Everything you need to know about the World Rugby Calendar

The sun hadn’t even set on this year’s Rugby World Cup before World Rugby announced radical changes that will dramatically shift the landscape of the sport in the coming years.

As the World Cup in France reached its final stages at the end of last month, it was revealed that from 2026 there will be a new international tournament introduced. It’s yet to be officially named but it will consist of two separate divisions, with the games replacing the current Autumn International fixtures.

As well as the new competition, the World Cup will be expanding, with 24 teams set to compete in the 2027 edition, which is taking place in Australia.

How will the new rugby competition work?

World Rugby have revealed that the new international tournament will see 24 teams split into two divisions, each comprising 12 nations. The top division will feature the 10 teams from the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship, alongside two others.

Matches will take place in July and November and will replace the current autumn internationals and traditional tours. However, the tournament will not be an annual event and will take place in alternate years. It will not be held during years when there is a World Cup or a British and Irish Lions tour.

There are hopes that the new format will make the lesser nations more competitive and give them the chance to compete regularly against the top teams. However, this idea has raised some eyebrows.

While the triumphant nations in the second division will be rewarded with promotion, this will not come into play until 2030. That means those countries that are traditionally weaker will have to wait seven years from now for the chance to compete at the top table.

Portugal stunned Fiji at the World Cup last month with a shock win in the pool stage and they’ll rightly feel that in order to continue their progression, regular tests against better opposition would be beneficial.

What other changes have been made to the calendar?

As well as the introduction of a new international competition, World Rugby have also announced plans to expand the World Cup from 20 to 24 teams. This will come into effect at the 2027 tournament in Australia.

The four extra teams will lead to an additional round, with round of 16 matches taking place in between the pool stage and the quarter-finals. The new format will see teams drawn into six pools of four, reducing the length of the tournament from seven weeks to six.

The new World Cup gets underway in October 2027 and there are hopes that the expansion will continue to provide opportunities for more nations to compete on the world stage.

Alongside the World Cup tweaks, the Six Nations is being reduced from seven weeks to six in 2026, with one of the fallow weeks removed. This will allow the autumn internationals in November to be extended to four weeks, culminating in a high-profile grand final.

2024 will also see the introduction of an annual expanded Pacific Nations Cup, giving three additional fixtures every year to Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, Tonga and the USA.

South Africa make history in Rugby World Cup final win

South Africa made history at the weekend by winning a record fourth men’s Rugby World Cup after beating New Zealand in the final.

The tournament in France has finally reached its conclusion, more than seven weeks since it began, with the Springboks coming out on top 12-11 in a cagey final in Paris. The reigning champions secured a second consecutive title as their resolute defence saw them win all three of their knockout stage matches by just one point.

Following yet another incredible tournament, we’ve taken a look at South Africa’s winning journey, as well as all the key moments in France.

South Africa’s Rugby World Cup dominance continues

In a repeat of the 1995 final, South Africa came up against New Zealand on Saturday and raced into a 9-3 lead thanks to the flawless kicking of Handre Pollard. Things went from bad to worse for the Kiwis when captain Sam Kane was sent off for a high tackle on 27 minutes.

Despite their precarious position, New Zealand held firm and cut the lead to 12-11 following a try from Beauden Barrett, which was the first try South Africa have ever conceded in four World Cup finals.

But a missed penalty from Jordie Barrett meant the score remained the same and the holders clung on to retain their crown. South Africa have now won all four finals they’ve been in and their repeat success is down to the consistency of their key players.

Pieter-Steph du Toit led by example as he was awarded player of the match in the final after making a match-high 28 tackles. The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year played the most minutes for South Africa at the tournament and was a key cog in their defensive stability.

Despite not making the initial squad, Pollard came in to replace the injured Malcolm Marx during the pool stage. The fly-half didn’t miss a single kick in the four games he played in, scoring 33 points from seven penalties and six conversions.

While South Africa proved they can never be written off, they weren’t among the pre-tournament favourites and only finished second in their pool following a defeat to Ireland.

And they won all of their knockout stage matches by a solitary point, coming from behind to end France’s 18-match winning run at home before Pollard’s late penalty broke English hearts in the semi-final.

Fireworks go off over Twickenham as England and Wales come from the tunnel ahead of their Summer Nations Series fixture in preparation for the 2023 Rugby World Cup

Rugby Hospitality

England defy expectations despite semi-final heartbreak

The defeat to South Africa in the final four is still raw and there won’t be many England fans that will take solace in finishing third after coming so close in the semis. But after poor preparation and relatively low expectations heading into the tournament, Steve Borthwick’s side objectively did remarkably well.

They won all four of their matches in the pool stage before a professional performance saw off Fiji in the quarter-finals. They looked to have avenged the 2019 final against South Africa as four Owen Farrell penalties put them in the ascendancy.

But Pollard’s penalty in the 78th minute turned the game on its head and despite late pressure, they couldn’t quite find a way through. A 26-23 win over Argentina secured third place and Borthwick will be quietly pleased with his side’s performance.

Farrell finished the tournament as the highest points scorer on 75 thanks to 15 penalties, 12 conversions and two drop goals. The England captain faced criticism throughout the tournament but he stepped up when it mattered to silence his critics.

