- When: 1st October to 13th November 2027
- Where: Australia
- Watch: ITV
- Official Website: Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of the international rugby union calendar. The teams fight it out to become champion of the Webb Ellis Cup with national pride being the biggest reward for the winning side.
Traditionally the tournament has alternated between the major European Rugby Nations in the Northern Hemisphere and the three Southern Hemisphere giants. The 2027 competition will be held in Australia after the 2023 event was held in France, however, the 2019 World Cup took place for the first time in Japan in a bid to extend the sports’ popularity in the emerging territories.
England are the only Northern Hemisphere team to win the sport’s top prize. South Africa are the successful country with four World Cups, followed by New Zealand with three wins.
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Rugby World Cup Betting Tips
Please note: The following tips are for 2023 and will be updated shortly before the event starts.
The four-year wait is almost over, with the latest edition of the Rugby World Cup getting underway in Paris on Friday 8th September. It’s some showdown to kick things off, as host nation France plays host to tournament favourites New Zealand. However, that is just one of a steady stream of sizzling fixtures leading up to the final on Saturday 28th October. The race for the Webb Ellis Trophy is set to begin in earnest, and here we take a look at the teams most likely to prevail, the state of the home nations, and pick out our best bets for the biggest tournament in the Rugby world.
The 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup looks wide open on paper, with many firms struggling to zero in on a favourite. With only one Northern Hemisphere side ever lifting the trophy (England in 2003), it is no surprise to see the Southern Hemisphere giants tipped for success, but the home fans will be hoping Les Bleus may upset the applecart.
- New Zealand - Winners of two of the past three editions of this, and Rugby Championship kings every year since 2019, it is the All Blacks who just edge favouritism in most lists at around the 11/4 mark. Coach Ian Foster hasn’t always convinced with his decision-making but has shown signs of growing into the high-pressure role of late. On the playing side, New Zealand have an enviable array of weapons at their disposal, including brilliant No 8 Ardie Savea and devastating winger Will Jordan. However, this is a far cry from the devastating All Blacks side of old, as evidenced by a 37-5 mauling at the hands of South Africa in their final warm-up game.
- South Africa - Any doubts as to whether three-time tournament winners South Africa belonged in the favourites category were put to bed in that thrashing of New Zealand at Twickenham. Arriving as the defending champions following that dismantling of England in the 2019 final, they appear to be finding their best form at just the right time under Jacques Nienaber. Boasting the most feared forward pack in the global game, in addition to attacking weapons such as Makazole Mapimpi and Chesslin Kolbe, they rate a major threat to all. At a general price of 10/3, the Springboks are vying for outright favouritism in many lists.
- France - Having been beaten three times in the final without ever managing to lift the trophy, France (3/1) will be hoping home advantage may help break their World Cup hoodoo – and it just might. Home to the strongest domestic league in the world and dominant on the European club scene, Rugby fever has taken hold in the Gallic nation in the lead-up to the event. Grand Slam winners at the Six Nations in 2022, they continue to play some of the most attractive Rugby on the planet under Fabie Galthie, and in Scrum Half, Antoine Dupont, they possess the undisputed best player in the world. On the downside, Les Bleus have been dealt a couple of untimely injury blows, with key men Romain Ntamack and Paul Willemse set to miss the tournament.
- Australia - Never a man short on confidence, Eddie Jones states “This squad is good enough to win this World Cup and possibly go on to win the next World Cup”. However, there have been few signs that the Wallabies are ready to deliver on that assessment as they head into the tournament following five consecutive defeats. On the plus side, Australia (14/1) has landed in what is by far the easier half of the draw and may have a more straightforward route to the latter stages than most. Jones has opted to start afresh, with 25 members of his squad making their World Cup debut, and if able to quickly adapt to his innovative attacking systems, they may play themselves into the tournament.
Of the four home nations, only England has ever lifted the famous trophy. However, on all recent evidence, it would be something of a surprise were they to repeat their 2003 heroics 20 years on. It is instead Ireland who looks to boast the strongest claims.
