The 2023 Rugby World Cup will take place in France across nine venues, with the tournament kicking off on Friday, 8 September and the final scheduled for Saturday, 28 October. This means fifty-one days of prime world-class rugby action.
Twenty teams head to France, all aiming to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy, and the group stages comprise four groups of five teams. The top two sides in each pool will qualify for the quarter finals.
We have taken a closer look at each country below and given our account of how they fared at the previous World Cups.
🇳🇿 New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most successful Rugby World Cup teams, with a rich history of success at the tournament. The All Blacks are a record three times winner, and they were the first team to lift the trophy in 1987. They followed that up with victories in 2011 and 2015 and have been runners-up twice, in 1995 and 1999.
Sam Cane is the current New Zealand captain, and he’ll be aiming to lead his country to a record fourth Rugby World Cup. Key to an All Blacks victory will be the form of Beauden Barrett, who can feature at first five-eighth or full-back and was instrumental in New Zealand’s success in 2015.
France have reached three Rugby World Cup finals, in 1987, 1999, and 2011, but have yet to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. Despite having a reputation for producing some of the most talented players in the world, Les Bleus have struggled with inconsistency at major tournaments.
But RWC 2023 could be their year with home advantage. Antoine Dupont is the current French captain, and he’s also a vital player for his country, being rated as one of the best scrum halves in the world.
Italy have participated in every Rugby World Cup but have struggled to make a significant impact, with their best performance coming in 2007 when they reached the quarter finals. Italy’s rugby team are often seen as the weakest of the Six Nations sides, but they have been steadily improving in recent years and have managed to pull off some surprising upsets.
The Azzurri captain is Michele Lamaro, who, despite being only 24, has wisdom beyond his years. Full-back Ange Capuozzo had an excellent Six Nations for his country and will aim to carry that form into the World Cup.
Despite rugby being a relatively small sport in Uruguay, they have managed to qualify for the Rugby World Cup four times. Their best performance came in 2015 when they won two of their four pool games, including a famous upset victory over Fiji.
Like neighbouring Argentina, Uruguay have a reputation for being tough and physical, but they often struggle to compete with the bigger and more established rugby nations. Andres Vilaseca is the current captain, while Santiago Arata will be vital to Los Teros – the scrum half is one of only a handful of players currently playing in Europe.
Namibia have participated in the Rugby World Cup five times previously, but they are yet to win a game in the tournament. Despite this, they have produced some talented players, and their rugby team have been steadily improving in recent years. Johan Deysel captains his country, while flanker Richard Hardwick will be a player to watch for Namibia, having switched allegiance from Australia.
🇿🇦 South Africa
South Africa is a rugby giant with a proud record among this year’s Rugby World Cup qualified teams. They are one of the most successful Rugby World Cup teams, having won the tournament three times in 1995, 2007, and 2019 with their success in 1995 being seen as a symbol of national unity in the post-apartheid era.
The Springboks are known for their physicality and intensity, and they will be hoping to become just the second country to defend the Rugby World Cup, having defeated England in the 2019 final. Siya Kolisi is the current South African captain, while Cheslin Kolbe will be vital to their chances, having been instrumental in their World Cup success in 2019.
Despite being Six Nations champions, Ireland have a mixed record at the Rugby World Cup, with their best performance coming in 2019 when they reached the quarter finals. However, Ireland’s recent performances against top-tier teams, including a test series win in New Zealand, have shown they can compete with the best. Fly-half Johnny Sexton is captain of Ireland, while Bundee Aki is a wrecking ball at outside centre and is very much one to watch at this year’s World Cup.
Scotland have also a mixed record at the Rugby World Cup, with their best performance coming in 1991 when they reached the semi-finals. 2019 saw them exit at the group stages, having lost to Ireland and Japan, but they put in a solid effort in this year’s Six Nations, defeating England, Wales, and Italy.
Under coach Gregor Townsend, they are known for their fast and attacking style of play and have produced some world-class players over the years. Jamie Ritchie is set to captain his country at the World Cup, while winger Duhan van der Merwe is a crucial cog in Scotland’s exciting backline.
Tonga is a nation that have played in every Rugby World Cup, and they are known for their physical and hard-hitting style of play. However, they are yet to progress past the pool stages of the tournament, with their best performance coming in 2007 when they won two matches. Sonatane Takulua captains his nation, and the Toulon scrum-half is also a vital player to his country with his experience in northern hemisphere rugby.
Romania have a long history of participating in the Rugby World Cup, having first qualified in 1987. They have since made eight appearances in the tournament but have never passed the pool stages, and they failed to qualify for the 2019 tournament. They’re back this time, though, led by captain Mihai Macovei who plays his club rugby in France, but they look up against it in a tough pool.