As England enter a new era under Borthwick, there’s plenty to be positive about and they’ll be confident of repeating the highs of their World Cup campaign when the Six Nations rolls back around in the spring.

France fail to make home advantage count

Ahead of the tournament, all eyes were on hosts France who were fancied as the overwhelming favourites to go all the way.

But odds mean nothing once the players cross the white line and Fabien Galthié’s side blew their best chance in years at claiming a first Rugby World Cup. The hosts enjoyed a 100% record in the pool stage but couldn’t continue that momentum as they narrowly lost out to South Africa in the quarter-finals.

Elsewhere, it was a tournament to forget for Australia, who failed to reach the knockout stage for the first time in their history. They missed out to Fiji, as well as Wales, who topped their pool but lost out to Argentina in the knockouts.

Ireland’s World Cup hoodoo continued as they once again failed to progress past the quarter-finals. A strong pool stage saw them win all four of their matches, including against eventual champions South Africa, but they narrowly lost to New Zealand. Meanwhile, Scotland were in the same pool but suffered an early exit as they finished third.

Rugby World Cup: Will France win their first title?

We’re approaching the business end of the Rugby World Cup and the eight teams left will all secretly be thinking they’ve got a real shot at lifting the famous Webb Ellis Cup later this month.

The tournament has more than lived up to the hype so far, with plenty of top-class rugby, shocks (sorry Australia!) and everything in between.

Australia crash out in pool stage

Despite concerns over their prospects prior to the tournament, England can breathe a sigh of relief that they weren’t this year’s Rugby World Cup surprise early exit. That honour goes to Australia, who have failed to reach the knockout stage for the first time in their history.

Coach Eddie Jones reached the final with England last time out but he failed to repeat history for the four-time world champions. The Wallabies got off to a strong start as they beat Georgia in their opening game but consecutive defeats to Fiji and Wales left their tournament in jeopardy.

Despite winning their final game, they missed out on a quarter-final place after Fiji gained a losing bonus point in their shock defeat to Portugal. With the World Cup heading down under in four years’ time, the Aussies may need a major overhaul in order to re-establish themselves as contenders.

Who will reach the semi-finals?

Following a month-long pool stage, we’ve finally reached the knockouts and eight hopeful sides are vying for a place in the final four. The quarter-finals take place this weekend and ahead of the action, we’ve taken a closer look at the teams involved and how they’ve done so far.

2023 Rugby World Cup Hospitality

Wales v Argentina – Saturday 14th October, 4pm

Having finished fifth at this year’s Six Nations, pre-tournament expectations weren’t particularly high for Wales. Yet they’ve proved any doubters wrong so far, winning all four of their matches in France.

A resounding 40-6 victory over Australia proved they meant business in this tournament as they finished top of their pool ahead of Fiji. Wales have reached the semi-finals in two of the last three World Cups and they’ll be looking to get there again as they come up against Argentina.

The two sides met last year, with Wales narrowly coming out on top, but Argentina beat them and forced a draw over two games in Cardiff in 2021. Michael Cheika’s side also beat England at Twickenham last autumn and they’ll have every confidence of progressing this weekend.

They finished second to England in their pool, beating Samoa and Chile before winning a decisive clash against Japan on Sunday to book their place in the last eight.

Ireland v New Zealand – Saturday 14th October, 8pm

The winner of Wales v Argentina faces the daunting task of meeting Ireland or New Zealand in the semis. Ireland have more than justified their position at the top of the world rankings with a dominant tournament so far, topping their pool ahead of South Africa with four consecutive wins.

They’ve never reached a World Cup semi-final but they’ll fancy their chances this year, particularly considering their recent history against the Kiwis. Ireland beat New Zealand twice last summer, becoming the first touring side since 1994 to beat the All Blacks on home soil.

For New Zealand though, those results are in the past and with a fourth World Cup title in their sights, they’ll have every faith of toppling the world number one side.

They’re not the dominant force they once were, proved by a 27-13 defeat in their opening match against hosts France. But they’ve found their form and they stormed through the rest of their pool matches, including a stunning 96-17 thrashing of Italy.

England v Fiji – Sunday 15th October, 4pm

After losing three of their four World Cup warm-up matches, there were fears that England were set for a disappointing time in France under new coach Steve Borthwick. An early red card for Tom Curry against Argentina in their opening game against Argentina threatened to derail their tournament before it had begun.

But the 2019 finalists got the job done before seeing off Japan and thrashing Chile 71-0 thanks to five tries from debutant Henry Arundell. England delivered a lacklustre performance against Samoa in their final group game but a late try from Danny Care maintained their 100% record going into Sunday’s clash with Fiji.

Captain Owen Farrell, who broke Jonny Wilkinson’s points record at the weekend, made it clear that their display against Samoa wasn’t good enough and they’ll need to step it up a level if they want to reach another semi-final. And they face a Fiji side that are licking their wounds following their defeat to Portugal on Sunday.

The Portuguese side upset the odds to claim their first ever World Cup win, edging the contest 24-23. Yet it wasn’t enough to stop Fiji finishing second ahead of Australia, despite losing two of their four group games.

While England will feel they have enough to overcome the South Pacific nation, memories of their warm-up game in August will be fresh in their minds, where Fiji ran out 30-22 winners at Twickenham.

