With just over a fortnight to go before the beginning of the Rugby World Cup, England are second favourites in the betting after defending champions New Zealand, says Max Liu.
"It would be a shock if England failed to give a better account of themselves in Japan than they did at home four years ago. The Red Rose are [3.3] to make the final."
The Red Rose are determined to banish memories of their appalling World Cup performance four years ago when they were eliminated in the Group stage, following defeats at Twickenham to Wales and Australia. Head coach Eddie Jones was brought in after that debacle and given four years to build England into World Cup contenders.
Whether Jones has done that remains difficult to say, although the odds certainly suggest so. There have been two Six Nations titles under Jones but both came in his first two seasons. Since then, Ireland and Wales have dominated the competition. England have, however, enjoyed some impressive results in their autumn internationals and one or two on their summer tours. It would be a shock if they failed to give a better account of themselves in Japan than four years ago and are [3.3] to make the final.
The Welsh, who are [15.5] to win the World Cup after momentarily being the ranked the world's number one team this year, have played England twice this summer. England were victorious when the sides met at Twickenham but Wales won when they played again in Cardiff a week later. By far, England's most commanding warm-up display came in their 57-15 victory over Ireland [12.5], at team that would have been considered leading contender not so long ago.
Then there's Scotland [75.0], who nearly caused a major upset in their quarter-final against Australia last time, and France [38.0] who England will face in the Group stage and who, even when they look like they're struggling, have a knack of squeezing through to the latter stages. England are [1.33] to win Group C.
The Red Rose will round off their preparations against Italy on Friday. Their next match will be their World Cup Group stage opener against Tonga on Sunday 22 September.
All Blacks to be alright on the night?
That New Zealand are gunning for a third consecutive World Cup title shows that they have dominated the international game for a decade.
It would take a brave punter to rule out Steve Hansen's men but there are signs that the All Blacks are not the force they were. In the recent Rugby Championship, they lost by more than 20 points to Australia in Brisbane, drew with South Africa and beat Argentina narrowly. The All Blacks finished third in the over all table.
South Africa [6.2] are looking good and come next in the betting after England. Australia [18.0], meanwhile, are not fancied and, having reached the final four years ago, are [5.9] to get that far this time.
Betting.Betfair rugby correspondent Simon Mail will provide a team by team betting guide in the build-up to the big kick off on 20 September, so make sure you follow our World Cup coverage which will include tips and analysis for all the big games.