New Zealand’s two-time Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw has backed arch-rivals Australia to spring a surprise in France.
After reaching the World Cup final in 2015, the Wallabies have struggled to remain at the top table of the global game.
They exited the 2019 showpiece at the quarter-final stage before Dave Rennie took over from Michael Cheika.
Rennie would only last until the start of 2023 when he was sacked, ending his tenure with a 38 per cent win record.
In the mix
“Eddie Jones, whatever team he takes over, he usually causes some change pretty quick and they get a real bounce and he will probably do the same with the Aussies,” he told World Rugby.
“You might think they might not be where you would usually consider them to be, but they have a unique way of using what they have got to be right in the mix.”
McCaw doesn’t have a clear favourite for the Webb Ellis Cup and believes that the upcoming tournament is “pretty wide open”.
“You are not too sure what might happen. So there is that side of it and, I guess from a New Zealand point of view, in the past you have sort of always knew that if they can put it together they can go and get the job done, whereas after the last year you sort of go, ‘jeepers, there is going to have to be some improvements to put the team in the right spot’,” he said.
Ireland and France
“I guess from a northern hemisphere point of view, Ireland have set the pace in the Six Nations and the French aren’t that far behind, so it makes it pretty intriguing.
“There is no doubt that people consider the French and the Irish have got a pretty good chance of winning.”
The top two ranked teams are currently Ireland and France, with the latter also benefiting from having home advantage.
McCaw sees both teams as title challengers but has been particularly impressed by how Andy Farrell’s men have progressed.
“As we have found out in years gone by, where you are ranked going into a World Cup, actually doesn’t necessarily count for a whole lot,” he added.
“But just to put aside the rankings, I got to see the Irish in New Zealand last year for three Tests and there is a quite a strong resolve about them, of knowing they are on a mission.
“The way they put together that series win was pretty impressive and they have backed it up again just recently so it is going to make it interesting.”