Wales boss Warren Gatland believes New Zealand’s (6/4 favourites – 2015 Rugby World Cup outright) relatively weak World Cup group could end up costing them in the latter stages of next year’s tournament.
There is now less than 12 months to go until the event and the defending champions are understandably the huge favourites to win the competition in England.
The All Blacks are also expected to cruise though the opening stages as Argentina are the only nation that looks likely to test them in Pool C.
In contrast, the Welsh (16/1 – 2015 Rugby World Cup outright) face an uphill battle to even reach the knockout rounds from Pool A as they are set to face the host nation, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay in the opening weeks of the tournament, meaning one of the genuine contenders could be eliminated early on.
However, having a strong pool is not always a disadvantage as it means players will be sharp for the knockout games.
New Zealand have themselves fallen victim in the past, often sauntering through to the last eight before surprisingly losing when meeting slightly stronger opposition, with the general consensus being a lack of tough matches early on was the problem.
Kiwi Gatland believes this could well prove the case for his countrymen in next year’s event and insists he would much rather face tough opposition in the opening stages, as it ensures his players will be battle hardened.
“With the World Cup, New Zealand always go in as favourites, but I’m not sure their pool is tough enough to prepare them properly to win the World Cup,” he said.
“Whoever comes out of our pool, Pool A, has a great chance to go o nto the RWC final and possibly win it – whether you come out of the pool top or second.”