Why France are favourites to win World Cup 2023
OPINION: With the World Cup in two years time, the big question is who are the contenders for the coveted title.
The current World Cup holders, the Springboks returned to rugby in 2021, winning the British & Irish Lions series before a third-place finish in the Rugby Championship behind a resurgent Australia and New Zealand.
The end-of-year November internationals saw a mixed bag as the northern hemisphere teams posted big wins over the southern hemisphere powers in the final round.
Wales captured the Six Nations title as Scotland, France and Ireland put up strong campaigns, while England slumped to a fifth-place finish.
Rugbypass writers look at who are the favourites to lift the World Cup 2023.
Ben Smith: Can’t go past France at this stage.
There are five to six teams all jostling for the lead of the pack, but only one will have the home ground advantage in 2023. A quarterfinal beckons against either Ireland, South Africa or Scotland at Stade de France for Fabian Galthie’s side.
Despite having not won any silverware yet in this era, France have returned to power under Galthie and have the core of players to bring the World Cup to France for the first time after three final appearances.
Their big win over New Zealand to end the year showed what they are capable of. The biggest thing for France will be embracing the pressure a home World Cup brings, which has seen teams crumble (England ’15) or succeed (South Africa ’95, New Zealand ’11).
Alex McLeod: It’s hard to look past France at this stage of the World Cup cycle given their youth, form and quality, all of which makes them look like they’re building to a crescendo come the 2023 World Cup.
A motivated and more developed French side led by Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack in front of their home crowds should have the rest of the world on edge.
Tom Vinicombe: It’s still really anyone’s game at this stage; two years is a long time in international rugby.
It’s probably hard to look past England, given they’ve managed to maintain a consistently high standard over the past two seasons while still regularly chopping and changing their side.
They have plenty of experienced operators amongst their ranks who know how to win tournaments but who have also tasted defeat at a World Cup, and they’ve got some great young talents coming through like Marcus Smith.
Finn Morton: France are not only a team on the rise with plenty of improvement still in them, but they’ve also just convincingly beaten arguably the most feared team in rugby.
The young team will also be playing the World Cup in front of their home crowds which is undoubtedly a major advantage.
However, the main reason France might not win this tournament would be because of France themselves, as their consistency in the history of this competition has cost them before.
Mike Rehu: France is in the box-seat to win the next World Cup, especially after their 40-25 victory against the All Blacks last month.
Sure, they are a mercurial bunch (they went down to a plucky Scotland at the same Paris venue earlier this year), and the pressure of expectation can weigh heavily on them, but they have formed an impressive core of stars who know how to run and win games.
Nick Turnbull: The ‘Captain Obvious’ call would be France, who, as the host nation, will have that benefit of overwhelming support and sense of ‘it’s time’.
Seldom do host nations not at least qualify for the quarter-finals. Hello to the English readers.
So, they are a genuine threat on that basis, yet with that advantage comes the weight of expectation and ability to play intelligent tournament rugby. How they mentally handle that is the key.
Jordan King: The French may have bottled the chance of claiming another Six Nations for a second-straight campaign with a loss to Scotland, but the way in which they rounded out the year, and the fact they have home-field advantage, puts them in pole position for me.
Their combination of youth, size and flair is something other nations should fear beyond the current cycle.
Jack O’Rourke: Everyone seems to be backing in France to take out the 2023 World Cup. The praise is rightly deserved. They have been in a rich vein of form and have been building nicely the last couple of years.
The majority of the squad that beat the All Blacks will be expected to be around come 2023. The question is can they sustain it and peak at the right time. French rugby is notoriously fickle.
*Summary: France, England