RUGBY WORLD CUP
Monday September 21, 1.45am
New Zealand enter the tournament as heavy favourites which is understandable considering they’ve lost just three times since the start of the previous World Cup. Unsurprisingly, given their dominance over the past 20 years, the All Blacks are regularly favourites coming into World Cups and they always start off perfectly having never lost in the opening stage. There is an argument that their pristine record at the pool stages has led to their downfalls in the knock-out rounds due to not being truly tested.
The reigning champs’ opponents Argentina are the other team expected to progress from pool. They met four years ago in the quarter-finals where New Zealand won 33-10 with home advantage. Argentina boasts a marvellous recent record in the World Cup pool stages, winning seven or their last eight. Realistically they just have to overcome Tonga, a side they have never met before in order to book a place in their third quarter-final running. However, it is important that Los Pumas don’t dent their confidence by taking a hammering from an All Black side that they have never beaten in 21 attempts.
In the last three World Cups, New Zealand have had no problem brushing aside their closest pool rivals. In 2003 they defeated Wales 53-37, in 2007 it was 40-0 against Scotland and then 37-17 against France in 2011, but only one result surpasses the -21.5 handicap. Since Argentina joined the Tri-Nations to make it The Rugby Championship in 2012 Steve Hansen’s men have only beaten them by more than 21 points once and that was back in 2012. This isn’t to say the games have been tight affairs with the last five results being won by the margin of 21, 21, 19, 18 and 15. It could be worth sticking a few spare coins on an All Black winning margin of 16-20 points at 5/1
Argentina have won 13 of their 17 matches from 2006-07 and finished third in the 2007 World Cup. Since taking on the three southern hemisphere heavyweights in the Rugby Championship their record coming into this World Cup is a stark contrast with just 3 wins in their last 15. There is cause for optimism though from Los Pumas with victories over Australia, France and South Africa in the past year and in the Rugby Championship their average losing margin has improved from 20 points between 2012 -2013 to 14 points between the latest two editions. We think this will be a tight on the spread but just favour Argentina.
New Zealand have lost just three times since the start of the last World Cup
New Zealand have never lost a World Cup group game
In their last three World Cups, New Zealand have beaten the next strongest in their pool by more than 21 points just once.
Argentina have never beaten New Zealand in 21 attempts