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Rugby World Cup 2023 - Our 'Updated' Predictions (After Warm Up Games)

Rugby World Cup 2023 - Our 'Updated' Predictions (After Warm Up Games) - Absolute Rugby

Matthew Buckland |

You may have read our predictions for Rugby World Cup 2023 we posted back in June, way before we knew the final squads or how the warm up games were o go. If you haven't read it, you can so here

With the build up to the Rugby World Cup almost over, we know a lot more about some of the biggest teams in the tournament. So let’s make some final predictions for this tournament for ten of the biggest teams in this competition.

Don't forget - this is JUST an opinion! We would love to hear yours - leave your predictions in the comments. 

France: RWC 2023 Champions

Despite not being ranked as the number one team, France are the team which we are predicting to make it to win their first Rugby World Cup title.

Home advantage is such a massive factor in rugby and the French crowd are going to be very vocal in the support of their team. The expectations will be high on France, but considering they have not lost at home since their shock defeat to Scotland to finish the 2021 Six Nations, France have a great chance at the title.

In fact, the last time that France lost at home when there were fans in attendance was the first game of the 2019 Six Nations against Wales. France have lost twice in their last seven games at the time of writing, but I think they will step up when it comes to the tournament.

Losing Romain Ntamack is a massive blow for this team, but France have the depth to deal with this injury. The team’s insane forward depth means they should be well rested heading into the tournament. Getting back Anthony Jelonch during the tournament is a big boost.

Outside of that, it is hard to see players like Johnathan Danty, Charles Ollivon and Julien Marchand not continuing to perform at a world class level. How can Antoine Dupont’s team not be the favourites to win their first Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand: RWC 2023 Finalists

The last four years have been rough for the All Blacks. Since the last tournament, New Zealand have lost to Ireland three times, South Africa and Argentina twice as well as a loss to Australia.

But this is a team that are peaking at the perfect time. New Zealand are eleven games unbeaten at the time of writing, including impressive wins over Australia, South Africa and Scotland in that time.

The All Blacks have one of the most set and organised teams in the tournament, with Ian Foster figuring out his XV in the last 12 months.

Having Richie Mo’unga as well as all three Barrett brothers on the pitch at the same time, makes them incredibly dangerous to any defence in the world. Not only that, but the All Blacks have quietly put up some incredibly impressive performances over the last 12 months.

They have comfortably beaten the Springboks in the Rugby Championship the last two fixtures, with the Wallabies not able to beat New Zealand. Up front, New Zealand have a brilliantly powerful forward pack. Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax look like an unstoppable prop pair.

With a perfect blend of experience and youth, New Zealand have a great chance at causing an upset at this tournament. I think they are able to upset Ireland in the quarter-finals, before eventually finding themselves on the wrong end of a repeat of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final.

Australia: Third Place

Considering the position that Australian rugby are in at the moment, it might seem like a big surprise that Eddie Jones team could finish third at the Rugby World Cup. But there are a lot of things in the Wallabies favour.

For one thing, Australia have a very favourable draw. They are in a group with Fiji, Wales, Georgia and Portugal. Those are not easy games, but you would expect Australia to make It through the group and likely top the pool.

If they do top the pool then Argentina seem their most likely opposition. The Wallabies might have lost to Argentina in their most recent game, but they have an excellent record against Los Pumas and I think Australia would be the favourites for that game, leading them to the World Cup semi-final.

While Quade Cooper and Michael Hooper are two incredibly surprising omissions from the squad, there is still a huge amount of talent. Captain Will Skelton is undoubtedly one of the best locks in the world. They have power upfront with Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou and Rob Valetini.

Their stars in the backs include Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete and Mark Nawaqanitawase who will be a big problem for the defences they come up against. Eddie Jones has a very good record at Rugby World Cup’s and so I think there is a very good chance that Australia can make it to the semi-finals of this tournament.

