Rugby World Cup Preview 2023: When Is it, What Teams Are Playing & Who Will Win?

Rugby scrum
Credit: Jolon Penna / Wikipedia

The 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) is drawing closer and so now is the perfect time to take a closer look at the tournament. Our preview answers all the key questions about what, where and when the World Cup is, whilst we will also consider who might win, and we’ll take a look back at the past winners of the Webb Ellis Cup.

When & Where Is the 2023 Rugby World Cup?

The final will take place at the State de France
The final will take place at the State de France (Credit: Darthvadrouw / Wikipedia)

The 2023 RWC gets underway on the 8th of September, with the final set to take place on the 28th of October. That’s a seriously long tournament, which means for fans there are seven glorious weeks of rugby to savour. If you aren’t a fan of the sport, it might be a good time for a long holiday!

The aforementioned cup is named after the person usually credited with creating the sport. Whilst the story of Webb Ellis turning football into rugby by picking up the ball at Rugby School may be apocryphal, the invention of rugby is usually dated to 1823. This makes this edition of the World Cup a little bit special, taking place in the 200th year of the sport.

The tournament hosts are France and the finale will take place at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, in the northern suburbs of Paris. Marseilles, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Nice and Saint-Etienne will also stage matches. The Stade de France will, however, host the final five games of the tournament (the last quarter final, both semis, the bronze medal match and the final).

How Many Teams Are Taking Part?

Rugby World Cup
Credit: Carrington & Co, London / Wikipedia

As has been the norm in recent years, 20 teams will take part at the RWC. These were whittled down by a qualification tournament which began with Burkina Faso beating Burundi and ended with Portugal and Tonga booking their places in France.

The teams are divided into four pools of five nations, the top two from each grouping advancing to the quarters. The pool phase is a standard round-robin format, with each nation playing all the others, whilst the quarters onwards are a simple knockout.

England appear to have a kind draw in Pool D, with Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile their opponents. This will be Chile’s first appearance at the RWC. Ireland are among the favourites to claim glory and they are Pool B, where they will be expected to progress alongside South Africa, with Scotland, Tonga and Romania needing something special to make the last eight. Wales have a tough draw in Pool C, with Australia and Fiji strong, plus a decent Georgia side, and Portugal, who appear in the event for just the second time. Pool A also has decent strength in depth, with hosts France up against New Zealand, Italy, Uruguay and Namibia. The whole thing gets underway with a real blockbuster, as France and the Kiwis go head to head – could that clash be repeated in the final?

Who Will Win the 2023 Rugby World Cup?

Rugby top picks for 2023

Ah, the million dollar question. Maybe even $64m, not least because this may be one of the most open World Cups we’ve ever seen. There are four nations that are rated at odds of 5/1 or shorter according to the bookmakers, with all four clustered between 5/2 and 5/1. Those four contenders are:

  • New Zealand – 5/2
  • France – 10/3
  • Ireland – 5/1
  • South Africa – 5/1

Beyond the big four, England and Australia are the only teams ranked as better than a 33/1 shot, with the two rival nations both available at odds of about 14/1. Clearly upsets happen but England and Australia appear to have far too many issues, whilst teams such as Argentina, Wales and Scotland, who are around the 33/1 to 50/1 mark, just don’t really have the class.

Ireland are ranked the best team in the world and have been for some time, with NZ second, and South Africa recently having climbed above France into third. The Kiwis have risen to favouritism on the back of some fine recent results since the start of July. They hammered Argentina 41-12, beat South Africa 35-20, and then put Australia to the sword 38-7. That gave the Kiwis a comprehensive success in the 2023 Rugby Championship and they added a further win over the Aussies at the start of August.

With Ireland having been brilliant for some time now and France having home advantage, this really could be a classic World Cup. We fancy one of those three will prevail, with South Africa definitely the least appealing of the leading quartet.

How Helpful Is Home Advantage?

Gauging the benefit of home advantage is tricky as the tournament has been co-hosted on a number of occasions. Moreover, only four sides have ever won the World Cup, so from that point of view we don’t have a huge sample to draw on, not least with this only being the 10th RWC.

That said, the hosts or co-hosts have made the final in five out of nine previous finals. They have won three of those, so all in all one would have to say that France have to have a very decent chance. That said, the French held the World Cup for the first time in 2007 and could only finish fourth. South Africa beat England in the final that year.

Previous Winners of the RWC

As said, four nations have won the World Cup, and they are:

  • New Zealand – 3 wins, once runners up – won in 1987, 2011, 2015
  • South Africa – 3 wins – won in 1995, 2007, 2019
  • Australia – 2 wins, twice runners up – won in 1991, 1999
  • England – 1 win, thrice times runners up – won in 2003
Year Winner Runner Up Host/Co-Host
1987 New Zealand France Australia and New Zealand
1991 Australia England England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
1995 South Africa New Zealand South Africa
1999 Australia France Wales
2003 England Australia Australia
2007 South Africa England France
2011 New Zealand France New Zealand
2015 New Zealand Australia England
2019 South Africa England Japan