The Cup 19 podcast: Rugby World Cup 'wide open' following All Blacks slump - Miles Harrison

New Zealand's grip on the 2019 Rugby World Cup has loosened, leaving the tournament in Japan 'wide open' according to Miles Harrison.

The veteran Sky Sports UK rugby commentator is convinced the tournament will be the closest in history. as the pretenders line up to topple the best team in the world.

The All Blacks shock 21-point defeat at the hands of the Wallabies opened the eyes of the rugby world, but Harrison believes the warning signs have been there for some time.

Speaking to Newshub's The Cup 19 podcast, Harrison explained why he thinks the world has caught up to Steve Hansen's side.

"There has been a real closing of the gap between north and south," Harrison told Newshub.

"When you look at what happened on the Lions tour and the form of the likes of England, Wales and Ireland during the current cycle, it shows everyone else has improved.

"It's not just Australia that have opened that door. 

"South Africa have been more than their match the last 12 months, Ireland beat them in Dublin and England and Argentina have run them close too.

"The reaction to that loss, if I had to summarise, it would be that the feeling here is the World Cup is more open than we thought."

But you count the All Blacks out at your peril and that's a notion that Harrison said would be foolish.

Back-to-back World Cup wins prove they know how to perform in tournament rugby under the guidance of Hansen. 

"No one here is writing the All Blacks off by any means. I've been around rugby for a long long time and I know that New Zealand are the team to beat in every game," Harrison told The Cup 19 podcast.

"New Zealand are still in a very good position to win a third straight title, but what we have seen over the last 12 months are one or two cracks appear that weren't obvious before."

Harrison has also warned the rugby world that Eddie Jones' England side won't be in Japan to make up the numbers.

Four years ago, England crumbled under the pressure of hosting the tournament as one of the favourites, eliminated in pool play. 

But under Jones, the former Wallabies coach, England has adopted a much more expansive game, driven by dynamic, powerful forwards. 

Harrison was impressed by Jones' willingness to make some tough calls when selecting his side for Japan, including leaving out quality players such as Ben Te'o, Brad Shields and Dylan Hartley.

England are right in the mix come next month according to Harrison. 

"Given what happened with the disastrous campaign of four years ago, it's fair to say there is a sense of realism about England's chances - tempered would be a good way to describe the expectations. 

"But, Eddie Jones has always said to judge him on his World Cup result - he was hired to win a World Cup and that's still his goal. 

"But look at that squad and the power and skill within the group - on their day, if they mix in a bit of intelligence they are a very effective unit  

"They have a potent back three, great tight five and athletic loose forwards. 

"But there are so many teams that arrive in Japan with genuine hope and the credentials to go all the way. 

"It's wide open and yes England can win."

Listen to the full episode here.

The Cup 19 podcast: Rugby World Cup 'wide open' following All Blacks slump - Miles Harrison

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