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Rugby World Cup 2023: South Africa begins defending title

Mondial rugby 2023
Rugby World Cup 2023: South Africa begins defending title

The Rugby World Cup kicks off this Friday, September 08. It opens with a clash between hosts France and New Zealand. It's a duel that's sure to create sparks. Both nations are among the favorites, along with defending champions South Africa. The Springboks enter the competition with a squad ready to take on the immense challenge of retaining their crown. Namibia, for their part, will try to hold their own against the big boys.

South Africa puts its title back on the line

The 10th Rugby World Cup officially kicks off its festivities this Friday, September 08, 2023. A marathon begins, as the competition ends on October 28. 50 days of scrummaging, drops, tries, clashes... in short, a battle galore before we know who will lift the Webb Ellis Trophy. Ireland, France, South Africa (three-time champions in 1995, 2007 and 2019) and New Zealand are seen as legitimate favorites. England, the great nation of the oval ball, is a little further back, with performances that have been below par for several months. Here's an overview of the contenders.

South Africa, the enemy to beat

It's a well-known fact. In any competition, everyone wants to take the scalp of the defending champion. South Africa has been warned. They won't have the right to make a mistake, as all their opponents will be coming with knives between their teeth. But the Springboks can base their progress on a number of certainties. For a start, they are back on French soil, where they won their second world crown in 2007. What's more, Jacques Nienaber's protégés face a major challenge. To become the second team in history to do the double after New Zealand in 2011 and 2015. Secondly, to take sole possession of the top spot in the ranking of most successful nations. The South Africans are tied on trophies with the All-Blacks (3 titles).

No time to relax

In the first part of 2023, the Springboks were predicted to do their worst, not least because of a cascade of injuries. Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi in particular could have missed the tournament. Nevertheless, both were able to hold down their places and make the trip with the squad. Another South African star is Cheslin Kolbe. The latter believes that the 2023 team is stronger than the 2019 one. To be honest, we're coming into this World Cup in better shape than the last one. "We've had the chance to spend more time together, and that strengthens our group spirit. When it comes to planning this World Cup, especially our preparation camps, I have the impression that everything has been done better. That's why I feel we're better. Before this Rugby World Cup, the South Africans crushed the New Zealanders 35-07. A clear message to the competition.

In defending their title, the Springboks will be tested from the outset. They will be in Group B with Ireland, Scotland, Tonga and Romania. Their first match in this World Cup will be against Scotland on Sunday September 10. The clash with Ireland, number 1 in the World Rugby rankings, is eagerly awaited by all fans. And in the quarter-finals, South Africa could face either France or New Zealand.

Namibia, a first at last?

The 2023 edition is Namibia's 7th consecutive appearance at the Rugby World Cup. This could be the occasion to finally celebrate a victory. The country has never won a match in the tournament. The Namibians are therefore hoping to put an end to this dreadful run. However, it's not going to be easy. The Namibians are in Pool A with France, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay. Their first opponent is Italy this Saturday.

Although no one is expecting them to play a leading role in this Rugby World Cup, Namibia can already guarantee their participation in the next edition. Indeed, third place in this group would be synonymous with direct qualification for the next edition. A further incentive to try and do well in France.

France and Ireland, two favourites

Led by Antoine Dupont (26), the world's best player in 2022, France arrive at the Rugby World Cup full of confidence. They have already won the Grand Slam in 2022 and the Six Nations tournament. Between 2021 and 2023, the XV de France racked up 14 consecutive victories. There's every reason to hope for a first title, especially on home soil. In their opening game, the French face New Zealand (19:15 GMT). The All-Blacks have never lost a World Cup group match. It's a daunting first challenge for Fabien Galthié's players. Nonetheless, the New Zealanders have been looking less dashing in recent months. Unless the smell of blood and their famous aka awaken the warriors in them.

Ahead of New Zealand, France and even South Africa, Ireland are seen as the number 1 favourites for this Rugby World Cup. The Irish are on a 13-game winning streak. They also won the Six Nations Tournament in 2023. Experts therefore expect them to go far. The Shamrock XV, number 1 in the world, are chasing their first title.

The different pools

Group A: France, New Zealand, Uruguay, Italy, Namibia

Group B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Tonga, Romania

Group C: Wales, Australia, Fiji, Georgia, Portugal

Group D: England, Argentina, Samoa, Japan, Chile

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