Finally, all the speculation and guesswork is set to come to an end.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup begins on Friday, September 18, at the legendary Twickenham Stadium. The Opening Ceremony, which marks the official beginning of the tournament, is set to start at 7 p.m. BST (2 p.m. ET). The opening fixture between England and Fiji begins an hour later, while the tourney gets into full swing with three matches on Saturday. You can find the entire schedule here.
Defending champion New Zealand enters the 20-team field as the odds-on favorite. That’s no real surprise, of course, as the All Blacks feature four World Rugby Player of the Year winners: Captain Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read and 2014 winner Brodie Retallick. Steve Hansen’s squad has all-world talent everywhere on the pitch, and it’s going to take a monumental effort to knock the long-time No. 1 ranked team from the pedestal.
That said, there will be plenty of intriguing challengers. No. 2 Australia is coming off a booming performance at the 2015 Rugby Championship, which saw the Wallabies go 3-0 with victories over both New Zealand and South Africa. No. 4 England is young and may have a better chance in 2019, but Stuart Lancaster’s squad can’t be overlooked playing in front of the home crowd. South Africa, Wales, Ireland and 2011 runner-up France will also be in strong contention over the next month.
As 20 nations compete for the prestigious Webb Ellis Cup, it’s going to be a scintillating month-plus of rugby.
Pool play concludes October 11, with eight teams advancing to the knockout stage. The final, from Twickenham Stadium, is October 31.