The Rugby Union World Cup kicks off in September, with hosts New Zealand leading the betting market. The Southern hemisphere heavyweights predictably dominate the odds, with the Kiwi’s already marked down as odds on favourites. But do the All Blacks justify that favouritism or can one of the Northern hemisphere sides spring a surprise? Read on to find out more.

New Zealand

The All Blacks will head into the World Cup as worthy favourites. Not only are they the best side on the planet right now, but the added motivation of restoring morale after the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch will have them more fired up than any other world cup. The best price about the hosts is a paltry 4/6 (1.67), but their back division has so much pace, power and creativity that it is difficult to look beyond them. Recent wins in the Tri-nations were built on the back of rock solid defence and on their own turf, the All Blacks will take all the beating.

The single question mark hanging over the host nation is their previous form at World Cups. New Zealand have lifted the trophy just once, despite being at the pinnacle of the international scene for decades. This failure to win on the biggest stage adds more pressure and a single flat performance in the knock-out stages could see the favourites miss out once more.

Australia

Always near the head of the betting, the Wallabies are on offer at a best price 5/1. Well capable of beating New Zealand, the Golds have a young squad with little expectation on their shoulders.

David Pocock continues to improve, and his immense contribution at the break down should mean plenty of ball for the exciting, precocious talents in the backs including Quade Cooper and James O’Connor. The attacking flair at the Wallabies disposal makes the 5/1 about them look tempting. Also of interest is the 5/4 about them winning in the ‘Without NZ’ market.

South Africa

Despite recent defeats at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, the current holders still find themselves as third favourites to win the World Cup. At 9/1, Boks supporters will point to the fact that they have yet to start their strongest 15 in the Tri-nations, but it remains to be seen whether South Africa can win three matches in a row, from the Quarter finals onwards, against three of the best sides in the world.

There was already talk of a lack of self belief before the Boks were humbled 40 – 7 by the All Blacks, and there is little to suggest a turnaround is on the cards in just a few weeks. South Africa do however, tend to over-perform when it comes to World Cups, and they will need to do so again if they are going to win in 2011.

England

The 2003 World Cup winners are the shortest price of the northern hemisphere countries at 12/1. Fans will look at the narrow win against Australia in their own back yard last summer, as evidence that Martin Johnson and his team are capable of toppling the Tri-nations teams away from home. It will however, be immensely difficult for any European teams to be victorious in 2011. The climate, pitches and even refereeing will be subtly different, and these small margins are enough to make the difference in the big games.

England will be feared by the leading nations and are rightly seen as the leading team from the northern half of the globe. With the likes of Courtney Lawes, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden adding a new dynamism to the team, they will head to New Zealand optimistic. A kind path through the quarter finals could mean only one clash with any of the Tri-nations sides – and in a one-off game, England are very capable.

The Field

Other teams arriving in New Zealand with legitimate claims to the title include Ireland (33/1), France (20/1), Wales (100/1) and Argentina (150/1). The Irish and French, like England, will hope for clashes with other European teams until the Semi Finals or Final, to avoid the Southern hemisphere big guns. Both have the fire power and defence to trouble the best and neither can be ruled out with absolute confidence.

Wales will need to find some creative spark but their commitment and physicality could take them a long way. The 100/1 about them looks about right though, as beating three world class teams in a row (from quarters to the Final) looks beyond them.

Argentina are an interesting proposition. At 150/1, many will right them off out of hand. But the Pumas have been trying to get involved in the Tri-nations with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and are set to join in 2012. They are more familiar with the Southern hemisphere conditions than most, and may go a long way. The opening match with England will be a massive indicator of their form and potential.

If you are looking for a great selection of betting markets for the Rugby Union World Cup 2011, these bookmakers are all a good choice:

  1. bet365
  2. Centrebet
  3. SportingBet