France v South Africa – Sunday 15th October, 8pm

Hosts France went into the tournament as favourites and it’s clear to see why. Fabien Galthié’s side have won all four of their matches so far, including a convincing opening game triumph over New Zealand.

Having lost three finals, they’ll see this as their chance to finally win their first World Cup and they’ll be looking to continue their strong form against holders South Africa this weekend.

They’ll be boosted by the news that star player Antoine Dupont could return from injury. The scrum-half broke his cheekbone during France’s 96-0 thrashing of Namibia, missing their final pool match against Italy.

Three-time winners South Africa finished second to the imperious Ireland in their pool and there aren’t many tougher tests in world rugby at the moment than France. They met last November, where France came out on top for the first time since 2009 with a narrow 30-26 win.

If England overcome Fiji, they’ll be watching this clash in anticipation as they’ll face the winners in a semi-final clash in Paris next weekend. The Rugby World Cup final takes place the following week on Saturday 28th October.

England make dream start to their Rugby World Cup campaign

Inspired by the right boot of George Ford, England overcame adversity in their first game of the Rugby World Cup to make a statement 27-10 win with 14-men against Argentina.

England showcase their resilience in classic World Cup victory

Receiving a red card within three minutes was probably not the start to the World Cup campaign that English fans envisaged. Tom Curry was unfortunately the culprit when his yellow card was upgraded to a straight sending off for a clash of heads with Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia – and just like that Plan A was thrown out of the window.

What followed that early set back, however, was a true testament of the team’s resilience and togetherness. In a first half that had shadows of England’s victorious 2003 World Cup campaign, George Ford decided to bring back the drop kick back into fashion.

After the confidence of landing his first at 3-3, Ford took range from the half way line for his second attempt with the same result. Argentina tried getting in on the action themselves but couldn’t execute the art as effectively as England’s No.10 who converted a third drop kick before half time to take his nation into a 12-3 lead at the break.

It was easy to forget that Steve Borthwick’s side came into the tournament with an overarching sense of dread after an underwhelming year of international results. A breathtaking first 40 minutes was followed by an extremely well controlled second period, consolidating what was by a distance England’s best performance under head coach Borthwick.

Anyone who turned up late to the match on Saturday evening would be forgiven for thinking the Pumas were the team restricted by having a man down. England controlled every aspect for the majority of the 80 minutes, only succumbing to the South American’s late pressure for a mere consolation try in the final minute.

Courtney Lawes captained fantastically, Manu Tuilagi encapsulated the whole performance with his endless bundle of energy in the midfield and George Ford orchestrated a classic victory and the perfect start for England against one of the main challengers in their World Cup pool.

2023 Rugby World Cup Hospitality

France make the perfect start; South Africa put on clinical display

It was an opening weekend of the 2023 Rugby World Cup that saw few shocks but entertained with incredible performances.

All eyes were on the Stade de France for France’s opening match of the World Cup against the All Blacks. Often these occasions can fall short of the hype that surrounds them but in a match between two sides that could likely meet again for the final in six weeks time it was the hosts France who were able to land the early blow in this years’ fascinating competition.

The two heavyweight sides looked well matched for most of the contest but with the support of the national stadium behind them, France dug deep to create a healthy cushion in the final quarter.

Despite being disheartened at full time after their first ever pool stage defeat, the All Blacks will take encouragement from the fact opening weekend defeats aren’t fatal. In a group also containing Italy, Uruguay and Namibia they will still be firm favorites to make the last eight.

Elsewhere in the tournament Wales got off to a fine start with a 32-26 win against Fiji in the final match of a gripping weekend. Warren Gatland’s team looked comfortable with a 12-point lead but a late Fiji comeback set up a dramatic ending in which Wales were able to hang on to secure the win in an eight-try thriller.

Reigning champions South Africa also started with a win by wearing down Scotland in a low scoring but ruthless display. Following their headline win over New Zealand in the build-up, the Springboks are highly tipped by many to go all the way again in 2023 and showcased those credentials on Sunday with an 18-3 victory at Scotland’s expense.

After a solid year so far, Scotland won’t be too discouraged by the defeat against the world champions but will have to put in a near perfect display throughout the rest of their pool fixtures after reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland thrashed Romania by 74 points on Sunday as well.

What’s coming up next?

England’s next opponents in Pool D will be Japan. Steve Borthwick’s side will take a lot of confidence and momentum from their win against Argentina that now makes them favorites to top their group. If they can manage the challenges of Japan, Chile and Samoa to finish top, they will likely play one of Australia or Wales in the quarter finals.

Welsh hopes of making to the knockout stages were helped by Australia’s victory over Georgia on the opening weekend. Portugal are the next opponents for Wales in Pool C, whilst Eddie Jones’ Australia turn their attention to a dangerous match up with a Fiji side that beat England in the warm ups and showed a lot of spirit in their opening match.

On the other side of the draw, tournament favourites France, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa will be looking to avoid any unexpected headlines against lower ranked sides in their pools; while Scotland get a week off to reflect on their loss to South Africa and what was an electric start to the 2023 World Cup.

England’s remaining World Cup pool fixtures:

Sunday 17 September – England v Japan, Stade de Nice

Saturday 23 September – England v Chile, Stade Pierre Mauroy

Saturday 7 October – England v Samoa, Stade Pierre Mauroy

What we learnt from England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match

With the Rugby World Cup now less than a month away, all 20 nations are well underway in their preparations for the tournament in France.

England took on Wales in the first of four warm-up matches in Cardiff last week and while it may not have gone the way coach Steve Borthwick would have hoped, he will have learned plenty about his side’s capabilities.

Wales came out on top, beating England 20-9 in a low-scoring affair at the Principality Stadium. The hosts adopted a defensive gameplan in the first half, with George North coming to their rescue to prevent two England tries.

England were on top throughout the first period but failed to turn their dominance into points. Borthwick’s side went into the break 9-6 up thanks to three penalties from Marcus Smith.

But their failure to score tries came back to bite them as Wales improved in the second half. Warren Gatland’s team gained 22 turnovers after the break and converted two tries as they scored 14 points without reply.

Borthwick had pretty much decided his World Cup squad prior to the game but he used the Wales match to give a few players their final opportunity to impress. Unfortunately, it didn’t go to plan for some of them, with eight of those that featured in Cardiff cut from the final squad that was named on Monday.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

What to expect from the second game against Wales?

England continue their World Cup warm-up games this weekend as they welcome Wales to Twickenham for a return fixture. Should they win their pool at the World Cup, there’s a good chance they’ll face either Wales or Australia in the knockout stage, so testing themselves against Gatland’s side is invaluable for their preparation.

Borthwick will be keen to see his side be more clinical this weekend, having dominated for periods without return against Wales last Saturday. With England’s 33-man World Cup squad now confirmed, the line-up this weekend may be more of a reflection of what we can expect to see against Argentina in their opening game in France.

For Wales, Gatland is not planning on naming his squad until after their match against South Africa next Saturday. They may choose to experiment with their line-up at Twickenham, giving England an opportunity to control the game and build some momentum.

Borthwick has chosen to take three fly-halves to France so all eyes will be on who gets the nod against Wales and whether this has any bearing on who will be first choice. Owen Farrell sat out against Wales but he remains captain so will be expecting to start.

Yet his versatility at being able to play centre could give an opportunity for Marcus Smith or George Ford to make the position their own.

England take on Wales at Twickenham at 17:30 on Saturday and you can watch the action in style with one of our exclusive hospitality packages.

England’s World Cup squad

Borthwick named his World Cup on Monday and among the surprise omissions were Exeter Chiefs centre Henry Slade and Harlequins star Alex Dombrandt. Slade has played at the last two World Cups but he’ll be disappointed to have missed out this time around.

Meanwhile, Dombrandt’s exclusion has raised a few eyebrows considering Billy Vuniploa, who hasn’t played since April, is the only recognised No. 8 in the squad. Dombrandt would have provided ideal competition but Borthwick may feel that the likes of Lewis Ludlam, Ben Earl and Tom Curry can deputise if necessary.

Since taking over from Eddie Jones as England’s head coach in December, Steve Borthwick has trusted Owen Farrell with the armband and will do once again in France with the announcement that he will captain the side in his third World Cup.

This also suggests that Owen Farrell will be England’s first choice fly-half heading into the tournament, but his ability to play as a centre could benefit Marcus Smith or George Ford who will also be a part of England’s plans in France.

The England squad is packed full of experience, with more than 1,400 caps between them, although 16 of them are in line to make their World Cup debuts.

They’ll all be keen to make an impression in England’s final three warm-up games before the tournament gets underway next month. Following Saturday’s match against Wales, Borthwick’s side travel to Ireland on 19th August before hosting Fiji a week later.

Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Tom Curry, Theo Dan, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, George Martin, David Ribbans, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Billy Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis.

Backs: Henry Arundell, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Standout players to watch during the Summer Nation Series

The biggest competition in international rugby is nearly upon us. With just over a month until the top twenty teams in the world touch down in France for start of the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the 8th September, nations will be put through intense training camps and a Summer Nation Series to prepare for the tournament.

With some of the home nations going head-to-head in front of packed crowds at Twickenham, the Principality Stadium and the Aviva Stadium, here are some exciting names to keep an eye on during the warm-up matches who could make the difference for their nations in September…

Harry Arundell – England

England have been on a rocky ride since they reached the final of the World Cup four years ago in Japan. After a run of poor form and disappointing Six Nations campaigns, they parted ways with Eddie Jones in December but have still been searching for their identity under new head coach Steve Borthwick.

However Harry Arundell, Premiership Rugby’s young player of the season in 2022, is one England’s young stars giving fans hope of a bright future.

Now playing for Racing 92 in France, the 20-year-old broke onto the scene at London Irish in the Rugby Premiership, scoring a collection of breath-taking individual tries which earnt him a place in the England squad for their tour of Australia last summer where he went on to score with his first touch in international rugby.

Primarily a full-back, Arundell will have to compete with another young talent in Leicester Tiger’s Freddie Steward or with England’s experience on the wing if he is to make an impact this autumn at the World Cup. But expect fireworks if he is able to find his place in Steve Borthwick’s plans during this August’s Summer Nations Series.

