FORMER New Zealand international Carlos Spencer has backed Ireland to win the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Speaking to The Observer, Spencer believes his home country have the chance to retain the title and has tipped All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder to be one of the stars of the tournament.
But the former fly half, who won 35 caps for New Zealand between 1995 and 2004, also feels Six Nations champions Ireland have the ability to go all the way.
Observer reporter Geoff Berkeley sat down with Spencer to get his World Cup predictions.
What are your expectations ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup?
“I think it will be very exciting as there are a number of teams that can win it. You have got New Zealand in there along with Ireland, the Springboks and maybe even England can win it, so I am really looking forward to it.”
How do you rate England’s chances?
“I think they have got a team that has been together for a good three years now so they have got experience, with youth coming through. They are playing a good style of rugby. But the World Cup is all about taking the opportunity so if they do I can see them doing well.”
Which country will win the World Cup?
“I am going to have to go with the All Blacks, of course. If they don’t win it, it will be Ireland. I have just been excited by the way they are playing rugby at the moment and they have got a good coach in Joe Schmidt.”
Which country will surprise a few people?
“Maybe South Africa. They are in a bit of strife at the moment due to issues with politics and their form. I think they will come in very under-rated, but they could cause a surprise.”
Can you give us a name of a player to watch out for?
“There will probably be a few, like always, but the one player I am looking forward to watching is (Nehe) Milner-Skudder from New Zealand.
“He has had a great Super Rugby campaign, he has had a couple of opportunities for the All Blacks and done really well, so I think he is going to come here and show his true worth.”