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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter


RWC 2023: Get to know all 20 teams in action in France

Find out which teams will be in action and in what pools, as well as what their prospects are of making it to the knockout stages.


The 2023 Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on Friday. The 20 teams are divided into four pools of five.

Here is a look at all four pools at the World Cup, with the teams’ prospects.

Pool A

New Zealand

World ranking: Four

Best World Cup showing: Champions (1987, 2011 and 2015)

Captain: Sam Cane

Coach: Ian Foster

Prospects: The All Blacks are outside favourites to win a fourth title. Often the standard bearers of the sport, they are now having to find ways to counter other nations who have innovated their games to suit their players instead of trying to play like the All Blacks. As they are on the tough side of the draw, the three-time champions face the reality of a quarter-final exit.

France

World ranking: Three

Best World Cup showing: Runners-up (1987, 1999, and 2011)

Captain: Antoine Dupont

Coach: Fabien Galthie

Prospects: France have used the last four-year cycle leading to their home World Cup to perfection; they have improved their way of playing which depends on magic from marquee players and increased their depth. They have beaten every tier-one nation in this period, so they have as good a chance as anyone to win the tournament.

Italy

World ranking: 13

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (nine times)

Captain: Michele Lamaro

Coach: Kieran Crowley

Prospects: The Italians have failed to make it past the group stages in all their World Cup appearances. This year in France won’t be easy; they will look to punch above their weight in the hopes of advancing to the knockout stages. The players they have will give it their all, but they will fall short of upsetting France and New Zealand.

Uruguay

World ranking: 17

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (1999, 2002, 2015, 2019)

Captain: Andrés Vilaseca

Coach: Esteban Meneses

Prospects: The South American nation are likely to be the whipping boys of the pool, but they will put out displays that are filled with passion. Even though they know their backs are against the wall, they will want to go all out. Looking at their chances, their passion might fuel them to win against Italy or Namibia which will bring great consolation and reward for their efforts.

Namibia

World ranking: 21

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (six times)

Captain: Johan Deysel

Coach: Allister Coetzee

Prospects: Nambia have been a constant feature at the Rugby World Cup since their first appearance in 1999. It has always been hard for them at the global showpiece, but in France under the guidance of former Bok boss Allister Coetzee and the good player base they have, there’s potential. They will want to make a good impression and perhaps get one win under their belt and avoid finishing last in the pool.

Pool B

Ireland

World ranking: One

Best World Cup showing: Quarter-finals (seven times)

Captain: Jonathan Sexton

Coach: Andy Farrell

Prospects: This World Cup feels like it’s a now-or-never moment for Ireland, and this may well be their best chance to win the Webb Ellis Cup. Farrell’s team play systematic rugby that’s based on players knowing their roles and they have shown they can beat anyone on their day. It won’t be easy progressing in the “group of death” but should they advance, their biggest test will be to overcome their hoodoo in the knockout stages.

South Africa

World ranking: Two

Best World Cup showing: Champions (1995, 2007, 2019)

Captain: Siya Kolisi

Coach: Jacques Nienaber

Prospects: Going into this World Cup as defending champions, the Springboks will be motivated to retain their title and be the second team to defend successfully and the first nation to win the Webb Ellis Cup four times. The players are in tune with the system, and they know that if they play to their strengths they will suffocate teams and prove to much to handle. Should the coaching staff find the right balance in team selection, they have a good chance of going all the way.

Scotland

World ranking: Five

Best World Cup showing: Fourth place (1991)

Captain: Jamie Ritchie

Coach: Gregor Townsend

Prospects: The Scots are the “banana skin team” for Ireland and South Africa, who are among the favourites to win the tournament. As their ranking suggests, Scotland have it in them to beat any side on their day and their pool rivals know it. They will be driven to get a win over the Springboks first-up or Ireland as that will put them in a position to finish in the top two of the pool.

Romania

World ranking: 19

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (six times)

Captain: Cristi Chirica

Coach: Eugen Apjok

Prospects: Romania return to the World Cup stage after missing out on the 2019 edition in Japan. Their ecstasy of returning to the World Cup though is met with sombreness as they are in the “group of death”. The Europeans will probably exit the tournament in the pool stages without a single win. This does not mean they are not good enough; it’s just that the other teams are better than them.

Tonga

World ranking: 15

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (eight times)

Captain: Sonatane Takulua

Coach: Toutai Kefu

Prospects: Teams in Pool B will underestimate Tonga at their own peril as they will be no pushovers in France. Tonga have been the biggest benefactors of the changes World Rugby made regarding eligibility. They have in their squad former All Blacks Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa and many players who have an X-factor about them. Should the likes of Ireland, the Boks and Scotland play fringe players against them, they might be in for a surprise.