- England - England (16/1) surpassed the expectations of many when making it to the final in 2019, but an earlier exit looks to be on the cards this time around. Plagued by a lack of consistency and stale build-up play under Steve Borthwick, England warmed up for this by losing to Fiji for the first time in their history. Losing to France, Scotland, and Ireland in this year's Six Nations, they need to find improvement from somewhere but they have at least been handed a kind draw.
- Ireland - Given the quality of players they have had come through the ranks over the years, one of the most surprising World Cup stats is that Ireland have never made it past the Quarter Final stage. This could be the year that changes, as Andy Farrell's well-oiled machine heads into the tournament as the number one-ranked team in the world. Riding the crest of a 14-match winning streak – including a Grand Slam at the Six Nations – last summer also saw Ireland record a first-ever series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand. It’s no surprise to see the men in green on the heels of the favourites at 5/1 in the betting.
- Wales - Still looking like a team in transition, this may be a tournament too soon for Wales (50/1). However, they do at least have the right man in charge, with Warren Gatland twice leading The Dragons to the semi-finals of this competition. On the downside, they endured a near-disastrous Six Nations campaign and were torn apart by South Africa in their final warm-up game.
- Scotland - There’s a lot to like about Gregor Townsend’s swashbuckling Scotland outfit. The squad, led by the dynamic Finn Russell, is widely viewed as the best in a generation. Their recent form has also been rock solid, with a win and narrow loss to France and comfortable victories over Italy and Georgia. All was looking pretty promising until The Bravehearts were pitched into Pool B alongside South Africa and Ireland. They may escape the section, but a deep run now looks significantly tougher – a fact reflected in their 50/1 tournament odds.
Predictions & Tips
One of the standout stats to note here is that all nine previous editions have been won by a side ranked within the top four in the world. On available talent and current form, it’s hard to see that trend being broken in 2023, making Ireland, South Africa, France, and New Zealand the teams to concentrate on.
Of that quartet, New Zealand’s hit-and-miss form is a concern, and France have injuries at just the wrong time. Ireland boasts live claims, but we prefer South Africa. The Springboks boast an impressive balance between the backs and forwards, posted a statement performance in that win over New Zealand, and have the versatility to adjust to any type of game.
For a second bet, Australia are worth a punt to reach the final. Their current form may be nothing to write home about, but it is easy to see where Eddie Jones is coming from in his assessment of the quality contained within the squad. With an average Wales outfit their biggest threat, they should top Pool C and can be fancied to have too much for England, Argentina, or Japan in the Quarters. Life will get tougher from there, but by that stage, Australia ought to have found their stride and in Jones, they have a man at the helm who has already made two World Cup Finals.
Betting Tip – South Africa to win at 7/2
Alternative Tip – Australia to make the Final at 9/2
Rugby World Cup Winners 1987-2023
|Year (Host)||Winner||Runner-Up||Third Place||Fourth Place|
|2023 (France)||South Africa||New Zealand||England||Argentina|
|2019 (Japan)||South Africa||England||New Zealand||Wales|
|2015 (England)||New Zealand||Australia||South Africa||Argentina|
|2011 (New Zealand)||New Zealand||France||Australia||Wales|
|2007 (France)||South Africa||England||Argentina||France|
|2003 (Australia)||England||Australia||New Zealand||France|
|1999 (Wales)||Australia||France||South Africa||New Zealand|
|1995 (South Africa)||South Africa||New Zealand||France||England|
|1991 (England*)||Australia||England||New Zealand||Scotland|
|1987 (New Zealand*)||New Zealand||France||Australia||England|
Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool Stage Standings
|Position||Pool A||Pool B||Pool C||Pool D|
|2nd||New Zealand||South Africa||Fiji||Argentina|
- Pool phase – Friday 8th September to Sunday 8th October 2023
- Quarter-finals – Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th October 2023
- Semi-finals – Friday 20th & Saturday 21st October 2023
- Bronze Final – Friday 27th October 2023 at 8pm
- Final – Saturday 28th October 2023 at 8pm
The schedule for the 2027 World Cup will be confirmed closer to the tournament starting
About The Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is held every four years and, like most World Cups, is moved between different locations for each event. The tournament hosts are allocated by World Rugby, who in turn own Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL). Members from within Rugby World Cup Ltd vote and then decide on which candidate fits the bill for future World Cups. Like most bidding processes, these are carried out a good five or six years before the event is going to take place, giving the host nation plenty of time to make changes or additions to stadiums and infrastructure in order to successfully host the tournament.
What’s unique about the Rugby World Cup is that there have been a number of occasions when multiple countries have co-hosted the tournament. For example, the second World Cup in 1991 was hosted by a mix of stadia across England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France. These days, it’s more common for just one nation to host each World Cup, mainly down to the fact that these nations are more equipped to do so. One specification that must be met for all bidding nations is that the stadium for the final must include a capacity of at least sixty thousand, or have plans to build a stadium capable of doing so.
The History of Rugby Before the World Cup
Thought the Rugby World Cup is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the sport of rugby union in an international sense, it was by no means the first inter-nations cup of its kind when it took place for the first time in 1987. In many ways, the competition took its inspiration from the Six Nations Championship, which began life in 1883 as the Home Nations Championship and saw teams representing England, Ireland Scotland and Wales go head-to-head. It was the first international rugby tournament of any kind and became the Five Nations in 1910 when France was invited to join. The competition took on its current name in 2000 when Italy were the sixth team to take part.
Rugby has also been one of the disciplines played at the Summer Olympics, first joining the program in 1900 when the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ was hosted in Paris. It remained part of the roster for London’s hosting eight years later, reappearing at Antwerp in 1920. Perhaps somewhat fittingly, its appearance at the 1924 Olympics in Paris was the last time that it was on the agenda for the competition, despite numerous attempts to reintroduce it ever since. Though the fifteen-a-side union game hasn’t appeared since the 1920s, the smaller seven-a-side game has. It’s proof, were it needed, that the desire to watch international rugby union was rife before the World Cup was officially launched towards the end of the 1980s.
Attempts to Set Up a World Cup
Though the first World Cup took place in 1987, there had been attempts to get such a tournament off the ground as early as the 1950s. Those early attempts weren’t met with the approval of the unions involved in the International Rugby Football Board, resulting in the notion being shutdown before it had really even begun. Even so, the idea never truly went away and it bubbled away under the surface for the decades that followed. In 1983 the Australian Rugby Union made a suggestion that a Rugby World Cup would be a good thing for the sport, but it was rejected. The following year, the New Zealand Rugby Union proposed the setting up of a World Cup and it was again rejected by the IRFB.
By that stage, however, the clamour for a Rugby World Cup was growing louder and it felt somewhat inevitable that one would be established sooner rather than later. The notion was once again proposed to the IRFB in 1985 and, at last, the ayes had it. The proposal to set up a Rugby World Cup passed by ten votes to six, with the Australians, French, New Zealanders and South Africans all voting in favour. The English and Welsh delegates were split, voting one apiece. The Irish and Scottish voted against, resulting in the Rugby World Cup getting the go-ahead for the summer of 1987.
The Early Tournaments in 1987 & 1991
Given the fact that they were the driving force behind it, it should come as no surprise that Australia and New Zealand were chosen to host the inaugural World Cup, which took place between May and June in 1987. Back then there were sixteen nations that took part, with the final being between France and New Zealand. The Kiwis won it 29-9, becoming the first ever Rugby World Cup champions.
Given that the delegates of England and Wales were split over the formation of a Rugby World Cup, it is somewhat ironic that they became the hosts of the competition in its second outing. Hosting of the 1991 World Cup was, as mentioned before, split between England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France. This was also the first time that qualifying for the World Cup came into play, with eight places given to the quarter-finalists from the 1987 edition and thirty-five other nations taking part in a qualifying tournament to see who would take up the remaining eight places. There were high hopes for one of the hosts when England reached the final, only to lose 12-6 to Australia.
