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Rugby World Cup 2023: Pundits preview the tournament in France

2023 Rugby World Cup

Hosts: France Dates: 8 September to 28 October

Coverage: Full commentary of every game across BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

After years of meticulous planning, the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is finally upon us.

Rugby experts have been having their say on the big talking points on the eve of the 10th World Cup.

Who will win the World Cup?

Former New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter: There is no pressure like World Cup rugby, so New Zealand need to perform and execute at the absolute heights of pressure. If they can do that in those big moments, then they can go on to win it.

Former Ireland wing Shane Horgan: There is a huge expectation on Ireland to succeed in this World Cup but it's matched by an anxiety and nervousness that comes with this team.

It is a Herculean task for Ireland, and I think if they do progress and they do potentially win this World Cup, then it will be the most hard-fought one ever.

Former Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson: France and South Africa are the favourites for this tournament, albeit they're in a rough half of the draw.

Former South Africa back row Bobby Skinstad: I think we are up there and playing quite well but I would still say that France and New Zealand are bigger favourites than South Africa.

We don't like the favourites tag. We like to have our backs against the wall when we need to put in a big performance to win.

Former England fly-half Paul Grayson: France are favourites for the World Cup but it's the tiniest of margins. The 16th man is the French public and the fact they are at home is the only bit that tips the balance for me.

How about England?

George Ford
George Ford will start at fly-half for England against Argentina

Former Scotland forward Johnnie Beattie: I have been part of Scottish sides that play the way England currently play and it isn't pretty. There is no speed of ball. They look more comfortable kicking the ball away than trying to retain possession, go through multi-phases and punish teams. It has been perplexing and confusing.

Former England wing Chris Ashton: The biggest issue with the England defence has been the amount of unforced errors - people being lazy and hitting rucks when it's not necessary. We are not seeing people desperate to make tackles and knock people back. There is nothing to get excited about.

Grayson: England have been so bad defensively. They have been getting shredded left, right and centre and conceding line breaks all over the pitch. At the moment, if you had to hang your hat on England's defence, it would be a small hat.

What about Wales?

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland will be in charge of Wales at a fourth World Cup

Beattie: Wales are a real mixed bag. They are the start of a cycle with one eye on the next World Cup but they still have enough talent in their squad that if they come together and perform on the day, they can roll over Fiji.

They could easily get out of the group or finish third or fourth. I'm excited for them with a coach in Warren Gatland that has historically worked wonders with the pool of players he has.

Grayson: Gatland has been a master of making the absolute most of the resources at his disposal. I still have chills about England v Wales at Twickenham in 2015 when Gatland and Rob Howley out-coached England in the last 20 minutes. They changed what they were doing and scored the match-winning try which was the beginning of the end of England.

And Scotland?

Finn Russell waves
Scotland were knocked out in the pool stages at the 2019 World Cup

Beattie: The strange and cruel nature of this pool is that this is the best Scottish team I have seen in my lifetime but you are opening up against the world champions and have to also play the number one team in the world. They are going to have to be absolutely perfect.

Lawson: It's the talent pool of a generation for Scotland. We saw eight British and Irish Lions on tour a couple of years ago and that was as many as Scotland have ever had so they're well deserving of a seat at the top table.

Grayson: Scotland have probably got the most intricate attacking/kicking game in the world and the best exponent of it. There are some absolute belters out there, but top of the tree sits Finn Russell.

Which players should we look out for?

Ashton: South Africa fly-half Manie Libbok has come from nowhere but has looked comfortable. South Africa have looked the best I've seen them for a while with him at 10. They are able to not only play the defensive and kicking game, but he has added another level of attack.

Grayson: Georgia full-back Davit Niniashvili is a player who can score a try out of nothing. He is someone who can change the dynamic.

Beattie: France captain Antoine Dupont isn't bad. He is the front and centre of everything at this World Cup.

Who will be the surprise package?

Simione Kuruvoli celebrates
Simione Kuruvoli came off the bench to score Fiji's third try in the win over England last month

Beattie: The Pacific Island nations of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are blessed the whole way through. They have the ability to break tackles, offload and dazzle.

Fiji have some of the best rugby players on the planet, so if there is going to be upset I want it come from one of those three teams.

Ashton: I think Fiji are the most likely of the Pacific Nations to get through. We haven't seen enough yet of Samoa or Tonga - and they could quite easily spring a surprise because of the level of talent they have.

Grayson: The handling and offloading skills we have seen from all three of those Pacific Island teams, and Fiji in particular, is what we all try and practice. They play with an absolute joy.