2003 World Cup winner Will Greenwood doesn’t believe that the gap between the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere has closed.
With England notching up their fifth straight win over Australia last weekend and Ireland having beaten New Zealand last year as well as having beaten Australia and South Africa in their last games against the pair, as well as Scotland’s win over Australia over the summer and their rousing display against the All Blacks last weekend, Greenwood’s comments seem rather surprising.
But his rationale for the claim actually makes sense.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ The Offload programme this week, the 55-times capped centre believes that the fact that the likes of New Zealand and Australia don’t field their strongest XVs in the autumn Tests, means that they cannot be used as a true litmus test of if the gap between the two hemispheres is actually becoming smaller.
Citing the fact that the All Blacks bring some youngsters over for the autumn series and that the Australians leave some key guys behind such as Israel Folau back up his opinion.
“Has the gap closed? No”
“Because of the enormity of the World Cup as the third biggest sporting event (in the world), the autumn series is often played out with New Zealand bringing over some youngsters.
“Australia (left) some guys at home – Israel Folau for starters. He might have been on the end of a couple of passes last week.”
He says the only true marker for proving that the North is catching up with the South is the World Cup.
If England and some of the other northern hemisphere teams make the semi-finals, then according to Greenwood, we can really say that the gap between the two hemispheres is really closing.
But if England, Ireland, and a resurgent Scotland, continue to develop as they are, they will make a huge impact in Japan, with England especially posing a genuine threat to New Zealand’s hopes of winning a third consecutive World Cup.
RWC 2019 could well be the most competitive Rugby World Cup yet.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena