France legend Philippe Sella is tipping New Zealand for World Cup glory, but believes England will run them close.
Sella expects All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne to lift the World Cup
"New Zealand are strong, quick and very skilful," said Sella, the world's most capped player.
"I like the way New Zealand play, they entertain and win as well.
"England must be second favourites and I would put France in third place alongside Australia."
Sella hailed the current England side as one of the best he had ever seen, reserving special praise for the backs.
"When I played against England I faced the likes of Rob Andrew, Jerry Guscott, Will Carling and Rory Underwood - a strong, good three-quarter line," said Sella.
"Now you have Kyran Bracken, Jonny Wilkinson, Will Greenwood, Ben Cohen and Jason Robinson - that is a great back line.
"They can play different styles too. They can run into gaps, or can be very direct. That sort of team is difficult to defend against. This is one of the best England teams.
"We will see if it is enough to be world champions - they will certainly be very close."
Sella insisted he was not concerned by his own country's lack of form over the last year.
France finished third in the Six Nations, suffered two Test defeats in Argentina and shared a two-Test series with England.
"The French team is not at the top at the moment, but if the team is ready to hit top form when the World Cup starts then what has gone on beforehand won't matter," said Sella.