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Favorites in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Encounter a Challenging Journey


Sep 2, 2023

The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is set to begin this week, with four top favorites in the tournament. However, two of these favorites are expected to be knocked out early, possibly in the quarterfinals. These four teams are currently ranked the highest in World Rugby rankings: Ireland at No. 1, South Africa (the defending champion) at No. 2, France at No. 3, and New Zealand at No. 4. The tournament format has these teams clustered in two of the four pools, A and B, and the winner of one pool plays the runner-up of the other pool in the knockout phase. If the teams finish the group stage according to their rankings, New Zealand will play Ireland and France will play South Africa in the first knockout matches. The draw was determined in December 2020 and is partly based on each team’s performance in the 2019 World Cup.

Despite these favorites, there are contenders in other pools capable of beating these top teams. Let’s take a closer look at the teams in each pool:

Pool A:
– France (3)
– New Zealand (4)
– Italy (13)
– Uruguay (17)
– Namibia (21)

The tournament’s opening match is between France and New Zealand, which could potentially be a preview of the final. However, the loser of this match is likely to advance out of the group. Italy, Uruguay, and Namibia are not expected to pose a threat to the top seeds. Both France and New Zealand have talented players in multiple positions on their squads. French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont is considered one of the best players in the world, while New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga are skilled in executing long cross-field kick passes that often lead to tries. Italy has been improving but has never beaten or drawn New Zealand and has a limited history of success against France. Uruguay may have a chance against Italy, but their main opportunity for a win is against Namibia.

Players to watch:
– New Zealand: Ardie Savea (No. 8), Richie Mo’unga (flyhalf)
– France: Grégory Alldritt (No. 8), Antoine Dupont (scrumhalf)
– Italy: Federico Ruzza (lock, flanker), Ange Capuozzo (fullback, wing)
– Uruguay: Ignacio Dotti (lock), Andrés Vilaseca (center)
– Namibia: Wian Conradie (flanker), Divan Rossouw (fullback, wing)

Pool B:
– Ireland (1)
– South Africa (2)
– Scotland (5)
– Tonga (15)
– Romania (19)

Pool B is considered the “Group of Death” as it features Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, Tonga, and Romania. Ireland and South Africa are favorites to claim the Webb Ellis Cup, but Scotland is a dangerous team with recent wins against England and Wales. Ireland is hoping to overcome its reputation of falling short in the quarterfinals, and their first two games against Romania and Tonga should provide them with comfortable wins. South Africa is known for their strong defense and forward pack, but the absence of their top scorer, Handré Pollard, due to injury may affect their goal-kicking ability. Scotland and even Tonga have the potential to cause upsets. Tonga’s roster includes former All Blacks and Wallabies players thanks to a World Rugby eligibility rule change. Romania is the lowest-ranked team in the group.

Players to watch:
– Ireland: James Ryan (lock), Jonathan Sexton (flyhalf)
– South Africa: Steven Kitshoff (prop), Cheslin Kolbe (wing, fullback)
– Scotland: Richie Gray (lock), Duhan van der Merwe (wing)
– Tonga: Ben Tameifuna (prop), Charles Piutau (fullback)
– Romania: Mihai Macovei (flanker), Marius Simionescu (wing, fullback)

Pool C:
– Fiji (7)
– Australia (9)
– Wales (10)
– Georgia (11)
– Portugal (16)

Pool C is likely to be the most competitive, as all four teams are closely ranked and there is no clear favorite. Australia and Wales are traditionally strong teams, but are going through periods of change and uncertainty. Fiji has shown impressive form, defeating Japan and England in their recent matches. They are known for their punishing forward pack and flashy offloads to their speedy backs. Portugal secured their World Cup spot with a draw against the United States. Georgia is looking for breakthrough wins to elevate their status in rugby.

Players to watch:
– Australia: Rob Valetini (No. 8), Marika Koroibete (wing)
– Wales: Taulupe Faletau (No. 8), Josh Adams (wing)
– Fiji: Sam Matavesi (hooker), Semi Radradra (center)
– Georgia: Beka Gorgadze (flanker), Vasil Lobzhanidze (scrumhalf)
– Portugal: Francisco Fernandes (prop), Tomás Appleton (center)

Pool D:
– Argentina (6)
– England (8)
– Samoa (12)
– Japan (14)
– Chile (22)

Pool D features Argentina, England, Samoa, Japan, and Chile. Argentina and England are expected to advance, but Samoa’s recent win against Japan and their integration of experienced former All Blacks and Wallabies players make them a dangerous opponent. England comes into the tournament with some issues at certain positions, but their deep lineup gives them a chance to compete. Argentina has the talent to go far, but penalties have been a challenge for them. Japan’s recent form is not at the level they achieved in the 2019 World Cup. Chile is the lowest-ranked team in this pool.

Players to watch:
– England: Billy Vunipola (No. 8)
– Argentina: Charlie Faumuina (prop), Steven Luatua (flanker)
– Samoa: Lima Sopoaga (flyhalf), Christian Leali’ifano (flyhalf, center)
– Japan: N/A
– Chile: N/A

By Editor

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