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Rugby World Cup 2023: Tournament predictions - who will lift the Webb Ellis Cup?

Ireland are the Six Nations champions
Ireland sealed a Grand Slam and the Six Nations title in March and have won their last 13 matches

With what feels like a very chaotic set of 'warm-up' matches done, we can now confidently predict who is going to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Well, OK, maybe not…

But what we can say is that there are four sides heading into the tournament who are almost perfectly matched, and then there are the rest.

Opta's tournament predictor uses thousands of data points and its AI Supercomputer to simulate the Rugby World Cup 10 million times, giving a percentage chance of each team winning the tournament.

The predictions take into account recent form, historical success, pool and fixture difficulty, plus much more.

The big four contenders

Ireland have never made it past the quarter-final stage at the Rugby World Cup, but surely this year that hoodoo will end.

Placed number one on the World Rugby rankings on the eve of the tournament and picked as our favourites (just), Andy Farrell's side are as ready as they will ever be to become only the second northern hemisphere nation to win the Webb Ellis Cup, after England's triumph in 2003.

Biting at their heels on our predictor are France. Have the host nation finally found the perfect wine to pair with their Roquefort? The classic French flair and flamboyance has always been there but they now have the gritty defence and tactical nous to give them the consistency to go all the way.

Superstars are littered through their team and although they will feel the loss of fly-half Romain Ntamack keenly, they have enough depth to cope with such setbacks.

For South Africa, Test rugby results between World Cups are somewhat of an irrelevance. Sure, the Springboks fans never want to lose, especially when the opposition wear black jerseys, but there is always the fall-back line of "It'll be fine; it will all come together at the World Cup".

Their record win against New Zealand at Twickenham in their final warm-up game proves that, as ever, they are peaking just at the right time and will be a formidable threat as they seek a fourth World Cup triumph.

Three-time winners New Zealand only rank fourth on our predictions, but the margins splitting the top four sides are so small that in reality they have as good a chance as any of their three other rivals.

A record defeat by arch-rivals South Africa won't be how they wanted to enter the tournament, but they have thick skin. A wounded All Blacks side is surely one of the scariest prospects in international sport.

The opening game of the Rugby World Cup, between New Zealand and France on Friday, is sure to be huge.

South Africa are the only side to win the World Cup having lost a pool stage game, doing so in 2019. Neither side will want to be forced into trying to replicate that.

Rugby World Cup groups

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

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

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

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

What about England, Wales and Scotland?

Beyond the 'Big Four', there are another four sides who we predict have at least a one in a hundred chance of pulling off a shock by winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Pool D rivals England and Argentina are both lacking consistency and form, but both have produced results against the top nations in this current World Cup cycle that will ensure they are not taken lightly.

With Japan, Samoa and tournament debutants Chile in their group, both sides should progress easily enough to the quarter-finals and England have a 46.1% chance of making the semi-finals. That being said, no side has ever won the Rugby World Cup from Pool D, the only pool never to produce a winner.

Eddie Jones has had a hard time of things since becoming Australia head coach for a second time, but he will have expected nothing less.

Five losses from five games and some controversial squad selections have left some questioning the direction of the Wallabies, but as with all Aussie sports teams, underestimate them in the clutch moments at your peril.

Jones has plenty of World Cup experience; he led Australia and England to finals (losing both), was involved with South Africa's win in 2007 and inspired Japan to one of the most memorable moments in the tournament's history as they beat South Africa in Brighton in 2015.

Finally, Scotland. Gregor Townsend's side are in a brutal pool alongside reigning champions South Africa and world number one side Ireland.

Our predictions suggest that Wales and Fiji actually have better hopes of making the quarter-finals, but if Scotland do escape Pool B, then they do have a fighting chance of going deep.

Finn Russell can unlock any opposition defence - and with threats out wide and power up front, they will be confident of proving the Opta predictions wrong.

Fiji's win over England in their final warm-up game will have given them huge confidence and indeed bumped up their likelihood of emerging from Pool C, based on the Opta Predictions.

Wales, meanwhile, only have a 50:50 chance of escaping the same pool and making the knockout stages. Their opening match against Fiji on Sunday, 10 September will be crucial to their hopes, while Warren Gatland's side also face Georgia, who beat them in the autumn.

Samoa, Japan, Georgia and Italy will all be on the hunt for some big scalps, and all have the capacity to do so, but the chances of them stringing together these shock results are low and leave them as distant outsiders.

Pool stage positions

Opta predictions: Pool stage positions

























Knockout stage predictions

Opta predictions: Knockout stages