“New Zealand are not the standout like years gone by. South Africa are now; I think we all had that feeling, it was coming, at the right time. Just because I know (Michael) Cheika, Australia will get their act together but there is only so much they can do and they have a lot of issues.
“The Argies will come together as a team. What they are is a pain. They are not what they were but they will deliver at a World Cup.
“England will be tough to beat over there. I can’t see France going well, they would need fundamental changes. Aside from that, I don’t see Scotland winning the World Cup but they could beat us and they could beat a big team. So that are a lot of teams that could do damage and if there is a shock win somewhere, you know, the Japanese could sneak a result somewhere.”
“I don’t think there’s ever been a feeling of such openness about a competition in any sport, especially at world level. For me, if you get on a run, I don’t know if it’s stretching it to say that seven teams could win it. Argentina have a good history. Obviously they’ve no history of winning it, but they’ve got to semi-finals. You’ve got to respect what Gatty does and Wales were bloody impressive this year. They put on a show against Ireland in (the Six Nations in) Cardiff and it was a big game for both teams. England, if they have Farrell and Itoje and the two Vunipolas then they are a match for anyone. That’s just three teams over this side of the world.
“New Zealand, obviously, because of their pedigree and South Africa are other serious contenders. One or both of them could be in a semi-final. Cheika will have a great plan and I admire what he is doing. He realises he can’t fight with them (Australian officialdom) over a four-year period. He has to get his timing right and I think he will.”
“I definitely think South Africa can win. They have the right elements and they are peaking at the right time. But also there are probably six sides in world rugby at the moment who have a chance of winning it. I believe New Zealand go in as the number one side in the world and as favourites given they won back-to-back titles.
“England with the intimate knowledge Eddie (Jones) has from the Japanese perspective are in a great place. Wales have probably been the most consistent side in the world in the last 18 months. Ireland have shown against that they can’t be taken lightly. Australia showed against New Zealand in Perth what their potential is. So, basically, I probably have a better understanding of Bitcoin fluctuations than who will win the World Cup.”
“I like South Africa. I like England. New Zealand have just shown a bit of frailty the last few months. If you look at how close it was at the last World Cup, they had Richie McCaw, Kieran Reed at the top of his game, Kaino, they had Carter.
“They were backboned by a very strong leadership group. (Brodie) Retallick is out now until maybe the quarter-final, they’re not sure who their best ten or 15 is. So England and South Africa just look to be peaking at the right time.”
Interview: Brendan O’Brien