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10 fearless predictions for the 2023 Rugby World Cup: Boks, Ireland to miss semis as Wallabies to make last four

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6th September, 2023
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At long last, the 2023 Rugby World Cup is upon us.

In light of the moderate success in this year’s crystal ball 23 predictions for 2023, balls are on the line so here are 10 fearless predictions for the World Cup.

Who will win the World Cup? France

Fabian Galthie’s men have had a couple of late disruptions – injury and the furore surrounding a past incident involving newly called-up Bastien Chalureau – but France is primed to claim their maiden Webb Ellis Cup after three near misses.

Finalists in 1987, 1999 and 2011, France is riding the wave from their domination across Europe over the past few years at club land and significant improvement in the Six Nations.

Jonathan Danty’s absence for France will be telling in their World Cup opener. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

They lost in Dublin earlier this year, but they won last year and put a half-century on England at Twickenham once Jonathan Danty returned.

France have match-winners across the park, with Antoine Dupont the world’s best player as their main shot caller at halfback.

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Top try scorer? Damian Penaud

It has to be someone on the first half of the draw.

Why? No one on the second side of the draw, including Australia, will dominate multiple oppositions and therefore flashy backs will have to work harder for tries.

Even in Pool B, South Africa’s wingers can score tries for fun. But they’ve got to get past Ireland, Scotland and Tonga. That’s not going to be easy.

As such, it has to be someone from either France or New Zealand.

Damian Penaud has often proved the matchwinner for France. (Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images)

The All Blacks generally have multiple candidates, but could Will Jordan’s history of injuries see Ian Foster take a cautious approach to rolling the star outside back out in meaningless Tests?

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Damian Penaud and Gabin Villiere will challenge for the title. But given Penaud’s ability to find himself in the right place at the right time, I’ll back Penaud.

Final four? France, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia

Sorry South Africa, France will have your measure in the quarter-final.

Ditto Ireland, who will be knocked out by the All Blacks.

Fiji will give Pool C a shake and knock over Wales, but I can’t see them getting past Eddie Jones’ Wallabies. It will see them qualify in second place and come up against Argentina, whose ability to get on the ball will frustrate Fiji’s desire to use the ball.

The Wallabies, meanwhile, can put behind them a frustrating year where they’ve lost to three of the world’s top five during their five Tests to date. They’ll beat England and atone for 2007’s defeat in Marseille. It’s written in the stars.

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Player of the tournament: Antoine Dupont

The world’s most influential player. Dupont is a winner and has barely stopped winning over the past three years. Strong and skilled, he’s a playmaker and a leader. More than anything, he’s a winner.

Antoine Dupont of France breaks through to score their side's third try during the Guinness Six Nations Rugby match between France and England at Stade de France on March 19, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Antoine Dupont will captain France at their home World Cup. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Biggest headline from the opening weekend? Les Bleus lose

Hosts go down to All Blacks as Foster’s men put behind them Springboks embarrassment.

Remember 2019? The All Blacks smashed the Springboks yet got rolled in the semi-finals by Jones’ England.

The All Blacks won’t have the same nerves as France. Nor have they had the same disrupted past week, where they’ve had to withdraw lock Paul Willemse and bring in a man who has been showered in controversy.

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Danty’s minor injury is a big blow. But once he returns, he’ll make it count.

Biggest flop? England

It’s splitting hairs between Ireland and England. Given I’ve said Ireland won’t progress past the quarter-finals, it will be another disappointment for the Emerald Isle. But spare a thought for their pool.

England, however, should be considered the biggest flop if they don’t make it past the quarter-finals. They’ve got a dream run to the semi-finals given they wouldn’t play a top five opponent before a possible semi-final.

Taniela Tupou holds the key for the Wallabies. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Wallabies’ key player? Taniela Tupou.

There’s four players the Wallabies can ill afford to lose: Angus Bell, Will Skelton, Samu Kerevi and Tupou.

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But Tupou is the biggest.

Why?

Tests are won and lost against top-line opposition when a tight-head struggles.

More than that, Tupou can turn Tests through his scrummaging and carrying.

If he plays to his capacity, the Wallabies can shock the world.

Breakthrough player of the tournament: Mark Nawaqanitawase

While Max Jorgensen will emerge in the tournament, Nawaqanitawase will leave the tournament an international star.

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The 22-year-old has gone from strength to strength over the past 12 months, becoming a Waratahs regular before emerging as a late inclusion for Australia A and then going on to star for the Wallabies on their end of season tour last year.

But the World Cup is a different ball park. Nawaqanitawase will thrive on the big stage.

Who will referee the final? Wayne Barnes

The Englishman has been at the top of his craft for years.

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He lets players get away with murder at the breakdown from time to time, but it makes for an attractive match.

World Rugby wants games to flow more and become more enjoyable for the watching public. It’s why he’ll nudge Jaco Peyper for the whistle duties.

Will Jordan of New Zealand makes a break during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Mt Smart Stadium on July 15, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The Springboks are entering the World Cup as one of the favourites, but they will have a tough task progressing from the semi-finals. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Where will the Wallabies finish? Semi-finals

Given the Wallabies’ struggles on the scoreboard and their lack of success in recent years, it seems highly unlikely they can make a final.

Stranger things have happened though. A card can changes things. Head Injuries Assessments, too. Jones has been speaking about that possibility all year and it’s a very real possibility.

The Wallabies should make a quarter-final.

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If they’re disciplined and kick straight, which is a big if in itself, they should have too much power up front and pace and skill out wide in their pool.

Eddie Jones arrives for the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup Welcome Ceremony ahead on September 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

A quarter-final? Well, Argentina and England wouldn’t scare the Wallabies. Nor should they.

The issues for the Wallabies is they’ve rarely been able to string matches together and play with any consistency and it’s why they are unlikely to progress past a semi-final.

Go to dish in France?

Steak frites, naturally.  

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