Will Ireland win the Rugby World Cup this year?
They are the favorite in my opinion and not just for the obvious reason that they are currently the #1 team in the world.
There are a few things that play in their favor:
They have won 14/16 games since the start of 2022. Their losses were at the start of 2022 to France and a loss to New Zealand in New Zealand… but they won ⅔ in New Zealand.
Andy Farell is a settled coach and has been running things since 2020. He has an especially dominant group of forwards with Tadgh Furlong being the #1 prop in the world and Josh van der Flier, the 2022 World Rugby Player of the Year!
What they have done exceptionally well is to not play exciting rugby. It has not been exciting to the casual observer but what they do is a thing of beauty!
The first taste of this came at the start of 2018 in a game against France. Since then they have been on a tear but that game has been how they have pulled off many narrow wins.
The team went through 41 phases, gaining about 30 meters to give Jonny Sexton the chance to put up a high percentage drop kick almost 3 minutes into stoppage time. What would have been a 12-13 loss, turned into a 15-13 win.
Can they win? Yes.
Will it be pretty? Probably not.
But which team will turn down a World Cup in favor of having played entertaining rugby?