Pool C

Wales

World ranking: 10

Best World Cup showing: Third place (1987)

Co-Captains: Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan

Coach: Warren Gatland

Prospects: Wales made it to the last four of the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and they can replicate that feat again in France. Even though they are not the stable side they were four years ago and have struggled somewhat in recent times, they will be up for it as their group is wide open. They need to hit the ground running against Fiji in their first game and build momentum that can carry them to the knockout stages.

Australia

World ranking: 9

Best World Cup showing: Champions (1991, 1999)

Captain: Will Skelton

Coach: Eddie Jones

Prospects: According to Wallabies coach Eddie Jones they have been written off by their media back home and that’s alright. With Jones leading them and former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as a consultant, Australia pose a threat because they have two men who know how to play the World Cup. Getting out of the pool is a priority and they have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals.

Georgia

World ranking: 11

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (five times)

Captain: Merab Sharikadze

Coach: Levan Maisashvili

Prospects: Georgia will feel they have every chance of making it out of their pool as there’s not much separating them from the others in terms of quality and rankings. As most of their players ply their trade in France, they will hope to use their familiarity with the country to their advantage. If they can bring their physicality in the big games, Georgia can be the surprise package of the tournament.

Portugal

World ranking: 16

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (2007)

Captain: Tomas Appleton

Coach: Patrice Lagisquet

Prospects: Portugal will be making their second appearance at a Rugby World Cup in France this year; their first was in 2007 when their European counterparts hosted as well. In 2007 they exited in the pool stages and they are likely to do the same this time around. This World Cup should be used as a stepping stone for the growth of rugby in Portugal having missed out on using the 2007 appearance to put in development measures.

Fiji

World ranking: Seven

Best World Cup showing: Pool stages (eight times)

Captain: Waisea Nayacalevu

Coach: Simon Raiwalui

Prospects: Fiji are the highest-ranked side in their pool going into this World Cup. They are looking like a proper team and have momentum and confidence behind them following their historic win over England at Twickenham in the warm-up matches. They are a team that have put everyone on notice. Having last made the quarter-finals in 2007, Fiji will feel they have a good chance of reaching the last eight again.

Pool D

England

World ranking: Eight

Best World Cup showing: Champions (2003)

Captain: Owen Farrell

Coach: Steve Borthwick

Prospects: The 2019 Rugby World Cup finalists will be hoping to peak when this year’s competition starts. Since the Japan tournament England have been in transition and changed coaches during the process. However, they have shown glimpses of excellence but also complacency in their game recently, so they will want to get rid of any inconsistencies. England have a great shot at reaching the semi-finals as their side of the draw favours them.

Japan

World ranking: 14

Best World Cup showing: Quarterfinals (2019)

Captain: Himeno Kazuki

Coach: Jamie Joseph

Prospects: Japan are the one nation who have had consistent growth in the World Cup; in 2015 they upset the Springboks and in 2019 at home achieved their greatest moment in the game when they made the last eight. Naturally, the semi-finals should be their next target but they will fall short of that this year. Realistically the best result they can get in this edition can be a third-place finish in their pool.

Argentina

World ranking: Six

Best World Cup showing: Third place (2007)

Captain: Julian Montoya

Coach: Michael Cheika

Prospects: Los Pumas have recorded some amazing results in recent years; they have defeated New Zealand, England, Australia and Scotland. This has allowed them to build well in preparation for the Rugby World Cup in France. They have quality players who are driven by passion and they are the perfect fit for their coach Michael Cheika. With their physicality, strong defence and flair, they have a great chance of playing in another bronze medal match.

Samoa

World ranking: 12

Best World showing: Quarterfinals (1991,1995)

Co-Captains: Michael Alaalatoa and Chris Vui

Coach: Seilala Mapusua

Prospects: What’s a Rugby World Cup without Samoa; they are a team that fans around the world are fond of, and they always bring plenty of excitement. They have a rich history at the World Cup; they are regulars who always provide some magic and let’s not forget those bone-crunching tackles. As pool C is wide open, Samoa should be confident and believe that a place in the knockout stages is very much within reach.

Chile

World ranking: 22

Best World Cup showing: Debut

Captain: Martín Sigren

Coach: Pablo Lemoine

Prospects: Chile will be the only debutants at the Rugby World Cup this year. Being among the teams to have qualified shows they have made tremendous strides in recent years. Expectations from the Chileans should be low though; the standard of rugby at the World Cup will be high compared to what they are used to. They should take this experience in France as a learning curve and build from it.

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