Rugby World Cup: The Main Contenders

rugby world cup 2023

No Premier League football this coming weekend, as the latest round of England fixtures takes centre stage. Important as those European qualifiers are, the biggest international show is to be found in the oval ball game, as the spectacular 2023 Rugby World Cup begins in Paris.

Kicking off in sensational style as hosts France play host to the All-Blacks on Friday evening, the tournament provides almost two months of entertainment leading up to the final on the 28th of October. Always the most watched and bet upon event on the Rugby programme, the latest edition will be no exception. Here we look at the contenders for glory in the race to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, using data presented by

New Zealand

  • Betting Odds - 3/1 with BetUK
  • Official World Ranking - 4
  • Coach - Ian Foster
  • Captain - Sam Cane
  • Previous Best World Cup Performance - Winners (1987, 2011, 2015)

Warm Up Results

  • Argentina 12 – 41 New Zealand
  • New Zealand 35 – 20 South Africa
  • Australia 7 – 38 New Zealand
  • New Zealand 23 – 20 Australia
  • New Zealand 7 – 35 South Africa

Three-time winners New Zealand are almost always towards the head of the World Cup betting, and things are no different in 2023, with the All Blacks just shading favouritism in most lists. Dominant in the Rugby Championship (consisting of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina), they are nevertheless still only the fourth-best side in the world according to the official rankings.

New Zealand fans took a while to warm to the methods of coach Ian Foster, but the 58-year-old now appears to be winning the public over. Foster also has useful experience to call upon, having been part of the coaching team during the All Blacks' successful 2015 World Cup campaign.

New Zealand had been ticking along very nicely, with comprehensive wins over South Africa, Argentina and Australia, but haven’t been so impressive in their two most recent outings. Can they rediscover their top form in time for the big event?


  • Betting Odds - 3/1 with 10Bet
  • Official World Ranking - 3
  • Coach - Fabien Galthié
  • Captain - Antoine Dupont
  • Previous Best World Cup Performance - Runners Up (1987, 1999, 2011)

Warm Up Results

  • Scotland 25 – 21 France
  • France 30 – 27 Scotland
  • France 34 – 17 Fiji
  • France 41 – 17 Australia

As the tournament hosts, France will have the support of a nation behind them in their bid to lift the famous trophy for the first time in their history. Can they finally get the monkey off their back, having finished as runners-up on three occasions?

Had that question been asked in 2022, the answer would have been yes, they can. Sensational in the Six Nations a year ago, France were riding the crest of a wave and would likely have started clear favourites here. 12 months on, and Les Bleus remain a side to be feared, but they had to play second fiddle to Ireland in defence of their Six Nations crown and struggled mightily in two recent clashes against Scotland.

France could also have done without the injuries to the influential duo of Romain Ntamack and Paul Willemse in the lead-up to the event. Under the guidance of the mercurial Antoine Dupont, they should still sail through the Group, but a potential Quarter Final clash against South Africa or Ireland will pose a far stiffer question.

South Africa

  • Betting Odds - 10/3 with LiveScoreBet
  • Official World Ranking - 2
  • Coach - Jacques Nienaber
  • Captain - Siya Colisi
  • Previous Best World Cup Performance - Winners (1995, 2007, 2019)

Warm Up Results

  • South Africa 43 – 12 Australia
  • New Zealand 35 – 20 South Africa
  • South Africa 22 – 21 Argentina
  • Argentina 13 – 24 South Africa
  • Wales 16 – 52 South Africa
  • New Zealand 7 – 35 South Africa

South Africa will have happy memories of the last time this tournament took place in France, with the Springboks coming out on top in that 2007 edition. They also arrive as the defending champions, having put England to the sword in the 2019 final in Japan. Could they become the first nation to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on four occasions?

On the back of recent results, many Rugby fans believe they may prove up to the task. Unlike New Zealand, whose form has taken a slight dip of late, South Africa appear to be finding their stride at just the right time. Miles too good for Wales, they then really made the world sit up and take notice when hammering New Zealand in a warm-up match at Twickenham. The All Blacks were a man down for the entirety of the second half in that game, but it was nevertheless an impressive display from Jacques Nienaber’s men.

When looking through the squad, it’s hard to pick out many areas of weakness, with the forward pack being the most feared in the game and backs Makazole Mapimpi and Chesslin Kolbe capable of cracking any game open.


  • Betting Odds - 5/1 With BetUK
  • Official World Ranking - 1
  • Coach - Andy Farrell
  • Captain - Johnny Sexton
  • Previous Best World Cup Performance - Quarter-Finals (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2011, 2015, 2019)

Warm Up Results

  • Ireland 33 – 17 Italy
  • Ireland 29 – 10 England
  • Ireland 17 – 13 Samoa

England’s 2003 success remains the only World Cup victory for a Northern Hemisphere nation. If that is to change in 2023, then Andy Farrell’s Ireland outfit are surely the side most likely to do it. Dispatching France in the opening fixture of this year’s Six Nations, Ireland never looked back as they swept the field to register an inspirational Grand Slam.

That high level has largely continued since the springtime tournament, with the winning sequence of the Irish now extending to 13 matches. A little lacklustre in their final tune-up against an improving Samoa, they had previously been impressive when way too good for both Italy and England.

The current hot streak sees the Irish head into the World Cup as the number 1 ranked side in the World. As such, some may be surprised that they are not favourites to win it all. That 5/1 price partly stems from what looks like a very tricky draw, having landed in Pool B alongside South Africa and a dangerous Scotland side. Get through that, and France or New Zealand will lie in wait in the Quarter Final.


  • Betting Odds - 14/1 with Spreadex
  • Official World Ranking - 9
  • Coach - Eddie Jones
  • Captain - Michael Hooper
  • Previous Best World Cup Performance - Winners (1991, 1999)

Warm Up Results

  • South Africa 43 – 12 Australia
  • Australia 31 – 34 Argentina
  • Australia 7 – 38 New Zealand
  • New Zealand 23 – 20 Australia
  • France 41 – 17 Australia

It’s hard to know what to make of Australia’s chances. As two-time winners and one of the most famous Rugby nations in the world, they can never be dismissed entirely, but the current Wallabies outfit appears to be some way off the classic sides of yesteryear.

Recent results have been far from encouraging, with heavy defeats to South Africa, France, and New Zealand, and a surprising loss to Argentina, suggesting they have plenty of work to do. On a more positive note, they were much better in a narrow defeat to the All Blacks, and have a man in the dugout who has twice led a side to the World Cup Final.

However, the main reason for encouragement regarding Australia is the draw, which, on paper at least, looks very kind. An underwhelming Wales outfit are their main rival in Group B, and they can’t face any of New Zealand, South Africa, France, or Ireland until the semi-final stage of the competition.

Rugby World Cup: Best Bets

  • To Win the Tournament - South Africa @ 10/3 with LiveScoreBet
  • To Reach the Final - Australia @ 6/1 with Spreadex

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