The 2023 Rugby World Cup is almost here, and teams from all over the world are getting ready to play in France for the special Webb Ellis Cup.
We’ve finished getting ready for the tournament after some exciting warmup matches, and now it’s time for the real competition.
Take a look as we give you all the important information about Pool A before the games begin.
RUGBY WORLD CUP 2023
Pool A – New Zealand
Coach: Ian Foster
Captain: Sam Cane
Also known as: All Blacks
Best finish: They were the champions in 1987, 2011, and 2015.
How they got in: They automatically got in because they won a bronze medal in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Player to keep an eye on: Ardie Savea. He’s one of the most experienced players in the All Blacks team. Savea is a fantastic back-row player who can change the game with his skills. He plays as No.8 but is also great as a flanker. He’s 29 years old and is excellent at winning the ball in breakdowns, often turning the game in his team’s favor. Plus, his ball-carrying skills are incredibly powerful, helping his team move forward in the game.
Their Preparation: The All Blacks were doing really well leading up to the World Cup, winning most of their games and even scoring a lot of points in some of them. However, they had a big shock when they lost 37-5 to the Springboks at Twickenham just two weeks before their first game against France. This defeat made their coach, Ian Foster, think a lot because their best players didn’t perform well, and some key players like Shannon Frizell and Brodie Retalick couldn’t play in the opening game. Also, Tyrel Lomax, their first-choice tighthead prop, got a bad thigh injury and won’t be playing for a while. They have one more training camp in Germany before they go to France for the tournament, and they need to fix their mental and emotional challenges before the real games begin.
Their Goal: The All Blacks are aiming for nothing less than winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which would be their fourth title. They’ve worked hard to prepare for the tournament and want to make up for a not-so-great 2022 season. Apart from a tough loss to the Springboks in their final warm-up game, they’ve looked really good. Their first match against France will decide how they progress in the knockout stages. If they finish second in their pool, they might face the Springboks again in the quarterfinals. But regardless, not making it to the final and having a chance to win the trophy would be a huge disappointment for the team in 2023.
Coach: Fabien Galthie
Captain: Antoine Dupont
Also known as: Les Bleus
Best finish: They were runners-up in 1987, 1999, and 2011.
How they got in: France automatically qualified because they are hosting the tournament, and they also reached the quarterfinals in the previous World Cup in Japan.
Player to keep an eye on: Antoine Dupont is a great choice to watch, as he’s one of the best halfbacks in the world and the team’s captain. However, Matthieu Jalibert is another player to watch, especially because he’s taking over as the fly-half (No.10) since Romain Ntamack got injured. Jalibert has a different style compared to Ntamack, being more flashy and dynamic. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he’ll bring something unique to France’s backline, and how well he works with Dupont will be important.
Their Preparation: France has had an almost perfect preparation for the tournament. They’ve lost only three games out of 20 since March 2021, including a 13-game winning streak in 2022. They’re currently ranked third in the world, down from being number one in 2022. Although losing Romain Ntamack to injury is a setback, they have reliable options like Matthieu Jalibert and Antoine Hastoy as fly-halves. What’s been impressive is their ability to win close games, like their last-minute victory over the Wallabies during the Autumn Nations Series last year. Even in their final warm-up against the Wallabies, they showed their strength despite not playing their best.
Their Goal: France has been in the Rugby World Cup Final three times before but hasn’t won the Webb Ellis Cup yet. In 2023, playing on their home turf, they are determined to break this trend and become World Champions. Anything less would be disappointing, especially considering they were ranked number one last year. Their first game against the All Blacks will decide their path in the knockout stages, with either Ireland or South Africa waiting for them in the quarters. So, they know it won’t be an easy journey to victory.
Coach: Kieran Crowley
Captain: Michele Lamaro
Also known as: Azzurri
Best finish: Italy has never advanced past the group stage in the Rugby World Cup, usually ending up in third place in their group except for 1999.
How they got in: Italy automatically qualified because they finished in the top three in their group at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Their Preparation: Italy had a notable year in World Rugby with surprising wins over Wales and Australia. However, in 2023, they struggled to maintain the same level of performance. They entered the tournament on a two-game winning streak, beating Romania 57-7 and Japan 42-21. But in their other seven matches this year, including the Six Nations and World Cup warm-up games against Scotland and Ireland, they faced defeats. The two recent wins against Romania and Japan have boosted their confidence, especially with the return of Ange Capuozzo, who made a strong impact with his skills and versatility.
Player to Keep an Eye On: Ange Capuozzo gained recognition as the World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year last year. He made his debut for Italy in the 2022 Six Nations, scoring two tries in his first game against Scotland and helping set up the winning try against Wales. Capuozzo continued to shine for Italy during the Autumn Nations series, where they achieved their first-ever win over Australia. He’s an exciting and young fullback who recently returned to the team after an injury, and he’s expected to make a significant contribution to Italy.
