So, it’s T-minus one year until rugby’s biggest tournament takes centre stage in Japan – the first time the World Cup will be held in Asia. The hosts kick-off the showpiece against minnows Russia on September 21, 2019 at the Tokyo Stadium – and they will hope to start as they did in 2015 when they produced a stunning victory over the Springboks in a blockbuster on the south coast. Holders New Zealand are, despite last weekend’s slip-up against South Africa, firm favourites to retain their crown – but can any of the northern hemisphere sides challenge the formidable All Blacks next autumn? England looked to be their strongest challengers until a string of big defeats in 2018 was coupled with Ireland’s emergence as a true world force. But there are still plenty of contenders among the big rugby nations. Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the year ahead, the stadiums, how the home nations are shaping up and just how strong the three southern hemisphere sides are looking. The Webb Ellis Cup is seen in Tokyo on Thursday at an event to mark one year to go until the 2019 Rugby World Cup Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby… Read full this story
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