David Campese, the former Australia winger, believes that England have a good chance of winning the World Cup, but he has warned Clive Woodward's side of the threat posed by New Zealand and Australia.
Campese, international rugby's leading try-scorer with 64 touchdowns in 101 Test appearances, has turned "Pommie-bashing" into an art over the years with frequent criticism of England and their style of play. But after predicting heavy defeats for England during the summer tour Down Under, he was forced to back-track when England claimed their first victory on Australian soil having already beaten New Zealand.
Now Campese believes England have the ability to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy on 22 November, but he feels the All Blacks are the team to beat.
"I think England's new style is great," he said. "The nucleus of the team has been together for a long time, but their rugby has really developed over the last couple of years. It's important to have combinations which have been established for a while.
"They have played very well recently and are on a roll after the Six Nations. But they've had a bit of a break since winning the Grand Slam and their summer tour, so now they have to start again - that's something you've got to look at.
"The Southern hemisphere teams have played the Tri-Nations since England left, so they have improved since then. New Zealand are looking particularly good. They're on fire at the moment and are the team to beat.
"Lifting the World Cup means so much to them. Rugby is not the number one sport in Australia, but in New Zealand it is. It's so important to their supporters and the country as a whole, so the All Blacks have to do well.
"But you can never count out the Wallabies, especially at home. They haven't performed this year because they've had a few problems. But the World Cup is a different tournament - all you have to do is win six games."
Campese, probably the most skilful winger of the modern game, is not so complimentary about the widemen in Test rugby today, criticising the number of errors in their play.
There are, however, a few backs who have caught his eye - all from the Southern hemisphere - and Campese believes it is only a matter of time before his record tally of international tries is broken.
"Rugby is different now, players are judged on different qualities," he said. "I was always very hard on myself when I made a mistake, but these days mistakes are forgiven far quicker.
"Wingers score more tries these days - my record isn't going to last - and that's fantastic because crowds want to see running play at a rugby match. Joe Rokocoko, Doug Howlett and Joe Roff are the best wingers around at the moment. They are great finishers and can create chances as well. If I was still playing now I would like to be part of a back-three which includes Rokocoko and Howlett."Reuse content