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