England: Fourth Place

The preparation that England have had for this tournament has been pretty awful. Captain Owen Farrell will miss the first two games of the tournament due to a ban for a high tackle, with Billy Vunipola also missing the first game of the tournament.

Another dismal Six Nations performance was followed up by a big loss to Wales and then a loss two weeks later to Ireland. So it certainly does not seem like England are in the sort of position to get to the Rugby World Cup final.

But there might not be a team to have benefitted from the pool stage draw taking place three years ago than England. They have a very favourable pool stage, with Argentina, Japan and Samoa all winnable games for this England side.

There is still a huge amount of talent in this team. Ellis Genge, Maro Itoje, Ben Earl and Jamie George are talented players upfront and Steve Borthwick does have a history of improving forwards. Borthwick has the players to out physical some of the teams that they are coming up against.

In the backs, Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant and Henry Arundell are all in brilliant form and Freddie Steward still looks like a solid and reliable option at fullback. George Ford seems the likely option at 10 without Owen Farrell and it might be exactly the presence that England need.

England do at least have enough talent to get to the semi-finals, although they will be met with a top team at this point and this is where their tournament will come to an end.

South Africa: Quarter-final exit

The reigning World champions have big expectations heading into this tournament. South Africa have not really been the consistent best team in the world since winning the tournament four years ago.

They have not been able to win the Rugby Championship since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but do still have some impressive victories. In the last 18 months alone, South Africa have beaten New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, England and Wales. They have also seen South African teams make a big impact in domestic European rugby.

South Africa have benefitted from the fact that they do have a lot of the same team that won the tournament four years ago. 2019 Rugby World Cup final starters Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi, Faf de Klerk and many more will be starting again at this tournament.

However, injuries have hit South Africa hard. Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am will both miss the tournament through injury, with Lood de Jager also not in the squad. Pollard and Am are big misses for the Springboks and those are the sorts of injuries which will make an impact in the big games.

South Africa will face either New Zealand or France in the quarter-finals and without their superstar fly-half, I think this game will be too much for South Africa. So I see the Springboks going out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage.

Ireland: Quarter-final exit

I don’t think that a lot of Irish fans are going to be too pleased with this prediction, but I think that Ireland will disappoint at this tournament by going out in the quarter-finals.

Ireland deserve their spot as the number one team in the world at the moment. Their resume over the last few years is incredibly impressive. It began with an incredible test series victory in New Zealand last year, followed up by Ireland winning the Grand Slam earlier in 2023.

It has now been more than 12 months since Ireland lost a game and have beaten South Africa, Australia, Fiji, Scotland, France, England and Wales in that time. No matter the adversity, Ireland have always seemed to get through any difficulties and pull out close wins.

This Irish squad is also pretty healthy. Jack Conan and Dan Sheehan are two players who Ireland hope will be fit for the tournament. But other than that, Ireland don’t really have any major injuries which they are struggling with heading into the tournament.

This team has a huge amount of talent and is arguably the best coached team in the world. Up front, Tadgh Beirne, Andrew Porter, Josh van der Flier and Tadhg Furlong are brilliant. In the backs, Ireland have talent everywhere in the backs, including James Lowe, Hugo Keenan, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.

But I think the draw will be too much for Ireland. Not only do they have to face South Africa, Scotland and Tonga in the group stage, but they will then face either France or New Zealand in the quarter-finals. I think the tough schedule will catch up to this team and the quarter-final stage will be the end for Ireland.

Fiji: Quarter-final exit

While this may seem like a surprise result, Fiji have been to the quarter-finals as recently as 2007 and they are in a very good group. It really comes down to whether Fiji can upset Wales for the second place spot in Pool C.

Well Fiji do come into the tournament ranked one place above Wales in the World Rugby rankings. That is partly because Fiji are coming off the back of three impressive wins in the 2023 Pacific Nations Cup.

