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All Blacks on track for Rugby World Cup

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    26 Jun 2018     Getty Images

Writing in The Times, Stephen Jones sifted through the ashes to look at how things were shaping for the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year.

Jones said the All Blacks remained favourites to achieve what he described as 'a stunning treble' of World Cup wins.

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"The exhausted French were no real match for them and they have successfully introduced new All Black power, led by Shannon Frizell on the flank, while two icons, Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read, were not even fit," he said.

Meanwhile, Ireland were also favoured to be finalists after their recent run of success.

"They have a machine-like development programme that has produced six scary props and a team who are mechanical but also soul-deep passionate. Johnny Sexton must stay fit. At present, they look a possible World Cup final team and critically they have their recent win over New Zealand to show them that it can be done," he said.

Jones ranked Australia third on the basis that they were assembling a pack around Tongan Taniela Tupou who had the ability to fire up his fellow pack members.

"If the Wallabies win quick ball, it's goodnight, courtesy of brilliant backs such as Samu Kerevi, Kurtley Beale and the otherworldly Israel Folau.

Wales were ranked fourth and would benefit from the return of centre Jonathan Davies and flanker and captain Sam Warburton.

South Africa were showing signs of their revival and Rassie Erasmus had quickly demonstrated his abilities as coach while he had a massive resource of overseas players he could call on.



France sneaked in above England because of the way had played in New Zealand with Wesley Fofana's return a welcome sight with the potential of France regaining some long-lost momentum.

England were ranked seventh with Jones concerned that the side had not produced players 'of true world-class ability' and he asked when a 'mauling, scrummaging English-type pack' would be seen?

Jones' stablemate at The Times, Owen Slot said there were times when England's tour of South Africa felt more like a PR campaign than a rugby tour.

"So many words have been devoted to persuading any listening ear that England were losing a series and yet were on the right track, you could only be exceptionally miserly in deciding how much of it you were prepared to buy," he said.

Coach Eddie Jones had said England were 'where we want to be'. But Slot said November would be the test of Jones' theory, especially their date with the All Blacks.

England's tour had not worked as a vehicle for player development nor for producing young players, most of whom had been tackle bag holders for the tour.

"If England were where they wanted to be, they would have left South Africa with more depth and more clarity," he said.

Former England and British & Irish Lions midfielder and BBC columnist Jeremy Guscott said England had no impact from their bench during the South Africa series.

"Eddie [Jones] was hoping the finishers could do what they did in the first 20 games of his regime but, as we saw in the Six Nations, the individuals he brought on could not add to an already poor performance," he said.