2023 Rugby World Cup – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

It’s the biggest show in rugby, starting with the biggest fixture of the pool stages. This year’s Rugby World Cup starts with a bang as France take on New Zealand to kick off what should be an incredible festival of sport, and one which promises huge clashes.

That’s even more true of this Rugby World Cup, where due to the nature of the draw, we have three of the world’s top five – Ireland, South Africa, and Scotland – in Pool B and the tournament’s joint favourites – France and New Zealand – in Pool A, meaning that the market leaders are set to clash at the quarter-final stages according to the current betting.

Given the gap between the big four – Scotland are worthy of huge respect but have not beaten pool rivals Ireland since 2017 and South Africa since 2012 – and the rest on form, strength in depth and the rankings, it would seem unwise not to have one of the big teams on your side and New Zealand may come out best.

That might seem a strange selection to those who saw South Africa smash them 35-7 in the warm-up at Twickenham, but the actual tournament could provide a kinder route to the All Blacks this time around. They do face tournament hosts France (10/3 with starsports.bet) on Friday in what’s sure to be a raucous opener but key injuries to the hosts have levelled the playing field for that encounter and even if they started with defeat, they can quickly get back on the winning trail against Italy, Namibia and Uruguay.

From the quarters things will of course get much harder – they’ll face either South Africa again or Ireland if the betting’s right – but before their one-off test against the Boks they’d won eight straight games including a clean sweep of the Rugby Championship (beat South Africa 35-20 on home soil) – and there’s no doubt this is a stronger outfit than the one that lost a series to Ireland in Summer 2022 or to France in 2021 on home soil.

In Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith, they have a half-back pairing that’s the equal of any in the tournament, whilst centres Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown are worthy of the same praise. Beauden Barrett is an elite fullback on his own terms but also a world-class playmaker, and the records of wings Will Jordan (23 caps, 23 tries) and Mark Telea (3 tries in 5 games) speak for themselves.

Doubters of the All Blacks will point to their forwards, but Ardie Savea is one of the premier 8’s in the game, the same goes for Sam Cane in the back row and the lock pairing of Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett should have a tremendous influence in the knockout stages. The makeup of Pool A – with a big gap on paper between France and their other three rivals – should give them an advantage over their Pool B rivals, with South Africa, Ireland and Scotland all facing each other whilst Tonga will give those three rivals a huge physical test.

Hosts France have been hugely impressive over the past 18 months and have a huge chance, but the loss of Romain Ntamack is a huge blow despite their depth at flyhalf and lock Paul Willemse will be even harder to replace. Johnathan Danty and Cyril Baille’s absence from the opener against New Zealand is a blow as well and the marginal call is for the All Blacks to take tournament glory.

2023 Rugby World Cup
France
Friday 8th September – Saturday 28th October
Live on ITV 1 HD & ITV Hub in UK / RTE Player in Ireland / S4C in Scotland / BBC Sounds for Radio

Past Rugby World Cup Winners
2019: South Africa
2015: New Zealand
2011: New Zealand
2007: South Africa
2003: England
1999: Australia
1995: South Africa
1991: Australia
1987: New Zealand

South Africa peaked at the right time to take glory in Japan and they appear to be doing the same now, with their barnstorming win against New Zealand at Twickenham sending a message for the rest of the rugby world to take notice.

The return of inspirational flanker Siya Kolisi adds to what could easily be called the best forward pack in the tournament, with Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, and Steven Kitshoff making for a fearsome forward pack – whilst the Bomb Squad of Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, and the monstrous Kwagga Smith is ridiculous strength in depth.

The Springboks have sometimes been accused of being one-dimensional but with back three of Makazole Mapimpi, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Damian Willemse, a centre pairing of Andre Esterhuizen and Canan Moodie and a half-back pairing of Faf de Klerk and Manie Libbok, they have plenty of pace and invention in the backline and it will take a huge effort to dethrone them.

Ireland are fourth favourites – and arguably overpriced at 5/1 considering their Number 1 world ranking, incredible cohesion, Grand Slam win, 2-1 series victory in New Zealand and the success of their club sides (Munster won this year’s Ultimate Rugby Championship and Leinster runners up in Champions Cup). Some will worry about their quarter-final heartbreak but a bigger worry might be the toll that such an attritional pool stage could leave on them before the knockouts, leaving them weaker for a clash against either the All Blacks or France. They suffered a similar fate in 2015, when Argentina eliminated an Ireland side that was missing key players due to injury.

There’s a gap between the leading four and the rest of the field, although the draw does give an opportunity for at two sides outside the top five in the world rankings to make it to the semi-finals, and of those Argentina could have the best opportunity.

The Pumas have established themselves as a leading rugby nation since their spectacular performances in two previous World Cups here and under Michael Chieka they’ve progressed further, landing notable wins against Australia in Sydney, England at Twickenham, and the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Whilst they were third in the Rugby Championship, they deserve credit for their hard-fought win against Australia on away soil whilst they competed well against South Africa in their Rugby Championship game and their warm-up fixtures. A pool with a misfiring England side beset by issues, Samoa, Japan and Chile has some banana skin potential but they are worthy favourites to make it through and facing the runners-up in Pool C (Australia, Wales, Fiji, Georgia, Portugal) should hold no fears for a spot in the semi-finals. At that point a price of 22/1 with starsports.bet is likely to be shorter and the Pumas will have no fear of facing any side here given their results over the past two years, and they have plenty of quality to boot through the side.

