Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry has named Ireland as one of the favourites for the 2019 World Cup, as reported by Stuff.
Naming his native country as the main favourites, Henry who led New Zealand to Rugby World Cup glory on home soil in 2011 and who won five Tri-Nations titles during his seven-year reign.
As well as naming Ireland, he also named Eddie Jones’ England, and Australia and South Africa, as his main contenders for Rugby’s top prize.
The 71-year-old former Auckland coach who also spent four years as Wales’ head coach between 1998 and 2002, made his comments whilst speaking to the media in Dubai yesterday where he was a guest at the Emirates Airline Rugby Long Lunch.
While acknowledging the All Blacks, who also won the last World Cup in 2015, will go into the tournament highly fancied for the title, Henry believes New Zealand can be denied a record third consecutive crown,
“So going into the next World Cup, for sure I think teams can stop them. England are on a bit of a roll and have lost just one game since Eddie (Jones) took charge.
“The All Blacks will be favourites I would imagine in 2019, along with England, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, the usual enemies will be there”.
Ireland broke their 111-year duck against the All Blacks last November, earning a thrilling 40-29 win in Chicago and ending New Zealand’s record run of 18 straight wins.
One can understand Henry’s name-checking of Ireland: since head coach Joe Schmidt took over the reins in 2013, they have enjoyed plenty of success. The former Leinster supremo also led his team to a runners-up spot in this year’s Six Nations competition.
They also reached their highest ever world ranking under Schmidt when they reached second place in August 2015. They currently lie in fourth place.
But they suffered heartbreak at the 2015 World Cup when short five of their key stars: Paul O’Connell, Jonathan Sexton, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony and Jared Payne, they were beaten 43-20 by an in-form Argentina in the quarter-finals.
While Ireland undoubtedly have the talent to seriously compete at the next World Cup, and to beat anyone on their day, they will need key men like Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jack McGrath, Gary Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw and Rory Best, to stay fit. They also need to continue to develop their strength in depth.
They will also need to banish a poor record at the World Cup which has seen them fail to go beyond the quarter-final stages.
Henry also claimed that the gap between New Zealand and the chasing pack is not ”too big” using South Africa’s agonising 25-24 defeat to the men in black last Saturday as a case in point, whilst also saying that if the All Blacks were to continue to dominate it would be ”boring”.
“South Africa may have played the better game, but got beat by a point. So I don’t think the gap is too big. Which is great, it’s what rugby needs. It doesn’t need one team that’s unbeatable, because that’s boring”.