job on them somehow, which I don’t see happening, but it could, then that’d be a travesty for Ireland. It’s just because of the quality of that group.
Who will be the player of the tournament?
I’ll go with Jilabert, who could win the final for them [France].
And who will be the top try-scorer?
I’ll go with Gabin Villière. I love the way he plays rugby: passionate, strong, fast, powerful, small. For me, he’s what rugby is about. Antoine Dupont, Cheslin Kolbe and Villière, they’re not big, but batter people. For me, Villière is what rugby’s about: guys punching above their weight.
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Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life