The Road to Victory: Teams to Watch in the 2023 Rugby World Cup
2023 is the year of the rugby world cup, and fans worldwide are already excited about one of the biggest tournaments this year.
The tenth edition of the pinnacle of rugby will consist of forty-eight matches that will take place at nine venues in France across 51 days, from September 8 to October 28.
At the tournament, twenty teams, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, Japan, Scotland, Argentina, Fiji, Italy, Uruguay, Namibia, Tonga, Romania, Georgia, Samoa, Chile, and Portugal will be giving their all for the glory.
With less than six months remaining before the event, teams are finalising their preparations, and with that, the talk of favourite teams has started on different platforms.
However, as is always the case, not all the teams are on the same level, so few from the list mentioned above are expected to make it further in the tournament. We take a closer look at the teams to watch at the highly anticipated event.
Andy Farrell's world no. 1 ranked Ireland is one of the few hot candidates to take the title home after their fourth-ever Six Nations Grand Slam win, where they beat England by 29-16. They have drawn South Africa, Scotland, Tonga, and Romania.
Ireland has been drawn in the same World Cup pool as reigning champions South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania. Despite being a dominant force in the sport, the Irish team has never gotten passed the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup. However, they have reached there on seven occasions, showing their consistency and threat.
Right after winning the Six Nations Grand Slim, Andy Farrell is focusing on the Rugby World Cup, as he said in the post-match:
"I have just been telling Johnny Sexton there is bigger fish to fry than Six Nations, so we are onto the World Cup."
"We are a good side that has nowhere reached its potential. You know, everyone is going to get better in the summer when we get to spend a lot more time together, so we expect our side when we get to the first game of the World Cup to be a lot better than what we are now, and that is the reality."
They're looking more measured and balanced side than the previous year. They've had untimely major injuries but have stayed calm and have put on some impressive displays in recent years, making them the favourites for the title.
Les Blues are among the top candidates to win the title on home soil. They're performing very well recently, claiming wins against England, Scotland, Italy and Wales.
In recent months, they've proved they can play equally well without their high-profile players, too, as they were tight-heads for the game against England and played the championship without Cameron Woki and Gabin Villiere.
Thomas Ramos talked about his side at post-match on Saturday.
"I think we're starting to reach maturity, which means we manage to deal with pressure. The enthusiasm will help us be better than the previous World Cup, for example."
"I hope that teams are scared of us now. We're certainly the team to beat. "We do have an impressive victory ratio. We've only lost once here in Paris, against Scotland."
They'll have to ignore the outside noise and pressure to win the title and keep themselves fit. Meanwhile, Galthie must find the middle ground between instilling his team with confidence and wary humility.
France has some of the best players in the world, with irreplaceable players like Dupont on top of the list. That said, three-time runners-up will be looking to go further this year; after not making it past the quarter-finals in the last two editions.
The most successful team in rugby union, New Zealand is one of the hot favourites to win the title. They have won the big event three times, are a dominant force in the sport, and always perform well on the biggest stage of the sport.
All Blacks have a lot of talented, experienced, and skilful players and are expected to rebound from some tough defeats, including a semi-final defeat in the previous edition, by making it this year.
One of the oldest rugby nations in the world will be looking to win its first-ever title. Wales was ranked no. 1 in 2019 and made it to the semi-finals in that edition but were knocked out by eventual champions, South Africa.
Things aren't going in Wales' way at the moment. Their confidence could be higher, results could be better, and they are under pressure to perform.
On their to-do list ahead of the World Cup is improving their fitness, as Gatland thinks his side is on a different physical level to compete on the biggest stage.
Gatland talked about his side and World Cup plan on Saturday:
"I am confident by the time we get together preparing for the World Cup, we will be in good shape and much better than we are now. I think we will give a lot of teams a few surprises come World Cup time.
"There have been some good improvements, and we will continue improving. I have said to the players, if we go and do the work that's required, I am confident we will have a positive World Cup."
Another top candidate to win the mega title, Scotland, is performing great in World Cup year and ended up third in this year's Six Nations championship, including a 26-14 win against Italy.
There are some elements they need to improve to increase their chances, like maintaining momentum in a match and avoiding silly errors. They are too used to losing their way after conceding a turnover or dropping a restart.
2003 World Cup winners will enter this year's edition with a point to prove and a score to settle as South Africa beat them in the final. That said, they'll be looking to go one step further.
England is rebuilding under Steve Borthwick, and their recent wins over Italy and Wales indicate they're in the right direction.
Steve is putting a lot of focus on the pre-World Cup training camp and has challenged his players to improve their fitness, as he said post-match on Saturday.
"We don't want to use that camp to get fit; we want to use the World Cup camp to get better."
Known as Springboks, reigning world champions have won the title three times. They defied the odds in Japan three years ago and became the first side to win the title after losing a match in the pool stage. They're known for their imposing style, are physical and pack a punch.
Ireland, France, and New Zealand are the top three candidates to take the title home. These predictions are based on their history at the World Cup and their current form. With more than five months until the tournament, a lot can change for any side.