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08 September 2023

Who's going to win the Rugby World Cup? - our pundit predicts

08 September 2023

The Rugby World Cup 2023 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting yet, with around four teams capable of winning the tournament. The competition is also expected to feature lots of upsets, leaving fans wondering which teams will advance from the pools.

Since the inaugural tournament in 1987, we've often seen the same names progress beyond the group stage. However, there have been some memorable surprises like Fiji in 2007 and Japan in 2019. The big question is, who will be the next underdog to shine, and which top-seeded team might face embarrassment on the world stage?

The Rugby World Cup trophy, the Webb Ellis Cup, on display during the tournament opening conference in Paris, France. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)


Pool A, featuring hosts France, New Zealand, Italy, Uruguay, and Namibia, presents intriguing storylines. France enter the tournament in excellent form, finishing a close second in the Guinness Six Nations. With just two losses out of 20 matches over two years, France boast incredible forwards like Uini Antonio and Charles Ollivon, as well as outstanding backs including Antoine Dupont, Damian Penaud, and Thomas Ramos.

However, they face the challenge of missing their world-class fly-half, Romain Ntamack, due to injury. Hosting the tournament could either work for or against them, as home advantage could be a double-edged sword for the French if they don't start well.

New Zealand have surprisingly shown a level of inconsistency over the last two years which has surprised many. Nevertheless, they have the potential to turn things around when it matters most. They know the French side they'll be facing to determine the group winner. Their big challenge is likely to be how they navigate the knockout stage,where they are likely to be facing either Ireland or South Africa, the two teams that have beaten then in recent times. Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane, and Sevu Reece add depth and firepower to the All Blacks' line-up.

Italy are going into this tournament with little hope, needing a lot to go in their favour if they are to get past France and New Zealand. Paolo Garbisi is their talisman, but unfortunately for Italy the rest of the squad are not at his level. If they are to get out of the group they will need to beat the hosts France in their final group game.

Uruguay and Namibia will be looking to avoid the wooden spoon in the pool and will focus on damage limitation.

Predicted positions

1st) France

2nd) New Zealand

3rd) Italy

4th) Uruguay

5th) Namibia

Eben Etzebeth, Bongi Mbonambi and Duane Vermeulen enjoy the sunshine in Toulon as the South Africa squad attend their official Rugby World Cup welcome ceremony. (Photo by Coust Laurent/ABACA/Shutterstock)


Pool B, with South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Tonga and Romania has already been dubbed the 'Group of Death,' and is laden with talent. South Africa, the reigning champions, have had eight defeats in the last two years, raising questions about their form. However their squad boasts quality players in every position, including Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Siya Kolisi, Faf de Klerk, Damian Willemse, Damian de Allende, and Cheslin Kolbe. They have the experience and talent necessary to progress far into the tournament.

Ireland enter the competition as the Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners. Their 12 consecutive wins include victories over New Zealand, France, South Africa and England. Ireland's squad depth is notable, ensuring they maintain high performance levels even with potential injuries. Key players like Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Bundee Aki and Gary Ringrose are in top form.

Scotland, considered third favourites in this pool, faces a challenge against top-tier teams. They've improved but have a poor record against the big guns. Notable players include Zander Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie, Finn Russell, and Duan Van der Merwe. They'll need luck and a standout performance from Russell to progress.

Tonga, despite being a tier-two side, are not to be underestimated. They've called upon experienced players from New Zealand and Australia. however the absence of Israel Folau and top scorer Telusa Veainu due to injury could hinder their upset potential. Romania's primary goal will be to learn from the experience while  looking to build on this for the next World Cup.

Predicted positions

1st) Ireland

2nd) South Africa

3rd) Scotland

4th) Tonga

5th) Romania

Australia's coach Eddie Jones (Photo by MARTIN KEEP/AFP via Getty Images)


Pool C, featuring Australia, Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal. Australia enter the tournament in poor form, with all five of their 2022 wins coming early in the year. Despite their struggles, the group appears relatively manageable, offering what could be a straightforward path to the semi-final.

Eddie Jones' coaching ability should not be under-estimated, and there is every likelihood that this young squad with lots of potential could put down a serious marker for when they host the tournament in four years time.

Wales,on the other hand, face challenges with an ageing squad and internal disputes.Their recent form, with only one Six Nations win and losses to Australia and Georgia, have raised concerns. Key players include Adam Beard, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar, George North, Leigh Halfpenny, and Louis Rees-Zammit.

Fiji boast a talented and confident squad with players from top European leagues and will be looking to capitalise on the struggles of their tier-one opponents. Georgia have shown promise with wins over Wales and Portugal, making them a potential dark horse in this group.

Predicted positions

1st) Australia

2nd) Fiji

3rd) Wales

4th) Georgia

5th) Portugal

England head coach Steve Borthwick, alongside Owen Farrell Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images.


Pool D features England, Argentina, Japan, Samoa, and Chile. Despite their recent struggles England have a wealth of experience in key positions,and their ability to elevate their game during World Cups has been a recurring theme. Notable players include Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Tom Curry, Mauro Itoje, Billy Vunipola and Marcus Smith.

Argentina are known for their unpredictability in World Cups, either underperforming or showing remarkable spirit. With victories over top-tier sides in recent years, they remain a formidable team. Key individuals include Julian Montoya, Santiago Carreras and Emiliano Boffelli.

Japan, after their remarkable 2019 run, face a tougher challenge this time around. They have struggled since 2022, with only one win against Samoa, while Samoa have a lot of experienced players from a number of different nations. Chile are making their World Cup debut and will look to enjoy the experience with an eye to starting their journey to regular qualification.

Predicted positions

1st) England

2nd) Argentina

3rd) Japan

4th) Samoa

5th) Chile

The Rugby World Cup trophy, the Webb Ellis Cup, on display during the tournament opening conference in Paris, France. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)


Predicted player of the Tournament: Antoine Dupont

Dupont is in the form of his life and is the heartbeat of the French team. With his incredible playmaking ability, precision kicks and strong defensive skills, Dupont has been instrumental in France's recent success. His presence on the field is a sight to behold, and he is expected to shine on what is the biggest stage.

Young Player of the Tournament: Carter Gordon.

Australia's fly half Carter Gordon has emerged as the first-choice No 10 leading up to the tournament. Despite his youth, he has displayed composure, vision,and playmaking abilities beyond his years. In a team undergoing a transitional phase, Gordon could well be the standout young talent of the tournament.

Dark Horses: Fiji and Georgia.

Fiji, with their powerful and skilful squad, can upset higher-ranked teams with their attacking flair. Georgia have been steadily improving and have the potential to cause surprises, especially against Wales and Portugal. Both teams have the ability to make a major impact.

2023 Grand Slam champions Ireland are our pundit's pick to lift the World Cup


Who will win the World Cup? Ireland

Ireland's consistent form leading up to the tournament, the depth of talent that they have in the squad and their ability to perform on the big stage makes them strong contenders to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time in their history.

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