Rugby World Cup 2015: The Northern Hemisphere runners and riders

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When the World Cup in Brazil ends, the countdown to Rugby Union’s equivalent will start in earnest, and the outright market has begun to take a familiar shape 16 months out, with holders New Zealand the worthy 11/8 favourites for a third triumph.

After the Northern Hemisphere sides’ summer tours south threw up some intriguing performances, if not results, we’ve had a long ponder regarding their respective hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy at Twickenham.

England – 7/2 to win the 2015 Rugby World Cup

The hosts’ chances of regaining the trophy they won in such dramatic fashion 12 years ago were the subject of a piece on these pages in recent days, following their 3-0 series defeat in New Zealand against the current holders.

Stuart Lancaster’s side were the story of the 2014 Six Nations, despite Ireland’s outright championship triumph, and with the likes of newly-crowned ERC Player of the Year Steffon Armitage far from guaranteed a place in the 23, never mind the first XV, England are the epitome of up and coming.

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Ireland – 11/1

All the de facto European champions have to do to give themselves a terrific chance of reaching the semi-finals for the first time is top a mini-league containing Italy, Canada and Romania – who should all be swept aside without trouble – and a French team who have plunged new depths of despair in recent campaigns.

Pool D supremacy would likely see Ireland take on whatever’s left of Argentina or Tonga when New Zealand are through with them, and Joe Schmidt’s side would avoid the All Blacks until the final through this route, making Paul O’Connell and co’s early matches crucial.

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Wales – 12/1

The Dragons roared back to form when going down to defeat by the narrowest of margins against South Africa, having been badly beaten by the Springboks in Durban earlier this month.

Warren Gatland’s side seemed to suffer a Lions hangover when ceding their Six Nations championship last spring, and their lack of a world-class playmaker at fly-half should be a cause of great concern for the Kiwi coach.

Wales play two of their Pool A games at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, but take on England and a vastly-improved Australia outfit in the Red Rose’s Twickenham backyard.

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France – 14/1

Three losses to the Aussies by a combined scoreline of 95-36 cannot have helped mend Les Bleus’ fragile confidence, and if Ireland can down them in Cardiff, a likely quarter-final with old foes New Zealand would be next up.

Having beaten the All Blacks in 2007, and run them close in 2011’s final, there may be no better men to stop Richie McCaw’s dominators in their tracks, but on current form a 50-plus-points win for the world champions would rate a better bet than any kind of France success.

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Scotland – 300/1

The Thistle’s cracking record of reaching every quarter-final since the tournament began in 1987 came to an end four years ago, but they’ve been handed a decent draw this time and could quite easily get back on track.

New coach Vern Cotter will be confident of getting enough points against USA, Japan and Samoa to finish second behind the Springboks in Pool B, but Scotland would be brushed aside with ease by either Australia, England or Wales in the first knockout round.

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Italy – 1000/1

Should Italy shock either Ireland or France by finishing second in Pool D, they would face the might of New Zealand next, but they won’t shock either Ireland or France and finish second in Pool D, and wouldn’t appeal at 10,000/1 for an outright tournament win.

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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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