A leading statistician has pencilled the All Blacks in as heavy favourites to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup in 2015.
has used statistical analysis to predict the likely outcomes the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and the All Blacks come out with the most positive prediction - expected to be world champions 47.1% of the time.
Winchester has built a rating system for international rugby matches and utilises the ratings to estimate expected score margins. As he notes, it is impossible to predict future outcomes with certainty, but statistical analysis can help estimate probabilities and aid predictions.
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The ratings are based off an average score of 100, with the All Blacks coming in with a rating of 130.3, followed by South Africa at 121.8. Winchester argues that this means Steve Hansen's men would be expected to - on average and a neutral field - beat South Africa by 8.5 points. A side like Namibia, who the All Blacks face in pool play, have a rating of 62.9, suggesting that the All Blacks should win on average by 67.4 points.
Home advantage is estimated as being worth four points - resulting in England's chances looking strong to make a deep run at the tournament.
Winchester lists the All Blacks (99.9%), South Africa (99.3%), Ireland (98.8%), France (95.3%), England (89.1%) and Argentina (85.5%) as highly likely to get out of their pool, while Scotland (65.6%) and Australia (72.8%) are predicted to edge out Samoa and Wales from competing in the quarter-finals.
The four teams with the highest probabilities of making the semifinal are the All Blacks (85.5%), England (73.5%), Ireland (62.1%) and South Africa (53.4%).
The team who the All Blacks are tipped to play in the final?
England, who are given a 46.8% chance of being a finalist, and are rated as a 21.8% of being an champion on home soil.
Of course, as much as probabilities and statistical analysis can be extremely helpful, it's the unknown element which keeps everyone glued to their screen.
Winchester sums up by noting that although New Zealand have a much higher probability of winning than any other team, there is still more than a 50% chance that another team will be crowned champion.
That 50% chance will keep the nerves of All Blacks fans on edge all tournament.