Wales have a rich rugby history, and the national team have participated in every edition of the tournament since its inception in 1987, with their best performance being a third-place finish in 1987 and 2011. However, they go into RWC 2023 after a poor Six Nations campaign and with an ageing squad in the process of rebuilding. Ken Owens is the current Wales captain despite being in the twilight of his career, while winger Louis Rees-Zammit will be a crucial player for his country and is a constant threat on the wing.
Australia have a proud history in rugby and have won the tournament twice, in 1991 and 1999, and have consistently performed well, reaching the final on three other occasions. The Wallabies are known for their attacking flair and creativity, as well as their physicality and discipline, and it will be interesting to see how they perform under their new boss Eddie Jones.
James Slipper is captain of the Wallabies, having taken over from Michael Hooper, who took a break from the game in 2022. But Hooper is a standout performer for his country and will be targeting World Cup success in what’s likely to be his final run out at the tournament.
Fiji are a small island nation that punches above its weight in rugby and are one to watch out for amongst this year’s Rugby World Cup teams. Known for their free-flowing attacking style and physicality, they reached the tournament’s quarter-final stage in 1987 and 2007. Waisea Nayacalevu is the captain of Fiji and a player to watch. He plays domestically for Toulon in France and has excellent knowledge of the northern hemisphere game.
Georgia are a rising rugby force and have regularly participated in the Rugby World Cup since 2003. The national team have made steady progress over the years and is known for its physicality and strong set-piece play, particularly in the scrum.
They defeated Italy in an international friendly in 2022, and they will be aiming for a strong showing in France this year. Fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze is the man who makes Georgia tick, while Merab Sharikadze is the current captain.
Portugal have made great strides in rugby recently but only appeared at one previous Rugby World Cup in 2007 when they were eliminated at the pool stage. However, Portugal are an improving team, and they are well known for their physicality and aggressive style of play. They are a well-disciplined side under coach Patrice Lagisquet, and their current captain is Tomas Appleton, who operates at centre or on the wing.
England are a powerhouse among the Rugby World Cup teams, winning the tournament in 2003 and reaching the final on two other occasions, including in 2019. Known for their strong forward play and tactical kicking game, England are, however, in a rebuilding phase under new coach Steve Borthwick and had a disappointing Six Nations campaign which included a record home defeat by France.
Owen Farrell is the current captain, and he will be aiming for a big showing in France in what’s likely to be his last-ever Rugby World Cup. Maro Itoje is a crucial figure in the England pack with vast experience, having been on two British & Irish Lions tours.
Japan is a nation that have been steadily improving in rugby and made history at the 2015 Rugby World Cup by winning three of their four pool matches, including a stunning upset victory over South Africa. They hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup and again qualified for the quarter-final stage. Known for their speed, skill, discipline, and innovative attacking style, they will again target a spot in the last eight. The current captain of Japan is Michael Leitch, who was born in New Zealand and plays in the back row.
Argentina have a proud rugby tradition and have featured at every Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987. The Pumas have achieved notable success in the competition, reaching the semi-finals in 2007 and 2015. They are a team who have improved in recent years due to them playing in the annual Rugby Championship against Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
They will fancy their chance of topping their pool in this tournament, with England a work in progress. Julian Montoya is the captain of his country, and he currently plays his club rugby in England with the Leicester Tigers.
Samoa are steeped in rugby history and have participated in every Rugby World Cup since 1991. They are a team known for their physicality and power, with a play style built around solid ball-carrying. Samoa have had notable success in the competition, reaching the quarter finals in 1991 and 1995. The team’s players often come from rugby-playing communities in New Zealand and Australia. The current captain of Samoa is Michael Ala’alatoa, who plays for Leinster in Ireland.
The RWC 2023 will be the first time Chile have featured in the tournament, having sealed a spot as one of the qualified Rugby World Cup teams. However, the team have made significant progress in recent years, winning the South American Rugby Championship B in 2018 and earning promotion to the top tier of the tournament. They are an exciting team to watch, willing to attack from all areas of the pitch. Chile’s captain is flanker Martin Sigren, the only Chilean player to play his club rugby in England.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup is set to be one of the most significant sporting events of the year as the best of the northern and southern hemispheres battle it out in France to be crowned winners.
And with home advantage, 2023 could finally be France’s year, having tasted defeat in three finals. Their squad is a potent mix of youth and experience, and they will aim to peak in the autumn in front of their passionate home fans.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup will be held in France, with nine stadiums hosting matches.
Twenty nations are participating in RWC 2023, and we have taken a closer look at all of the Rugby World Cup teams in this article.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup will run from Friday, 8 September until Saturday, 28 October.
South Africa currently hold the Rugby World Cup after defeating England in the final in 2019.