Marcus Smith – England

Since taking over as head coach of the English side in December, Steve Borthwick has been faced with the same selection conundrum that Eddie Jones was faced with at the back end of his tenure – how do you fit Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith in the same team?

Finishing an underwhelming fourth in the Six Nations this spring, Borthwick is also yet to crack the puzzle and it’s a debate that is bound to be brought to the surface once again during England’s warm up fixtures this month.

One thing that is indisputable though is that Marcus Smith can be the future of English Rugby. The 24-year-old fly-half has the ability to orchestrate and win matches almost single-handedly as he’s shown on a weekly basis with the Harlequins. Smith has also made his impact on the international stage with 21 caps, multiple Man of the Match awards and ending the 2022 Six Nations as the highest points scorer in the competition.

Whether he is paired alongside Farrell in the team or given the freedom by Borthwick to dictate matches like he has done so effectively at club level remains to be seen, and it is a big question that could be answered during England’s Summer Nation Series preparation fixtures.

Rugby statue outside Twickenham Stadium

James Lowe – Ireland

Ireland will head to France in September as one of the favourites to reach the final. In the Autumn International Fixtures last year they defeated current world champions South Africa and Australia before they secured the fourth Grand Slam in their history as they beat the rest of their rivals to win the 2023 Six Nations Championship in March.

Winger James Lowe was an ever present figure on their way to the historic achievement. After experiencing a reasonably quiet start to his rugby career, Lowe has made up for a slow start since making his debut for Ireland three years ago. He played a vital role in Ireland’s international triumphs, including finishing as their top try scorer in each of the last two editions of the Six Nations.

If Ireland are to become the second team from the Northern Hemisphere to become world champions, Lowe and the rest of the back three in Hugo Kennan and Mack Hansen rather pick themselves for the squad and could be the key names for them yet again when they look to land a blow against England in their Summer Nation Series fixture at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 19 August.

Louis Rees-Zammit – Wales

Like England, Wales are also in the midst of a tough transitioning period ahead of the World Cup. Alun Wyn Jones – star of Wales’ Six Nations wins in 2019 and 2021 as well as their run to the World Cup semi finals in Japan – recently announced his retirement from international rugby.

As they look to transition to a younger team, players like Louis Rees-Zammit will be key for Wales and their best chance of matching their impressive run deep into the knockout phase four year ago. The 22 year-old winger – who plays for Gloucester in the Premiership – believes his best is yet to come having already made 25 appearances for Wales and becoming the youngest player to be selected by the British & Irish Lions in 62 years back in 2021.

Wales face two major challenges during their Summer Nation Series against England. The double header at the Principality Stadium and Twickenham Stadium will be important tests for both sides and a chance to gain some much-needed confidence before the group stages.

With young names such as Harry Arundell, Marcus Smith and Louis Rees-Zammit searching for career defining performances ahead of the 2023 World Cup, the stage is set for an incredible few months of international rugby.

Rugby World Cup 2023: Who will win the tournament in France?

If you’re worried about an incredible summer of sport coming to an end, don’t worry – the Rugby World Cup means that autumn promises to be just as good.

We’re less than two months away from the tournament kicking off in France and after reaching the final back in 2019, England will be desperate to go one step further this time around.

But with a new coach at the helm and plenty of strong competitors to be wary of, it won’t be an easy ride. Ahead of the World Cup commencing on 8th September, we’ve taken a look at England’s chances, as well as the likely contenders to reach the final on 28th October.

Can England win the Rugby World Cup?

The good news for England is that they’re on the kinder side of the draw and have a fairly easy looking pool that they should comfortably get out of. The bad news is they haven’t enjoyed the best few months under new coach Steve Borthwick.

The former lock replaced Eddie Jones back in December but could only guide the Red Rose to a fourth-place finish in the Six Nations, losing three of their matches. Borthwick is still finding his feet and with a mix of experience and exciting prospects in his squad, there’s hope that England can rediscover the form that guided them to the final last time out.

They’ll face Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile, with Wales or Jones’s Australia their likely quarter-final opponents should they win their pool. Yet while they’ll avoid all of the favourites until at least the semis, there’s a worry that the tournament will be deemed a failure if they fail to reach the final four.

Captain Owen Farrell was the second-highest points scorer back in 2019 and along with the likes of Manu Tuilagi, George Ford and Elliot Daly, England have a host of options in their backline. And they have a wealth of experience to call upon in the scrum in Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje and Joe Marler.

England are ranked sixth in the world and are undergoing a transitional period so the pressure on them is relatively low. But with the final in Japan still fresh in the memory, a few strong performances in their early games will have them dreaming of repeating their iconic 2003 World Cup triumph.

Who are the contenders?

France are the favourites and with the tournament taking place on home soil, it’s their best opportunity yet to win their first Rugby World Cup. Having lost three finals in their history, including in 2011, they’re looking to go one better this time around.

In Antoine Dupont they have one of world rugby’s best players in their ranks and he’ll be key to them continuing their impressive form. Their defeat to Ireland in this year’s Six Nations is their only loss in the last two years.

Elsewhere, Ireland are ranked number one in the world after sailing through the Six Nations by winning every match. Last summer they became the first touring side since 1994 to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand.

