As the Six Nations Championship draws to a close, the rugby world’s attention turns to the Rugby World Cup, which starts in September.
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We now have less than six months until the first match in Paris, so let’s take a closer look at this year’s competitors.
France will go into the 2023 Rugby World Cup as favorites after humiliating England at Twickenham in the Six Nations.
Despite never winning the Rugby World Cup, France has been building towards it for the last four years. Plus, they have an undeniable star in Antoine Dupont, who was named World Player of the Year in 2021.
As rugby legend Matt Dawson put it, “he is Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane… it was like watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator where everything goes digital.”
A highly-skilled Les Bleus side will be backed ferociously by their ardent fans due to their excellent form and hosting the tournament.
Despite beating South Africa and Australia in the last year, France was handily beaten by Ireland in this year’s Six Nations Championship.
As champions in 1987, 2011 and 2015, New Zealand is a favorite to win the Webb Ellis Cup this October. The All Blacks are comprised of experienced and talented players, including Sam Cane and Beauden Barrett.
After struggling in the early part of 2022 (the All Blacks lost four of their first six games), they ended the year with a seven-match unbeaten streak and won the Rugby Championship, defeating South Africa, Argentina, and Australia.
The pressure will largely be off New Zealand, who can focus on playing their best rugby with France as favorites.
Following an impressive series win in 2021 against the British and Irish Lions, the Springboks remain a force to be reckoned with in 2023. Still led by inspirational captain Siya Kolisi, the Springboks have every chance of repeating their success.
Springboks’ status at this year’s Rugby Championship will be determined by their performance against New Zealand and Australia. However, their comfortable wins against New Zealand and Australia suggest they are still one of the best teams in the southern hemisphere.
Atop the World Rankings following a sparkling performance in the Six Nations under coach Andy Farrell, Ireland are the best side in the world.
Though they are undoubtedly favorites going into the tournament, two factors may prevent them from progressing. In spite of reaching the quarter-final stage seven times in the past, Ireland has never advanced beyond it. Therefore, they have never had to deal with the pressures of performing on the biggest stage in the world.
In addition, Ireland must face South Africa and Scotland in their pool, despite being world number one. If Ireland is to win the Rugby World Cup this year, they will have to do it the hard way. If they advance from this stage, they will likely face either New Zealand or France in the quarter-finals.
What’s the verdict?
In 2023, France will finally win the Webb Ellis Cup after coming up short in 1987, 1999, and 2011.
A skilled team filled with match-winners like Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, and Grégory Alldritt, France will also have the advantage of playing their big matches in front of a ferocious home crowd. At the Stade de France, they played their opener against New Zealand in front of 80,000 screaming French fans.
The opening game between France and New Zealand, which is scheduled for 8th September, will likely determine the tournament’s champion. Should the All Blacks emerge from Paris victorious, the competition will likely be wide open.