They did lose to France, but it was close to the best French team that they could put out so that is not a bad sign at all. But if you just look at the names in this Fijian squad, you can see why they look like a very good bet to make it to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Up front, Eroni Mawi, Sam Matavesi, Albert Tuisue and Viliame Mata offer a huge amount of physicality. Then there Is world class flanker Levani Botia, who can change a game with his work at the breakdown.

But it is the backs which make Fiji so exciting. Captain Semi Radradra is one of the best centres in the world, with Josua Tuisova another brilliant option on the wing.

With Caleb Muntz coming in, it seems like Fiji have the Fly-half who can push them forwards and that is why I think Fiji are going to make it to the quarter-finals of this tournament.

Argentina: Quarter-final exit

Los Pumas are in good form heading into this tournament. In the last few years Argentina have beaten England and New Zealand for the first time. They also recently won back to back games against Australia.

This team has talent everywhere, with Julian Montoya the perfect captain for this team. Tomas Lavanini, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Pablo Matera and Matias Alemanno are physical, tough options who are also great at the breakdown.

The backs are similarly exciting, with Santiago Carreras one of the fastest and most agile fly-halves in the world. He has a huge amount of talent outside of him and Argentina will certainly create a few highlights at the tournament.

While Michael Cheika has this team moving in the right direction, there have been some poor overall form. Argentina have lost eight of their last 10 games prior to facing Spain in the Rugby World Cup warm up games. They have not always been able to consistently perform against the best teams in the world.

I think that will come back to bite this team. While Japan and Samoa are definitely winnable games for this Argentina team, they face a very tough challenge in the quarter-finals against Australia. Argentina could upset a team they have a good recent record against, but it seems like the quarter-finals is the most likely place for their tournament to end.

Scotland: Pool Stage exit

There is not a team in this tournament who have been more unlucky with their Pool stage draw than Scotland. Despite being the 5th ranked team in the world, they will have to face the current number 1 and 3 ranked teams in their Pool.

Over the last couple of years, Scotland have established themselves as the best of the rest outside the top four teams in the world. They finished third in the Six Nations earlier this year, pushing France and Ireland close in those games.

In the autumn last year, Scotland beat Fiji and Argentina comfortably, as well as having close losses to the All Blacks and Australia. The result that Scotland fans will have loved is that in their second warm up game, Scotland took apart France at Murrayfield, before losing an incredibly close game to the Rugby World Cup hosts in France.

This Scottish team has so much talent. Scotland arguably have one of the best back groups in the world, led by superstar Finn Russell. Huw Jones, Duhan van der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Sione Tuipolotu are destructive in attack, while being solid in defence.

But the issue for this Scottish team is their forwards. Scotland don’t quite have the physical forward pack to match up against South Africa or Ireland, so it does not seem like this incredible Scotland team are going to make it out of the Pool stage.

Wales: Pool Stage exit

Seeing as I have Fiji getting through to the quarter-finals, it is not hard to figure out that Fiji going to their first quarter-final in 16 years would also result in Wales being dumped out in the pool stage.

It has been a pretty terrible couple of years for Wales. Defeats to Italy and Georgia show how much Wales are struggling and they saw experienced players like Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb retire prior to the tournament.

The long dispute between the players and the Welsh Rugby Union seems to be spilling onto the pitch, despite the best efforts of the returning Warren Gatland. Fifth in the Six Nations shows how much this team are struggling, although Wales did beat England in the Rugby World Cup warm ups.

There is a huge amount of talent dotted around this Welsh team. Guys like Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza, Tommy Reffell and Dewi Lake will be looking to make a big impact in their first tournaments.

Similarly in the backs, Louis Rees-Zammit, Rio Dyer and Liam Williams can create an incredibly exciting back three. Dan Biggar still looks like one of the best fly-halves in the world.

But I think the mess that Wales are in will catch up with them. They have to beat two of Australia, Georgia and Fiji. I think it will just be too much for this Welsh team, as the physicality and agility of the Fiji team giving them the edge.

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