Rugby World Cup: So who will win and who will you support?

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The Independent Online
Clarissa Dickson-Wright

Surviving member of Two Fat Ladies, celebrity chef and TV personality (Scottish)

The heart says Scotland and Jim Telfer's side have an infinite capacity to surpise - but I will be putting my money on Australia, my mother's homeland. After doubting him earlier in his career I am a complete Gregor Townsend convert and if his knee can hold out he will emerge as one of the individual stars. I will be trying to rearrange my schedule to watch some of the tournament, but I am going to be extremely busy.

Simon Halliday

Former international rugby player and occasional TV pundit (English)

Although, naturally, I will be supporting England, I think Australia will win the World Cup. The way the game has changed you now need a really potent back line at every point in it from half-back out and that is exactly what the Wallabies have. Their backs are leagues ahead of everybody else's. They have ball-winning capacity up front without being superhuman, they are bright with their game plan, nullifying the opposition's strengths, and they really work out their opponents.

Terry Wogan

Chat show host, radio presenter and TV entertainer (Irish)

While I am an Irish supporter, from what I have seen of yet another extremely competitive Tri-Nations series it is a brave punter who bets against the southern hemisphere sides. I feel Jeff Wilson and Christian Cullen will come alive on the big stage for New Zealand and make all the difference; if they don't then Australia could. With the decline of France, and with due respect to a much-improved Wales, England are the only northern hemisphere side with half a chance.

Michael Owen

Liverpool footballer (English)

I will definitely be supporting England and they have to fancy their chances, but the Aussies are always tough to beat. Unfortunately I don't think I will be able to go to any of the matches. There is no doubt that it is important for all the British teams to do well. You just have to look at the effect Euro '96 in England had on the country and the game. I don't think it is any different for any other major sports that we play in this country - if the national teams do well it lifts the whole country.

Bill McLaren

BBC rugby commentator (Scottish)

I think any one of four or five teams could win. Wales and England will carry the main hopes of the northern hemisphere. Wales may well surpass what they have achieved so far, especially with the crowd behind them. Certainly I expect Wales and England to make the biggest impact. And if Scotland have their first choice midfield available to them, then I feel they could do a bit. But New Zealand will also be tuned for this and the Australians have a nice balance to their side.

Jilly Cooper

Author (English)

I will be rooting for England, of course, and I would like them to win, although my husband Leo says New Zealand will probably win. I am writing another book at the moment so I will not be going to any of the matches, and anyway, while it is exciting to be there, there is nothing worse than coming away afterwards when your team has lost. But I will certainly be watching it all on television. It is smashing on TV. I love Lawrence Dallaglio and I am so glad he is able to play.

Menzies Campbell MP

Liberal Democrat spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Defence and former Olympic athlete (Scottish)

I will be supporting Scotland, but I feel sure that the eventual winners of the tournament will come from the southern hemisphere. However, I will be happy for the Scotland team to make it through to the last four. I have tickets for five Murrayfield matches, but I will have to play hookey in order to attend them. I expect Gregor Townsend of Scotland to emerge as one of the stars of the tournament.

Alan Shearer

Newcastle footballer (English)

I'll obviously be following England and from what I have heard on television I'd like to think they stand a good chance. I'm not sure whether I will be able to go and watch them - probably not as we have a hectic schedule with Newcastle in October. I will try to catch some games on television and no doubt there will be plenty of coverage in the media generally. I think it is vital for any country and the particular sport to have a national team that is one of the best in the world.

Gerald Seymour

Best-selling author and former ITN foreign correspondent (English)

I will definitely be rooting for England. I have no idea who will win the World Cup. This first one of the professional era looks such an open tournament. I want there to be upsets and surprises. I will be attending a few matches and following the remainder on television and through the radio and newspapers. I have cleared my decks of all work. I have just submitted the last item, a script of an adaptation of my last book, A Line in the Sand. Come 1 October everything shuts down.

Gill Burns

International rugby player (English)

I will be supporting England and I think they are perfectly capable of winning the World Cup. This is going to be one of the most open tournaments and it could be anybody's. Obviously New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will all be in with a shout, as will Wales - I might even be tempted to have a flutter on the Welsh because I think they are a good outside bet. Overall it is very important for all the British teams to do well, because we are hoping to attract more people to the women's game.

Max Boyce

Entertainer, who will be leading the singing before the opening match

Only one team I support - Wales. And although I have always had the greatest respect for New Zealand rugby at all levels, and they are favourites to win the World Cup, I do think that the home factor has to be fed into the equation. Wales in Cardiff will be very difficult to beat. For all that, New Zealand do have such strength in depth; it is probably just a matter of how well they cope with the tag of favourites.

Ian Botham

Former cricketer (English) whose son Liam plays rugby for Cardiff

Naturally I shall be supporting England and I would very much like it if they or Wales could win; unfortunately I feel that either Australia or New Zealand will actually win the World Cup. But I think it is essential that England's rugby team do really well because it was such a bad summer for English cricket. And I hope they can go a hell of a lot further than the cricket team managed in their World Cup.

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