There is a solid argument to be made for 4 teams to win the World Cup… and then 3 long shots.
There are the two Southern Hemisphere contenders: the All Blacks and South Africa.
…and there are the two Northern Hemisphere contenders: Ireland and France.
The long shots in my opinion are Argentina, Fiji, and Samoa. England, Australia, and Wales are just too bad at the moment.
Let’s focus on the real contenders.
They all have their strengths and they all have their weaknesses but there is one thing that sets two teams apart: grinding out a win at all cost at a World Cup.
Those two are the All Blacks and South Africa.
What could potentially happen is that they will face each other in the quarter-finals already! If this is the case, the winner of that game will likely win the World Cup.
The Pool A & B permutations will dish up two of the best quarter-final games in the history of the tournament.
The two winners from that quarter-final are almost guaranteed to play the final.
I do think though that the teams in the semis from Pool C & D will be two out of these three teams: Argentina, Fiji, and Samoa.
They will play the Pool A & B quarterfinal winners in the semis and will probably sadly only get to the 3rd and 4th playoff.
If one of those 3 make it to the final, I honestly hope that they win the whole thing!
The more realistic outcome however is that it would be teams from Pool A & B contesting the final.
I think the end result, in reverse order, will be:
#1 South Africa
Why you might ask?
South Africa are the best team on the planet when it comes to a war of attrition. They can win with a combination of brute force and a bit of flair as they did in the warm-up game against New Zealand OR they can just pummel opponents into submission.
Tournaments of this scale are rarely won on the back of expansive rugby. There will be opportunities for it but that will be created on the back of serious hard and consistent effort on attack and especially concentration on defense.