Rugby World Cup: the pundit’s view – Gareth Thomas

The ITV pundit and former Wales fullback gives his views on the forthcoming tournament

Player to watch?

James Hook. The Wales fly-half is one of the best players in the world now. People talk about how wonderful New Zealand’s Dan Carter is, but I think James is right up there with him. He’s a great player – exciting and reliable and with a good tactical brain; world class.

Who will win?

The obvious answer to this is New Zealand, but if you take the Tri-Nations out of it, I’d go for Australia instead – it’s a young team that’s exciting and fresh. I think Australia could edge it.

Mr Indestructible

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is the main guy in this category for me – he’s so durable and always plays on the edge. He’s a proven leader and an unbelievable player, he just keeps battling on.

Secret weapon

Manu Tuilagi [England’s 20-year-old wing and centre]. He’s full of enthusiasm. His five older brothers have played for Samoa; the guy’s got rugby in his blood. Definitely one to watch.

X factor

Matt Stevens gets my vote here for his singing and guitar playing. I toured New Zealand with him for the Lions and he played all the time. The only thing is, I hope he’s learnt some new songs. He only knew one back then and he played it over and over and over again. I can’t even remember what song it was; I’ve erased it from my memory!

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