We are just over two months away from the 2019 Rugby World Cup and fans from all over the globe will be booking their flights to Japan.
According to 888sport’s rugby betting odds, New Zealand are 11/10 favourites to lift the trophy for the third tournament in a row and it would take a brave man to back against the All Blacks.
However, Steve Hansen’s men are not invincible by any means and we could see one of the great Rugby World Cup moments if New Zealand fall short in their pursuit of glory.
Without further ado, here are five players to watch out for this year – all five men are likely to be in the running for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Player of the Tournament accolade.
Owen Farrell (England)
The man who needs no introduction. Owen Farrell will be the face of England’s Rugby World Cup campaign this year and he could head into the tournament as Eddie Jones’ captain with Dylan Hartley potentially out injured.
With 70 caps under his belt, Farrell has a wealth of international experience and he can act as a role model for the rest of the England squad. Discipline is crucial at the World Cup and Jones will be expecting Farrell to conduct himself impeccably.
England are 5/1 to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup this year and Farrell’s performances will be key to their chances of a second Webb Ellis Cup. Should the Saracens star hit top form, England will be right in the mix.
Bernard Foley (Australia)
Now 29 years old, Bernard Foley is in the prime of his career but this could turn out to be his final chance at winning a Rugby World Cup. The Waratahs legend has played 67 times for his country, notching 612 points during an incredible international career.
One of the most composed players in the sport, Foley is calmness personified and Australia will rely on him to work his magic throughout the tournament. Paired up with Wales for the second Rugby World Cup in a row, Foley could be the one to slay the Welsh dragon.
Foley was instrumental for Australia in 2015, helping the Wallabies to advance all the way to the Rugby World Cup final. Punters can back Australia to reach the 2019 showpiece at 11/4 with 888sport…
Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
You’d struggle to find a more committed rugby union player than Alun Wyn Jones. With 125 Wales caps to his name, Jones has been an ever-present for his country for the best part of 13 years and his impact and influence across the squad is unprecedented.
A Wales victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final would be the ideal way for Jones to pull the curtain on his international career. With Warren Gatland also looking to move on after the tournament, it could be written in the stars for Wales to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
At the time of writing, Wales are priced at 7/1 with 888sport to do just that. The 2019 Six Nations champions will need some luck along the way but Jones is a natural leader and he can inspire his compatriots to glory.
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Beauden Barrett has set the benchmark for the last few years and he will head into the 2019 Rugby World Cup as New Zealand’s main man. Hansen should continue to trust Barrett at fly-half despite pressure from supporters to give Richie Mo’unga a chance at 10.
Compatriot Dan Carter was named Player of the Tournament at the 2015 Rugby World Cup and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a New Zealander win the award again this year. If the All Blacks reach the final, Barrett’s chances will be significantly enhanced.
That isn’t to say that Barrett wouldn’t deserve it. In fact, the New Zealand star was named World Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017 before relinquishing that title to Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton in 2018. An impressive World Cup performance could see him regain that accolade.
Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Last but not least, we have Stuart Hogg. Arguably the best full-back in world rugby, Hogg has lots of valuable experience that should help some of the younger members of the Scotland squad. Write Hogg and Scotland off at your peril…
Having missed most of the 2019 Six Nations competition, this is Hogg’s chance to showcase his talent on the big stage before his big move to the Exeter Chiefs. Gallagher Premiership fans will be looking forward to watching Hogg week-in, week-out down in England’s elite domestic league.
Chiefs fans will be hoping that Hogg puts in a good performance for Scotland at the World Cup and he could feature in this conversation if Gregor Townsend’s side reach the latter stages of the competition.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*