RUGBY WORLD CUP: SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT OR NORTHERN EXPOSURE: WHO THE EXPERTS THINK WILL WIN THE WORLD CUP

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The Independent Online
ANDREW HARRIMAN

Former Harlequins and England wing

Australia: The Wallabies certainly have the same unpredictability to their back play as France, but I think the Australians possess greater firepower. Tim Horan is one of the best centres in the world and on the wing Ben Tune is looking good. They are also more disciplined than the French and look more solid from one to 15. And they will not be over confident as I think New Zealand were.

MATTHEW PINSENT

Olympic gold medallist oarsman, former lock with Henley fifths

Australia: I hope it will be France who win the World Cup, but I think it will be Australia. France certainly showed the spirit to beat New Zealand and if it had been almost any other country a victory like that over the All Blacks would have seen them installed as favourites for the final. But I just cannot see them being able to reproduce that performance for a second week running.

PETER JACKSON

Former England wing (1956-1963) and British Lion (1959)

Australia: First, because they can counter the French up front. Second, their power in the back division is superior to the finesse of the French backs. And overall the Wallabies have too much individual strength. Australia are also a great attacking side. The French certainly got their act together against the All Blacks and one of the nicest things was seeing them beat the All Blacks.

FRAN COTTON

Former England and British Lions prop forward

France: They will win the World Cup if they can reproduce what they did at Twickenham last weekend, when, I have to say, I was a Frenchman for 80 minutes. They were unplayable. But the problem is that as good as they can be on their day, no one can be as bad either. But if they play as they did against New Zealand then it will be a northern hemisphere side which wins the World Cup.

JOHN INVERDALE

BBC presenter/manager of Jewson League Two South side Esher

Australia: The destiny of the World Cup is written in the stars. On the day Australia becomes a republic the Queen will be seen handing over silverware to the Wallaby captain John Eales. In 1987 the 5ft 8in David Kirk lifted the World Cup for New Zealand; in 1991 Nick Farr-Jones (5ft 11in) did it for Australia; in 1995 it was Francois Pienaar (6ft 3in); Eales is 6ft 8in.World Cup winners' captains are getting taller.

BRIAN ASHTON

Former coach of Bath and Ireland, now on England coaching staff

Australia: It has to be. From a technical point of view they are probably the most competitive side in the World Cup. They have no obvious weaknesses, they are an all-round team and they have shown that they can tough it out in a close game, but they also have so much talent behind the scrum, and when they unleash their backs they do so to devastating effect.

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