World Rugby Player of the Year Josh van der Flier will lead them from the front while Johnny Sexton will want to go out with a bang ahead of his retirement after the tournament. However, Ireland will be aware that they’ve never reached a World Cup semi-final.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

New Zealand will always be a contender and they’ll be looking to claim their fourth Rugby World Cup, having won it in 1987, 2011 and 2015. The All Blacks are not as formidable as they once were but they’re still a threat and they’ve won two of the last three Rugby Championships.

Three-time champions South Africa are defending their crown after beating England in the final in Japan. But they’ve not been at the races since and may not quite have enough. Meanwhile, Australia are on the favourable side of the draw. They’ll avoid most of the big boys until the semis and could face England if they win their pool.

Any dark horses?

Argentina are ranked eighth in the world and if they can shock England in their first game, just as they did at Twickenham last November, they’ll build momentum and could spring a surprise.

Few are predicting Scotland to get out of a pool that contains Ireland and South Africa. However, if they land a shock result and progress to the knockouts they’ll feel they can beat anyone.

Wales always show up and got to the semi-finals four years ago, beating Australia to win their pool. Likewise, Japan also topped their pool ahead of Ireland and Scotland when they were hosts so they may be in with a shout at reaching the latter stages.

Rugby World Cup warm-up games

Ahead of the tournament, England will play four warm-up games in order to get in the best shape possible. You can watch them prepare from the best seats in the house with our exclusive hospitality packages:

●    Wales v England – Saturday 5th August, 5:30pm

●    England v Wales – Saturday 12th August, 5:30pm

●    Ireland v England – Saturday 19th August, 5:30pm

●    England v Fiji – Saturday 26th August, 3:15pm

Rugby World Cup France – Will the hosts go all the way?

The second round of Six Nations fixtures saw a classic encounter between Ireland and France, with the Irish coming out on top 32-19 in Dublin.

It was a breathless match between arguably the two most in-form teams in world rugby – France, the reigning Grand Slam Champions and Ireland, the number one ranked team in the world.

Unfortunately, due to the peculiarities of the World Cup draw which was made in 2020, the thrilling match will not be a World Cup Final preview, as both teams are on the same half of the draw, and destined to meet at either the quarter-final or semi-final stage.

However, it is very possible that one of those two teams will end up as world champions, and with home-soil advantage, the case for France is pretty compelling.

How have France performed in previous tournaments?

For French rugby, the World Cup represents a series of missed opportunities. Les Bleus have competed in every tournament since the World Cup began in 1987 and have reached the final on three occasions, of all the Six Nations sides, only England has a better record.

Yet, the narrative of France at the World Cup has been one characterised by self-implosions. 2007 springs to mind, when the French were hosts and strong contenders before losing to Argentina in Paris in the opening match.

Les Tricolores followed this with a quarter-final victory over New Zealand in Cardiff, only France could be so awful one week and so brilliant the next.

The 2007 campaign ended in a semi-final defeat to England, after finishing the break 5–6 ahead the hosts lost 14-9. Their World Cup misery was complete with a defeat to Argentina again in the bronze medal match.

France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Four years later in 2011, France’s World Cup campaign was marked by turmoil within the camp; reports before the tournament indicated as many as 25 of the 30-member squad had turned against head coach Marc Lièvremont.

In pool play, France had unimpressive wins over Japan and Canada, an expected loss to New Zealand, and a shock loss to Tonga.

Despite the losses, they qualified for the knockout stage. At this time, the players effectively rebelled against Lièvremont; after the tournament, Harinordoquy would tell the French rugby publication Midi Olympique, “We had to free ourselves from his supervision.”

In true French fashion, the team responded by defeating England 19–12 in the quarter-final and controversially beating Wales 9–8 in the semi-final

The French proved admirable opponents in the final, however, losing out to hosts New Zealand 8–7 to finish second for the third time in a Rugby World Cup.

The 2011 tournament left many wondering if the French would kick on, under a new head coach as a unified team. However, the ensuing decade was something of a decline for French rugby, punctuated by moments of individual brilliance.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

Even with current head coach Fabien Galthié in charge, the 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan exposed France’s tendency to implode – 17 points ahead in the first half against Argentina and Tonga only to be hanging on by a thread in the final stages. In the quarter-final, Les Bleus were 12-0 up against Wales but failed to score a point in the second half, in part due to the dismissal of Sébastien Vahaamahina for violent conduct – they lost the game 20-19.

Since the tournament’s inception in 1987, Ireland has never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage – it’s a classic sporting curse, equal to England and penalty shootouts or Tim Henman and Wimbledon semi-finals.

The closest Ireland has come to a semi-final was back in 2015, when they lost to Argentina at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Ireland had defeated France in the last pool game, avoiding a quarter-final clash with New Zealand in the process. A match against underdogs Argentina was seen as Ireland’s best-ever opportunity to break the quarter-final curse, but, after coming back from a 17-point deficit to come within 3 points of The Pumas, Ireland eventually lost 43–20.

Could it be France’s year?

In spite of a chequered World Cup past France do go into the tournament, at the time of writing, as favourites, and there is good reason for this.