The Springboks Return in 1995
A tournament host was needed for the 1995 outing of the Rugby World Cup, with major international news providing the sport with a story it couldn’t resist. In 1984 South Africa stopped playing international rugby because of the rest of the world’s attitude towards apartheid in the country. When the apartheid system was torn down, however, international rugby was able to resume and in 1992 it did just that. South Africa hosted New Zealand in a one-off test match and it was considered to be such a success that the country was selected to host the Rugby World Cup in its third iteration.
The 1995 tournament was about South African rugby in more ways than one. They were faced with a tough opening match against the defending champions Australia in their first match but surprised the world by winning it. The Springboks then continued winning and progressing in the tournament, making it all the way to the final where they faced the competition’s inaugural winners, New Zealand. It was a tense and hard-fought final that went all the way to extra time, with Nelson Mandela, the country’s President, watching from the stands. Inspired by Francois Pienaar, the South Africans emerged as 15-12 winners and lifted the World Cup trophy.
Home Nations World Cup in 1999
The 1999 Rugby World Cup saw Australia lift the tittle for the second time, on this occasion beating France in the final. Hosted by Wales and with matches also played in England, Scotland, Ireland and France, the competition was notable for the introduction of a repechage system. That allowed certain teams that nearly but didn’t quite qualify to take part in the tournament regardless, seeing the number of participants in the competition increase from sixteen to twenty.
England’s 2003 Win
Across the first four World Cups, the tournament had been won by sides from the Southern hemisphere. It was only right, therefore, that Australia were asked to host the tournament in 2003. Originally it had been planned for the Aussies to share the responsibility with New Zealand but this idea was ultimately abandoned. The host nation reached the final and were confident of once again beating England in order to lift their third trophy, only for the English to take them to extra-time before beating them and ending the Southern hemisphere’s dominance of the competition. An estimated three-quarters of a million people welcomed England back to London to celebrate the victory.
Competitions Between 2007 and 2023
By the time the 2007 version of the World Cup rolled around, the tournament was settled both in terms of how it worked and the teams that were the favourites for victory. The defending champions England made it to the final for the third time since the competition had been set up, eventually losing South Africa 15-6. That year the World Cup had been hosted by France, with some matches taking place in Wales and Scotland.
In 2011 the tournament returned to the antipodean area as New Zealand acted as hosts. The Kiwis beat off competition to host the tournament from Japan and South Africa, with the hosts winning the Rugby World Cup for the second time in their history when they beat France by the narrow scoreline of 8-7.
The 2015 tournament was hosted by England. Having won both of their World Cups as hosts, New Zealand won the competition on foreign soil for the first time and became the first team to defend their title. They also made themselves the most successful World Cup side, being the only one to have racked up three victories at that time.
The 2019 tournament was a break from tradition as Japan played host, the first foray of the World Cup into new territories. The home nation wasn’t there to make up the numbers as they topped their group defeating Ireland and Scotland along the way. Japan were beaten in the quarter-finals by the eventual winners South Africa. The Springboks edged past Wales in the semi-finals, beating England 32-12 in the final to join New Zealand as the rugby World Cup’s most successful nation.
The 2023 final was contested between South Africa and New Zealand however neither side finished top of their pool. France finished top of Pool A ahead of New Zealand but were defeated by South Africa in the quarter-finals. Ireland topped Pool B ahead of South Africa but were beaten by New Zealand in the quarters. South Africa edged the final 12-11 to win their second successive World Cup and became the first nation to win four finals.
Format & Qualification in 2023
For the 2023 World Cup, the first twelve qualifiers were taken from the top three teams in each pool at the 2019 tournament. The final eight places were given out to teams that make it through qualifying. The qualifying places are doled out according to regions. Europe was given eight World Cup places, whilst Oceania received five and the Americas got three. Africa had two places, whilst Asia received one with the final place is given to the winner of an intercontinental play-off.
The world rankings as of December 2020 were used to seed the teams, with the four best sides put into each of the four groups. The next four highest sides joined them in the groups and so on until the seeded teams were all allocated to groups and the rest of the places were taken up by qualifiers.
