By Ross Sanderson • 11 September 2023 • 14:15
Credit: Rugby World Cup France 2023/Facebook.com
The 10th Rugby World Cup is up and running, with all of the top sides having played their opening games of the 2023 tournament. Who then, after one round, are leading the way as favourites to lift the World Cup trophy on October 28th?
Even before the first whistle on Friday night, Ireland were favourites going into the tournament. Ranked number one in the world, Andy Farrell’s side has been a major force on the international stage for some time. Ireland coasted to the 2023 Six Nations title back in March, winning all five of their games and topping the table by seven points. During the summer, they won all three of their warm-up games against England, Italy and Samoa and have now begun life in France with an outstanding 82-8 victory over Romania in Pool B. The Emerald Isle has only got as far as the quarter-finals in their World Cup history, on seven occasions, but many believe this could be the year they could go much better and take home the Webb Ellis Cup.
Much like Ireland, France has never won the Rugby World Cup before but is looking stronger than ever under head coach Fabien Galthie. Unlike Ireland, however, France has had plenty of opportunities to etch their name on the trophy, having lost in three World Cup finals in 1987, 1999 and 2011. With that said, France is playing the best rugby they have played in decades and has a squad with strength in depth like no other. Additionally, with 2021 World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont leading the way, anything is possible for Les Bleus on home soil. They started this year’s tournament in style, with a 27-13 win over New Zealand.
Three-time World Cup winners, and reigning champions, South Africa have not been the number one favourites leading up to this campaign. You simply can not, however, rule them out of contention. Their physicality and understanding of the game is unmatched, something that clearly showed in their opening round 18-3 victory over Scotland on Sunday afternoon. Many of the squad that won the World Cup in Japan in 2019 still remain but they have also cleverly added a number of young, talented players to their ranks to add an extra threat of pace and agility. With some of the best players on the planet on his side, Jacques Nienaber’s South Africa could easily become the first side in history to win the World Cup on four separate occasions.
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Based in Edinburgh, Ross is an NCTJ-qualified journalist. Having previously lived in Madrid, he specialises in Spanish Culture, Sport and Cuisine.
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