Before the defeat to Ireland in the Six Nations, France were on an unbeaten run since 2021. Les Bleus played 10 Test matches last year and won them all, including victories against South Africa and Australia as well as a Six Nations Grand Slam.

The French also boast some of the finest talents in world Rugby such as star scrum-half Antoine Dupont, winger Damian Penaud and centre Gaël Fickou, not to mention lock Cameron Woki and centre Jonathan Danty who were both absent through injury for the Ireland match.

Combine this with home-soil advantage and a clear, coherent strategy under coach Fabien Galthié and France should be a force to be reckoned with.

Marseille Rugby

Rugby World Cup France 2023

How do France look in their group?

France are currently ranked 2nd in the world thanks to their form over the past two years. Unfortunately for Les Bleus, this has no bearing on the World Cup draw which was made in 2020.

As a result, some of the rankings have changed but the draw has remained the same.

By March 2022, the top-four ranked teams were South Africa, Six Nations champions France, the All Blacks and Ireland. Despite this, all teams will be in the same half of the draw at the 2023 World Cup, meaning two of them will not make it beyond the quarter-finals.

To add insult to injury France were drawn into the same pool as three-time champions New Zealand.

France will play The All Blacks in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup at the Stade de France in September.

A repeat performance of that quarter-final in 2007 and French rugby fans will certainly start believing that this is their year.

It’s a tough draw but the French have already proven they can go unbeaten, week after week, at last year’s Six Nations so why not on the world stage in their back garden?

Rugby World Cup France – Will Ireland go all the way?

As they kick off another Six Nations, many Irish fans will be looking ahead to the World Cup, hoping their team can claim the Web Ellis trophy for the first time in the tournament’s history.

They have every reason to be optimistic too, Ireland is currently the number-one ranked team in the world, following an impressive 2022 which saw them defeat the All Blacks for the first time on New Zealand soil on their way to a historic test victory.

Other highlights in 2022 included the Triple Crown, as Ireland narrowly missed out on Six Nations glory to France. The tournament saw Ireland claim its biggest victory over England at Twickenham since 1964 (15-32).

In fact, Ireland haven’t enjoyed this sort of form since 2019, when they were also the number one ranked team going into a World Cup.

Ireland’s Route to the Final – Updated 26 September

Ireland look like the real deal. After coming out on top during an intense heavyweight battle with reigning champions South Africa, they have taken control of Pool B.

With a mouth-watering clash with Scotland still to come, nothing is guaranteed for Ireland but fans can now begin to dream of what might be possible heading into the knockout phase.

Should they see off their remaining challenges and finish top of their pool, a quarter final clash with the All Blacks looks to be on the cards barring any major shocks to shake up the order in Pool A.

It’s a tough route ahead, but Ireland have proven their ability to mix it with the world’s best under Andy Farrell and will be well placed to enact revenge on New Zealand in a rematch of the same quarter final from four years ago in Japan.

Any Ireland fans who dare to dream of what might lie in wait further in the competition, it is likely that one of Wales or Argentina could be the ones standing between them and a first ever World Cup final should they make the semi-finals.

How have Ireland performed in previous tournaments?

Back in 2018, Ireland were crowned Six Nations champions with a Grand Slam, defeating both England and France away from home along the way. Later that year, as they did in 2022, the Irish defeated the All Blacks, although this time back home in Dublin. With a series victory over The Wallabies in Australia sandwiched in the middle, all of this was enough to cement Ireland’s place as the number-one ranked team going into the 2019 World Cup. The tournament itself, however, did not end in glory.

Despite a rousing victory over Scotland in the opening game of the tournament, Ireland succumbed to a shock defeat against Japan, which ultimately handed them a tougher draw in the knockouts.

The result was a 46-14 hammering to eventual champions New Zealand, as Ireland crashed out at the quarter-final stage. By the tournament’s conclusion, Ireland had fallen to 5th in the world rankings.

Since the tournament’s inception in 1987, Ireland has never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage – it’s a classic sporting curse, equal to England and penalty shootouts or Tim Henman and Wimbledon semi-finals.

The closest Ireland has come to a semi-final was back in 2015, when they lost to Argentina at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Ireland had defeated France in the last pool game, avoiding a quarter-final clash with New Zealand in the process. A match against underdogs Argentina was seen as Ireland’s best-ever opportunity to break the quarter-final curse, but, after coming back from a 17-point deficit to come within 3 points of The Pumas, Ireland eventually lost 43–20.

Could it be Ireland’s year?

Ok, so history isn’t necessarily on Ireland’s side but the form guide certainly is. If the Irish can overcome the mental barrier posed by the quarter-final curse, there’s no reason why they can’t go all the way.

Since the former England defence coach Andy Farrell took charge in 2019, Ireland has quietly established itself as a serious World Cup contender, playing a more expansive, pressing brand of rugby.

Another point to bear in mind is that Ireland’s team is largely made up of Leinster players, arguably the most in-from club rugby team in the world at the moment. Leinster are undefeated in the URC standings and are rightly favourites for the Champions Cup, Europe’s premier club rugby competition.

Once more, Leinster’s crop of Irish players are all entering their prime going into the World Cup, including Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

How do Ireland look in their group?

