I see New Zealand & France as favourites, says Italy’s Marco Bortolami

Rugby is one of the best sports for making an impact on the young. It is about working together as a team, helping to increase their self-esteem and giving them a chance to improve their lives. As a Laureus Ambassador Marco Bortolami supports the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and gives his thoughts here on the upcoming Rugby World Cup, and how rugby can help to improve the lives of young people around the world. 
What kind of Rugby World Cup do you think it will be?
It's going to be the most physical World Cup so far. Players are bigger than ever and the intensity they bring on the pitch is the first thing to match for every team.
There is going to be a lot of media attention as well and it will affect the performances on the field. The best prepared team, on and off the pitch, will win because in such a difficult competition every little counts.
How many of the teams do you think could win?
I think five: New Zealand, England, France, Ireland and Australia.
Very early, of course, but who do you think will be the winners?
I can see New Zealand and France as favourites, but England is playing on home soil and it's a huge advantage.
How do you think Italy will do?
Italy play in a difficult pool with France and Ireland - two of my favourite teams. But we are underdogs and the pressure to win is on our opponents. This pressure can affect their ability to perform on match day and if we are ready to pick up our opportunities, we have a chance to make history.
How do you assess the state of Italian rugby at the moment?
We are still a long way from the top nations, but I believe we have huge margins to progress. I think we need to develop a different mentality for how we approach sport, and understand that every aspect of the organisation is important and crucial to perform well on match day
Who could be Italy’s stars in the Rugby World Cup?
We have an exciting young group of backs who I really hope can show Italy is not only about scrum and the driving maul - Michele Campagnaro and Tommaso Allan will play a key role in the way Italy perform.
Do you see Italy winning a World Cup one day?
Why not? But to do so we need to move forward as quickly as possible. It's a dream, but then so was playing in the Six Nations once. So what I have learned in my life is that we should never say never.
Which players are you most looking forward to watching from the other countries?
There are a lot of great players. Jonny May from England, Kieran Read from New Zealand, who is the most complete player in the world. I just want to mention two players who could be in the final.
Are you amazed at the growth of the Rugby World Cup?
It is amazing and I think it's still on the way up. Rugby can grow a lot in Italy and all over the world but we need to protect the nature of the game and the values like friendship, fair play, education, respect  and no drug use policy, which are all very important for the growth of the young generation!
Why is it important to you to be a Laureus Ambassador?
Sport has the ability to make people dream of a better future. Representing Laureus and its projects is a huge honour and the way I can give something back to people who are not as lucky as I am. We have got to find the way to inspire young generations because everyone needs a chance to be as good as he can be.
Why is rugby such a good sport to teach young people the right values?
Because is a hard game, where you have to confront the opposition physically, mentally and strategically. It tests you on different levels and angles. To be good you have to work as hard as you can to prepare yourself for the game. If you don't give everything you have got, you won't have anything back.
Marco Bortolami has played rugby more than 100 times for Italy. He made his debut at the age of 20 and became Italy’s youngest captain at 22. In 2007 he captained Italy to their first ever six nations away win in Scotland. He has played club rugby for Padua, Narbonne, Gloucester, Aironi and Zebre.

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