The highly anticipated Rugby World Cup 2015 kicked off last Friday in England, with a lot of adrenaline-filled matches lined up until the 31st of October. While elite rugby teams vie for their shot at the William Webb Ellis trophy in the next few weeks, punters are also getting their piece of the action at the betting lines of various bookmakers.

An article published by the International Business Times on 18th September 2015, tells how twenty teams from across the world will compete against each other, throughout the six week duration, to dethrone New Zealand as the reigning world cup champions. According to the news source, this year’s Rugby World Cup is expected to be the ‘biggest competition in the sport’s 28-year professional history’, with record breaking ticket sales reaching above 2.25 million. The highly anticipated international sports event is said to expect a global audience of around four billion.

The twenty elite rugby teams from across the world are pooled into four groups and will try to outplay one another to have a shot at the world cup title. Group A is comprised of Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, and Uruguay while Group B pools together the two-time champions South Africa with Samoa, Japan, Scotland, and the USA. Meanwhile, Group C brings together reigning world cup champions New Zealand with Argentina, Tonga, Georgia, and Namibia. Group D is composed of France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, and Romania. The news source reports that while Southern Hemisphere nations New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa are natural contenders for the title, it looks like Northern Hemisphere nations Ireland and England pose as major threats for the reigning champions.

According to odds posted by OddsChecker.com, the current betting odds at several bookmakers show that the reigning champions New Zealand will have to defend their title against the host nation, England. The England vs New Zealand finals match up currently has odds of 7/2. Meanwhile, others believe that another good contender for the title is the Six Nations champions Ireland, again predicted to go up against New Zealand in the finals. The Ireland vs New Zealand match up currently has odds of 11/2 at several bookmakers. In the article published by the International Business Times, UK bookmaker William Hill has posted its current betting odds for the world cup winners. Reigning world cup champions New Zealand unsurprisingly grabs the top spot at the betting lines, with odds of 6/5. They are followed by the team from host nation England with 9/2. Two-time world cup champions South Africa comes in third place with 13/2, followed by Australia with 7/1 and Ireland with 9/1.

But these odds are most likely to change after what happened between South Africa and Japan in the tournament’s opening match ups. In an article published by The Guardian on 19th September 2015, Japan, who started as 13th of 20 teams in the tournament, shocked the whole world with what might be one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time as it defeated the two-time champion South Africa with the last move of the match. The neck-and-neck battle that happened on Saturday ended with the Cherry Blossoms’ impressive ‘last-gasp victory’ over the Springboks with a final score of 34-32. This would be the first time that South Africa’s Springboks lost an opening game at the World Cup, with Japan defying the betting odds of them beating South Africa at 80/1.

With Japan achieving one of the greatest sporting upsets in history last Saturday, it only goes to show that anything is possible at the Rugby World Cup. The betting odds might be right most of the time but at the end of the day, it all really depends on each team’s performance in the next few weeks. No one knows for certain if the reigning Rugby World Cup champions will be defending it against England or Ireland, but this highly anticipated international sports event promises fans over the world promises adrenaline-filled matches and surprises in the next few weeks as the twenty teams continue to go head-to-head against each other. We will just have to see the events unfold in the succeeding weeks until the World Cup Finals at the Twickenham Stadium in London on October 31st.