Italy’s Goal: Italy’s main goal is to finally advance from the group stage, which would be a huge achievement considering their challenging group with New Zealand and France. They’ve been building a strong team for the future over the past two years. However, it’s going to be tough with both New Zealand and France playing exceptionally well leading up to the tournament. If Italy manages to beat either France or the All Blacks, it would be a reason to celebrate. But if they finish third in the group, it would be expected for Kieran Crowley’s team.
Coach: Esteban Meneses
Captain: Andres Vilaseca
Also known as: Los Teros
Best finish: Uruguay has competed in four World Cups so far (1999, 2003, 2015, 2019) and has won one game in three out of four tournaments. They didn’t win any matches in 2015.
How they got in: Uruguay qualified by playing in the Americas region, which included Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, USA, and Canada. They defeated Chile and Brazil to top the Sudamerica Rugby 3 Nations and then had a play-off against the USA, who had topped Canada in their qualifier. Despite losing to the USA in their first match, Uruguay turned things around in the second game and qualified for the World Cup as Americas 1 for the first time in their history.
Their Preparation: Uruguay is considered a tier 2 nation and has played only eight Tests in the last two years, with three of them taking place in the past month. While they didn’t have as much preparation time as some other teams, they are pleased with their three wins this year, especially over their pool opponents, Namibia. In August, Uruguay showcased well-executed tries, using both their strong forwards for mauls and their speedy backline to break through Namibia’s defense. The team has faced some injuries and suspensions, with players like Santiago Civetta unable to recover from an Achilles injury and Franco Lamanna banned for three years due to a doping violation. Nevertheless, Uruguay has a squad with significant World Cup experience, with many players continuing from the 2019 World Cup.
Player to Keep an Eye On: Santiago Arata is a scrum-half who has gained a lot of attention in the French Top 14 league. He now has the chance to show his skills on the world’s biggest rugby stage. Arata has had several impressive seasons with Castres, a team in France. While he’s well-known to French rugby fans, he might not be widely recognized in the global rugby community. However, he played a crucial role in Uruguay’s surprising win over Fiji in the 2019 World Cup and is expected to be a key player again this year. Arata has a super accurate pass, excellent awareness around the ruck area, and isn’t afraid to make big tackles. He’ll add excitement to the tournament with his performance.
Uruguay’s Ambition: After their historic victory over Fiji in the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Los Teros have big goals for 2023. They aim to automatically qualify for the 2025 World Cup by securing two significant wins against Italy and Namibia. In one of the most challenging pools in the tournament, Uruguay will start their campaign with a crucial match against France. But their focus will be on the following week when they hope for a strong performance against Italy before taking on Namibia, where they’ll aim to replicate their previous victory in the World Cup warm-up.
Coach: Allister Coetzee
Captain: John Deysel
Also known as: Welwitschias
Best finish: Namibia has competed in six World Cups (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019) but has yet to secure a win.
How they got in: Namibia qualified by competing in the Africa region qualification. They earned their spot in Paris by defeating Kenya 36-0 to win the Rugby Africa Cup 2022. The qualification process started in 2021 and involved 12 teams, including Namibia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal, Zambia, Ghana, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Uganda, and Cote D’Ivoire. Namibia performed well throughout the 2021 tournament, winning against Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, and finally Kenya.
Namibia’s Preparation: Namibia, another tier 2 nation, had limited time and games to get ready for the World Cup. They played only four matches this year to prepare for the tournament. Their results were mixed, including a tough two-point win over Chile and losses to Argentina XV, United Rugby Championship team the Vodafone Bulls, and their pool opponents, Uruguay. While they displayed resilience and attacking skills by coming back from a 19-point deficit to defeat Chile, their struggle to defend against Chile’s attacks and Uruguay’s ability to break through their defense in the backs are concerning. Additionally, they had difficulties stopping lineout mauls.
Player to Keep an Eye On: Divan Rossouw stood out with a man-of-the-match performance in their World Cup qualifying match against Kenya. This versatile back has made a significant impact in the few games he has played for Namibia. Rossouw chose his studies over participating in the 2019 World Cup but is now heading to the tournament as one of his team’s top players. His impressive ball-running abilities make him a threat on the field. Despite making his debut for Namibia just last year, Rossouw has already scored several tries. He will be a serious challenge for Uruguay, especially considering his performance against them in the warm-up match in August. Rossouw can play on the wing and at fullback, and his strength lies in his vision and ability to handle high balls when playing at fullback.
Namibia’s Goal: In their six previous World Cup appearances, Namibia has never managed to secure a single victory. In 2023, they are determined to change that record. Winning just one game in France would be a significant accomplishment for the Welwitschias, and they have their sights set on their final pool match against Uruguay as the opportunity to achieve it. They also have a bit of interesting history on their side, having beaten Italy in 1991. Although winning will be a tough challenge, the African team is improving and deserves respect from both Italy and Uruguay.