Rugby World Cup 2023: Guide to Pool A and B

New Zealand and Ireland are hoping to get out of their respective pools unscathed
©Steve Haag

France vs New Zealand feels like a monumental way to kick off the World Cup + watch out for Italy while Pool B might well throw up one or two surprises.

Pool A

  • New Zealand
  • France
  • Italy
  • Namibia
  • Uruguay

Pool A has two clear favourites going into it, that being France the hosts and the iconic All Blacks. The two sides have massive history in World Cups against each other with iconic games in 1999, 2007 and 2011.

I do believe that there could be a chance for an upset with an Italian side, who in the last two seasons, have grown massively in confidence and possibly due to the structure of the fixtures could do, the impossible...

Key Fixtures

The most important fixture in this group is undeniably the tournament's opening game between the two pool favourites.

Other key games could be the loser of France/New Zealand against Italy, but only if the Azzurri can put wins together against Namibia and Uruguay.

The meeting between Namibia and Uruguay itself could be a game to watch as two teams with very few victories in World Cup history will be fighting for their moment in the sun.

Players to Watch

Ange Capuozzo (Italy): After firing himself into the Test rugby scene by creating that magnificent try that led to the Azzurri’s famous win at the Principality Stadium against Wales in the Six Nations last year, his electric feet and pace can cause problems for any side.

Whether it is from the wing or full-back, he is a massive threat having already scored eight tries in 12 appearances.

Will Jordan (New Zealand):  This man is one of the most prolific try scorers Test rugby has seen, but he has such intelligence in how he plays. The lines he runs, when exactly to come off his wing and where to attack are all breathtaking.

If he plays in the games against Uruguay and Namibia, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he challenges for top try scorer and even the record for most tries in a single tournament.

Antoine Dupont (France): Then for the French, there is one man who you just know will perform in some way. Antoine Dupont is simply the best in the world. Just watch him and enjoy. He plays rugby how everybody wishes they could.

Who will go through?

In this pool, I believe that France will top it after winning on the opening night. Then New Zealand will come second, though I do think Italy could be more competitive than people think.

Pool B

  • South Africa
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Tonga
  • Romania

The Group of Death. The Grand Slam winners, the reigning world champions, then a Scotland side who may be peaking at a very convenient time.

Also don’t rule out Tonga who due to eligibility changes, have gained some of the superstars they thought they had lost. They could pose real problems if one of the bigger three teams has an off day.

The current favourites to go through from the pool are the Springboks, especially after their destruction of the All Blacks at Twickenham, and then Andy Farrell's Irish side who haven’t lost yet so far this year.

Key Fixtures

Honestly, I believe this group is the most competitive Rugby World Cup pool.

The two most crucial games for me are South Africa vs Ireland on September 23rd and then the Irish vs the Scots on October 7th. Throw in Tonga's threat and you may be glued to Pool B.

Players to watch

Finn Russell (Scotland): This man’s genius will have to be on display for Scotland if they are to progress in this group against two of the favourites.

Whether it be crossfield kicks, spectacular missed passes or even nutmegging his opponents to score, this man can do it all. I expect to see all of his tricks on show as he aims to unlock some of the best defences in the world.

Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): If there is one man who epitomises the Boks' physicality and their game, it is this man. He is the enforcer for  South Africa, and whilst a lot of his grit work goes unseen, I guarantee in this tournament you will notice this man’s monstrous power in his defence and ball carrying.

Charles Piatau: (Tonga): A man we have seen light up the Gallagher Premiership for years with Bristol, we will finally get to see him at a World Cup. His mazy running and magnificent sidesteps will embarrass any defence - even one as great as South Africa’s.

Who will go through?

I believe that the Springboks will just edge Ireland in this group. Then I’m also 50/50 on this, but I believe Ireland will just edge Scotland.