The Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday and it's on home turf for England. We love a tournament when it's on home turf, so to celebrate the upcoming six weeks of fun, we've compiled five reasons why we think we'll be singing 'Sweet Chariot' come the 31st of October...
1. Home advantage
As said before, the fans love a tournament when it's on home soil. Arguably though, the players love it even more. England will be playing to packed out stadiums in front of adoring fans, and there's nothing like the adrenaline of thousands of screaming spectators to get you pumped up to smash the Aussies. Rugby players especially tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves (witness the way they sing a national anthem - puts even Joe Hart to shame) so expect to see the emotion of the crowd lifting the team all the way to the final.
2. We're try-scoring machines
In our 11 tests before the tournament, we've only been outscored on tries once. That was against Ireland in this year's Six Nations, wherein they scored one try to our none. During that tournament however, we scored 18 tries, a record number in the modern tournament's history. Combine this new-found attacking flair with our home crowd, and we must be on to a winner.
3. The emergence of George Ford
In an era when so many players are picked because of their sheer brute-strength and willingness to adhere to a strict tactical plan, George Ford has risen above this to cement his place as one of England's most promising backs. The fly-half has been instrumental in our try-scoring exploits recently: since his inclusion in the starting line-up nine games ago, on average England have scored three tries a game. Not too shabby.
4. Potential path to the final
If we win our pool with our mega amounts of tries, mercurial George Ford, and partisan crowd behind us, we face an incredibly 'doable' path to the final at Twickenham. We would potentially be facing Scotland in the quarter-finals (if they don't hash it up and fail to get second place in pool B), before a possible match against either Ireland or France in the semis. Judging by our pre-tournament tests performances against these sides, we won't be fearing the Green or the Blue in such a situation.
5. New Zealand are only human... Aren't they?
We're in the final, ready to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil. The only thing standing in our way is the best team in the world, New Zealand. It's impossible to see the All-Blacks not reaching the final which means our brave Lions will have to be at their best to see off the Kiwi party-poopers. However New Zealand, for all their skill and prowess, are still only human. They're competing on the other side of the world, against teams far more at home in Europe. There are no guarantees in top-level sport, and on their bad day England could prosper.
The All-Blacks are favourites at 11/8 with Ladbrokes, while England are a bit further out at 9/2 with Stan James. But since when have odds mattered? Altogether now... 'Swing low, Sweet Charioooot'...
Sam publishes regular feature and tips pieces for Howtobet4free. He has a blog, crackingjabulanis.blogspot.co.uk, and can be found on Twitter by following @Gaytski.