Given Ireland’s ranking, you might think they would have a favourable draw going into the World Cup. However, the draw was made in 2020, the first year of a World Cup cycle. As a result, some of the rankings have changed but the draw has remained the same.

By March 2022, the top-four ranked teams were South Africa, Six Nations champions France, the All Blacks and Ireland. Despite this, all teams will be in the same half of the draw at the 2023 World Cup, meaning two of them will not make it beyond the… you guessed it – quarter-finals.

Ireland will play South Africa in Pool B and, assuming the top four ranked teams all finish 1st or 2nd in their respective pools, then Ireland must beat hosts France or reigning champions New Zealand to break their quarter-final curse.

Still, the law of averages suggests the curse must be broken at some point, and why not 2023? The Irish proved last year that they are a match for anyone on their day, and the longer the curse goes on the more triumphant that first quarter-final victory will be. You would be a fool to miss it.

Who will fare better – Steve Borthwick vs Warren Gatland

There has been something of a managerial merry-go-round in the world of rugby these past few months, as teams look to make positive changes ahead of the World Cup in the Autumn.

In December 2022, then Leicester Tigers boss Steve Borthwick was appointed England Head Coach following the sacking of Eddie Jones. He takes the realms after leading the Tigers to their eleventh Premiership title during the 2021–22 season, their first in nine years.

He was the outstanding candidate after the departure of Jones, who led England to the final of the 2019 World Cup and a Grand Slam at the 2016 Six Nations.

For much of his time with England, and before as Head Coach of Japan, Jones had Borthwick as his assistant, so he comes into the job with plenty of international experience.

Borthwick will need to draw on all his expertise as England gear up for the 2023 Six Nations. 2022 was the worst year results-wise for England since 2008, but a positive Six Nations will drastically change the mood in the camp ahead of the World Cup, for which the Red and Whites have a very favourable draw.

England won’t be the only team under new management at the Six Nations after Wales rehired Warren Gatland as Head Coach in December 2022. New Zealander Gatland oversaw a period of great success with Wales in his first spell between 2007 and 2019, which saw Wales win four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, and reached the semi-finals of the 2011 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.

Gatland, who rejoins following a brief stint coaching in the New Zealand Super League, also coached the British & Irish Lions on three tours, to Australia in 2013, when they won the Test series 2–1; New Zealand in 2017, when the series was drawn; and South Africa in 2021, losing the series 2–1.

The new-look sides will go head-to-head on 25 February 2023 in the Six Nations at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

The bookies favourites going into the championships are Ireland, the current number-one ranked team in the world following a memorable 2022 series win over New Zealand. However, reigning champions and Grand Slam winners France will be looking to hit their stride before a World Cup in which they will have home advantage. England, Wales and Scotland all failed to impress last time out whilst Italy secured a memorable victory over Wales, their first in the Six Nations since 2015.

Rugby Twickenham

Guinness Six Nations 2023

Six Nations fixtures 2023

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Wales vs Ireland (2.15pm) Principality Stadium, Cardiff

England vs Scotland (4.45pm) Twickenham Stadium, London

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Italy vs France (3pm) Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Saturday, 11 February 2023

Ireland vs France (2.15pm) Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Scotland vs Wales (4.45pm) BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Sunday, 12 February 2023

England vs Italy (3pm) Twickenham Stadium, London

Saturday, 25 February 2023

Italy vs Ireland (2.15pm) Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Wales vs England (4.45pm) Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Sunday, 26 February 2023

France vs Scotland (3pm) Stade de France, Paris

Saturday, 11 March 2023

Italy vs Wales (2.15pm) Stadio Olimpico, Rome

England vs France (4.45pm) Twickenham Stadium, London

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Scotland vs Ireland (3pm) BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Scotland vs Italy (12.30pm) BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

France vs Wales (2.45pm) Stade de France, Paris

Ireland vs England (5pm) Aviva Stadium, Dublin

The results of the Six Nations will give the clearest indication ahead of the World Cup in France as to which of the Northern Hemisphere teams will fare best.

However, there will also be a round of warm-up fixtures in August as teams make their final preparations before the main tournament begins in September.

England and Wales will meet again in back-to-back games, for a battle of wits before both teams begin their respective World Cup campaigns.

Rugby World Cup Warm-ups

England World Cup warm-up fixtures

Wales vs England – Saturday 5 August, Principality Stadium, Cardiff

England vs Wales – Saturday 12 August, Twickenham Stadium, London

Ireland vs England – Saturday 19 August, Aviva Stadium, Dublin

England vs Fiji – Saturday 26 August, Twickenham Stadium, London

Wales World Cup warm-ups

Wales vs England – Saturday 5 August, Principality Stadium, Cardiff

England v Wales – Saturday 12 August, Twickenham Stadium, London

Wales v South Africa – Saturday 19 August, Principality Stadium, Cardiff

There is still plenty of action to whet your appetite before the world’s best rugby players descend upon France in September. Both England and Wales will be hoping to make it out of the Pools, setting up a potential quarter-final clash at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.

However, if Wales win their pool leaving Australia in second place then England will likely face the Wallabies in a quarterfinal clash, under new manager Eddie Jones, who will be looking for revenge after his sacking in December.

There is drama everywhere you look in this blockbuster year for rugby, so be sure to book your tickets before it’s too late.