The 2023 tournament is set for kick-off on Friday night.
Fireworks are expected when hosts France open the 2023 Rugby World Cup against three time champions, the All Blacks, at a sold-out Stade de France in Paris on Friday night (kick-off 9:15pm).
It is the perfect match to kick-start the competition in the best possible way as the hosts and third ranked team in the world France battle it out against the fourth ranked All Blacks in a match that should shape their pool and possible quarterfinal opponent.
And watching closely will be the Springboks, who’re on a collision course with one of France or New Zealand who they’re set to meet in the quarter-finals, should they get out of their pool. The Boks open their campaign on Sunday, against Scotland.
The winner of the opening game will most likely go on to top pool A which would set them up against the second ranked team in pool B in the quarters, while the runner up in pool A will face the pool B winners.
Pool B is seen as the ‘group of death’ featuring the current top ranked side in world rugby Ireland, defending champs and second ranked Springboks, as well as fifth ranked Scotland. Tonga and Romania are also in the group.
So, in actuality, it doesn’t really matter where you finish in pool A or B as long as it’s in the top two, as it will be two monstrous quarterfinals regardless, which will end with three of the world’s top five teams out of the tournament before the semifinals.
However, both France and the All Blacks will be desperate to pick up some good momentum, while the hosts will be eager to light up the Parisian sky in front of their home supporters and declare themselves genuine title contenders.
The All Blacks had been in terrific form heading into the World Cup, and were on a run of 10 wins and one draw before that was brought to a screeching halt in a record 35-7 loss to the Boks at Twickenham in their final warm-up game.
They will thus be very eager to prove that result was just a blip on their radar and what better way to do that than beat the hosts who are considered the favourites on their home patch.
A number of other interesting matches are set to be battled out over the opening weekend of the tournament as well, with teams eager to get off to the best possible start.
England and Argentina clash on Saturday night (kick-off 9pm) in a big match-up that could decide who finishes top of pool D.
A possible early upset could also be on the cards when Wales take on Fiji in their pool C clash on Sunday night (kick-off 9pm).
Ordinarily pool C would have been a straight shoot-out between Australia and Wales to see who would finish top, but the dreadful form of both teams has opened the door for Fiji who come into the tournament in terrific form and eager to throw the cat amongst the pigeons.
Opening weekend fixtures:
France v New Zealand – kick-off 9pm
Italy v Namibia – kick-off 1pm
Ireland v Romania – kick-off 3:30pm
Australia v Georgia – kick-off 6pm
England v Argentina – kick-off 9pm
Japan v Chile – kick-off 1pm
Springboks v Scotland – kick-off 5:45pm
Wales v Fiji – kick-off 9pm