The Rugby World Cup heads to Asia for the first time in 2019, with Japan set to stage the sport’s most prestigious international tournament.
The opening game will take place at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on September 20, with the final scheduled to be played at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, on November 2.
New Zealand are aiming to win the World Cup for the third time in a row, but there are a host of other nations who will fancy their chances of lifting the trophy.
Read on as we assess the chances of the main contenders for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The latest Rugby World Cup odds by BetEasy make New Zealand favourites to win the tournament and it is difficult to argue with that assessment.
The All Blacks held off a fierce Australian comeback to win a thrilling final in 2015 and become the first team to retain their title.
They have won 21 of the last 24 internationals they have played, with Australia, South Africa and Ireland the only nations to beat them during that period.
New Zealand have been handed a favourable group in the opening stage of the competition and it would be a major surprise if they didn’t progress to the final once again.
England finished second in this year’s Six Nations, five points behind Wales who completed a clean sweep of victories in the tournament.
However, the Welsh produced a once-in-a-lifetime performance at the Principality Stadium and England were probably unfortunate to lose that game.
A 38-38 draw against Scotland, having led 31-0, is far more of a concern, but England remain capable of making their mark at the World Cup.
If head coach Eddie Jones can find a way to eradicate his team’s sporadic lack of focus, they could be a force to be reckoned with in Japan.
Having completed the Grand Slam Wales are now considered to be the second-best team in the world, but whether they can carry that form into the World Cup is questionable.
Wales have never reached the final of the tournament, with a third placed finish in 1987 their best ever effort.
Assistant coach Rob Howley has said his side can win the World Cup and that they no longer fear the All Blacks, although he could be made to eat those words in Japan.
Wales will be one of the most tactically organised teams at the World Cup, but they don’t appeal as likely winners of the tournament.
Best of the rest
Ireland looked to be the northern hemisphere’s best hope of success ahead of Six Nations, but Joe Schmidt’s side failed to find their form during the tournament.
They were beaten by both England and Wales, struggling to get their forwards going in both games, and success at the World Cup may prove to be beyond them.
Two-time winners South Africa are sure to be tough to beat, although both Wales and England have defeated the Springboks in the last year and they may come up short at Japan 2019.
Australia are noteworthy outsiders having also won the World Cup twice before, but their form has been inconsistent for some time now and they need to improve if they are to lift the trophy.