Backers shouldn’t forget that Argentina are ranked sixth in the World and have a versatile mix of impressive speedsters (Santiago Carreras, Emiliano Boffelli and Mateo Carreras) and powerhouse forwards (Pablo Matera, Julián Montoya, Agustín Creevy, Facundo Isa (Toulon), Pablo Matera, Juan Martín González) who can go toe to toe with any side on their day, making them appealing outsiders considering their likely draw. The 6/4 they are eliminated at the semi-final stage could also be a good cover option for those who think the big sides will be too strong.

Pool Previews:

Pool A: 🇫🇷 🇳🇿 🇮🇹 🇺🇾 🇳🇦 

France and New Zealand are seen as racing certainties to qualify and it would be a shock if anything else happened, for all that Italy have made great strides under Kieran Crowley in recent years. Uruguay are in a tougher pool than 2019 whilst Namibia are still looking for their first win at the tournament and have shipped an average of more than 60 points in their pool matches.

Pool B: 🇿🇦 🇮🇪 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🇹🇴 🇷🇴 

The Pool of death, as South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and Tonga go head-to-head (with Romania looking outmatched on paper. At their best there’s little between the big three and Scotland should not be ruled out for all that their record against Ireland (lost last eight games) and South Africa (lost last seven games) doesn’t read well. Tonga’s benefit from a rule change allowing players to switch nations means that with former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Charles Piutau in the side they should be competitive. The prices look right here with South Africa just favoured over Ireland – and Scotland might be overpriced at 9/1.

Pool C: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 🇦🇺 🇫🇯 🇬🇪 🇵🇹 

A competitive pool with Fiji breathing down the necks of Wales and Australia, who have both been suffering with their own issues in the leadup to this tournament. Georgia – who won in Cardiff last year – are also in the mix of what could be the second most competitive pool of the tournament. The loss of Caleb Muntz to a knee injury is a major blow but Fiji – who dominated the Pacific Nations Cup, beat England in a warm-up at Twickenham and also pushed France close in Nantes.

Pool D: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 🇯🇵 🇦🇷 🇼🇸 🇨🇱 

It was a surprise to many when Argentina topped Pool D in 2007 but there’s no doubting their talents and they look deserving favourites for this section. They’ve beaten England, Australia and New Zealand away in the past 12 months and deserve favouritism for their clash against the Red Rose in Marseille, whilst they don’t have anything to fear from Japan (defeated by Italy, Fiji and Samoa in warmups), nor Chile (ranked 22nd in World), with Samoa looking the biggest threat. Seilala Mapusua’s squad features former All-Blacks Lima Sopoaga, Steven Luatua and Charlie Faumuina, along with the former Wallaby fly-half Christian Leali’ifano, and they can push more fancied rivals close.

🏉 Top Tryscorer

Previous winners tell us that it pays to back a winger for a team with prospects of reaching the semi-finals or further who will get opportunities against Tier 2 sides in the pool stages, so it’s natural to look towards France and New Zealand, who play Uruguay and Namibia in their Pool after their big clash to open the tournament, whilst both will be expected to score plenty of points against Italy despite the Azzuri’s improvement.

Damian Penaud is a worthy favourite, but Will Jordan’s record of 23 tries from 25 caps is extraordinary and his profile makes outstanding appeal. Able to play at wing or fullback, he has scored against high class opposition such as the Wallabies and All Blacks – and he will be a key threat in the tournament opener against France – but such versatility could also earn him a start against one of Namibia or Uruguay, whilst he would be a short price to score against Italy.

With his pedigree undoubted, tries in the knockout stages could follow and should the All Blacks get to the semis (4/7 with starsports.bet) then it’s hard not to imagine him being seriously involved and he should at least give backers of him at


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a serious run for their money.

It will be incredibly hard to keep the French down on the point-scoring front so Damien Penaud is a worthy favourite at 13/2 for those interested.

Given the quality of Pool B – and the sheer size of the packs involved – opportunities for tryscoring may not be as easy, but that hasn’t stopped Kurt Lee-Arendse  (


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 with starsports.bet) from making a sensational start to life as a Springbok, scoring 10 tries in 11 tests since last August. In that run he’s crossed the line against the All Blacks, Argentina, Ireland, France, England, Italy and Australia, who quality of opposition hasn’t hampered him and his ability to play at full-back as well as wing is another string to his bow. The Springboks are a hugely powerful side but they create more now than in 2019 and if they go far then it’s unlikely Arendse will not be closely involved.

Mateo Carreras (


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with starsports.bet) has scored in each of his last three tests and could get full set out of outings in Pool D against rivals who the Pumas should feel confident of taking on, all things considered. England and Japan have suffered plenty of defensive issues in the leadup, and the Pumas will fancy their chances of putting points on Chile.

None of the Pool C contenders make appeal to get to the semi-finals despite the possibility of high scoring games (the Wallabies and Fiji may be the team to look towards if you’re that way inclined).

Top Pointscorer

Thomas Ramos is one of the best goalkickers at the tournament and his record speaks for itself. He topped the Six Nations charts with 84 points, he’s scored at least 14 points in his last ten tests, and he plays for a French side that will be heavy favourites in three pool games before a quarter-final on home soil where goalkicking will be a premium.

Have a second option onside in the shape of Emiliano Boffelli, Argentina’s ace goal kicker who will have a chance of getting plenty of points in all four of his pool fixtures before a potential quarter-final against a side that has conceded a lot of points this year in the shape of either Australia, Wales or Fiji from Pool C. Boffelli is also a try scoring threat and 11/2 looks fair about him making a big impact on the tournament.

WILLIAM KEDJANYI

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Author: Eugene Morris