Rugby World Cup 2023 groups: A close look at the group stages

After four years, the biggest two months in the rugby calendar are just around the corner. With the Rugby World Cup 2023 kicking off in France this weekend, we take a deep dive into the Rugby World Cup group stage, looking at each group in detail and outlining how we believe each of the four pools will unfold.

Breaking down the Rugby World Cup 2023 group stage

With 20 nations divided into four Rugby World Cup groups, each team will play the other four in their pool. From here, the top two teams in each group will move through to the quarter-finals, while the other three go home, making the outcome of the Rugby World Cup pool matches critical. 

Rugby World Cup 2023 Package
Credit: Icon Sport

Read on an overview of each pool, our predictions for where each team will place, and a deep dive into each of these Rugby World Cup groups.

It really doesn’t matter who wins Rugby World Cup Pool A

This is undeniably the Rugby World Cup group that the most fans and rugby analysts have their eyes on. Not necessarily because it’s the most competitive to progress from, but because it contains a match up that many are picking to be the final: France vs New Zealand.

Pool A – participants and predictions

New ZealandFirst

We say that the All Blacks will get the better of the tournament’s opening game, pipping an under-pressure French side that simply can’t live up to the weight of expectation that their home fans bring. Outside of this clash, however, Pool A is relatively straight forward. Italy are improving, but aren’t a real chance of upsetting either of the two big players here, while Uruguay will likely get the better of Namibia, keeping them winless again in World Cups.

Heavyweights abound in Group B with no room for failure

Group B, on the other hand, is about as spicy as a Rugby World Cup pool gets. As of today’s IRB rankings, this group contains three of the top five teams in the world, with Ireland No 1, South Africa No 2, and Scotland No 5.

Pool B – participants and predictions

South AfricaFirst
Romania Fifth

We have South Africa winning this pool, simply because of the imperious form they showed last week against New Zealand. Sure, Ireland have all the innovation and an excellent, well-rounded game, but what’s that in the face of seven forwards coming off the bench all at once? The Springboks have a brutal game-plan–dominate physically and at set-piece, extract errors, kick for points or territory, and do it all again. We say it overwhelms Ireland, and is perfectly suited for World Cup rugby.

At the other end of the pool, Scotland will be unlucky to miss out, though we have a sneaking feeling they’ll come close against one of the big players. Expect them to see off Romania and Tonga with no issues, however, and for an exciting Tongan team flush with returning players thanks to the new eligibility laws to run rampant over Romanian for fourth place.

Is Group C Fiji’s big chance to go beyond the Rugby World Cup group stage?

This would well be the pool that has generated the most debate about the Rugby World Cup group stage so far. Rankings and form have shifted dramatically since the draw was made for this tournament, the better part of two years ago, with Australia and Wales now no longer the solid rugby playing nations they once were.

Pool C – participants and predictions


With Pool C’s two tier one sides in turmoil, a perfect opportunity is presented for Fiji to come sprinting out of the gate and make their deepest ever run at a Rugby World Cup. In fact, we believe they have a solid chance of topping this group, as it could well be a scenario where three teams all end on three wins and a loss. 

Fijian rugby has been coming along in leaps and bounds over the past few years, thanks to their inclusion in Super Rugby Pacific, and changes to the eligibility laws that mean they can call on more players of Fijian descent from overseas. Just last week, they defeated England in Twickenham, and we say they have every chance of beating at least one of Australia and Wales. Georgia are also a threat for an upset, and should at least lock down fourth place.

Can Japan or Samoa cause a boil over in Group D?

Pool D is perhaps the most open pool, with four genuine contenders to make the quarter-finals, again thanks to some tier one teams under performing. This time four years ago, Japan were giant-killers, defeating Ireland in their Rugby World Cup group. Can they do it again against a woeful looking England?

Pool D – participants and predictions


As much as we’d love to see an upset here, we say this pool will unfold more or less as expected. Argentina are constant over-performers on the biggest stage, and we say yet again they’ll punch above their weight and go undefeated through the Rugby World Cup group stage. England are looking about as vulnerable as can be, having recently lost to Fiji, however we simply don’t see enough caliber in Japan or Samoa to threaten a realistic upset.

Samoa are the best chance of causing a boil over, having pushed Ireland recently. However their set-piece is still a concern, and England playing tight rugby should still be good enough to get past them. Japan have waned, and while writing them off would be a mistake, they’re less likely to find the same success they’ve had in previous World Cups. Expect a cracking match between them and Samoa, with the winner taking third place, and Chile simply there for the ride in their first World Cup.

Tune in for the start of the Rugby World Cup this Friday in France, with 48 matches unfolding over the next 51 days.

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