Though we’ve used the word ‘groups’ to describe how the twenty teams were broken up, they’re actually referred to as ‘pools’ in the Rugby World Cup. A total of twenty nations were divided into four groups, with five countries in each group.
Each team played the others in their pool once, with bonus points also introduced as follows:
- Winning teams received four points
- Two points were awarded to each team for a draw
- Losing teams didn’t receive any points unless they lost by seven points or fewer, in which case one losing bonus point was given
- A team that scored four tries or more got one bonus point
- The system allowed winning sides to get four or five points, drawing sides to get two or three points depending on their bonuses and losing teams to get anywhere from zero to two points
The tournament took place over six weeks, split over the pool stage and then a knockout stage. If teams were tied on points at the end of the qualifying period, a series of criteria were introduced to separate them. If the two teams couldn’t be separated after five different criteria have been checked, however, the official World Ranking of the respective teams would be the deciding factor.
The knockout stage was made up of the winner of each pool as well as the runners-up. The knockouts begin with the quarter-finals, with the group winners going up against one of the runners-up. The winning quarter-finalists progress to the semi-finals and the winners of them made it through to the final. The losing sides from each of the semi-finals took part in a third-place/fourth- place play-off, which is known as the ‘Bronze Final’. Knockout matches that ended in a draw would progress to extra-time before sudden death would be used to decide a winner. It has been known for a kicking competition to be required to separate the difference sides.
New Format for 2027
For the 2027 World Cup, the World Rugby Council has decided to shake up the format, with some key changes to previous versions.
The biggest difference is that there will be 24 teams competing, an increase of four teams from the 20 teams that have taken part since the 1999 World Cup.
Rather than having four pools of five teams, which was the case in every tournament between 2003 and 2023, there will instead be six pools of four teams each playing each other once, a total of three games in the group stage, instead of four games previously. There will then be a round of 16 stage introduced after the pool stage, before the quarter-finals.
Qualifying for the World Cup was first introduced during its second outing in 1991. The manner in which qualifying works has changed over the years, with the current system, including the 2027 World Cup, seeing 12 of the now 24 places being awarded to the teams that finished third or better in the group stage when the tournament last took place. This means that the teams already qualified for the 2027 World Cup are as follows:
Rugby World Cup 2027 Qualifiers from 2023
The draw for the 2023 tournament groups was conducted in December of 2020, based on World Rankings at the time. This grew criticism from teams and fans alike, with the first, second and fifth ranked teams in the World by the start of the tournament playing in Group B. Group A included the third and fourth ranked teams meaning the top four in the World met in the quarter-finals. This has led to the draw for the 2027 pools being pushed back to January 2026.
The Webb Ellis Trophy
The Reverend William Webb Ellis is the man who is commonly credited with inventing the sport of rugby. As a result, the trophy awarded to the winner of the World Cup is the Webb Ellis Cup, named in his honour. There are actually two of them, with the first having been made by Carrington and Co. in 1906 and based on a Victorian design of Paul de Lamerie. The other trophy is a replica that was built in 1986 ahead of the first ever Rugby World Cup.
The trophy is under the protection of Thomas Lyte, the silversmiths. They not only care for it but also restore it after it has been handed to the winners of each World Cup final. After South Africa won the tournament for the second time in 2007 they put the trophy on display in Newlands for two years. It was then returned to Ireland and the home of World Rugby.
Standing at thirty-eight centimetres in height and weighing four and a half kilograms, the Webb Ellis Cup is made of gilded silver and has two handles, one of which boasts a nymph’s head and the other the head of a satyr.
England’s Jonny Wilkinson has scored the most World Cup points, accumulating two hundred and seventy-seven throughout his career. However, it is New Zealander Grant Fox who has the most points in one tournament, notching up one hundred and twenty-six of them in the inaugural 1987 competition. No player has played more World Cup games than New Zealander Sam Whitelock with 26. He is four clear of Jason Leonard of England, Richie McCaw also of New Zealand, and Augustin Creevy of Argentina with 22 each. Simon Culhane has the most points in a single game with 45, achieved when New Zealand played Japan in 1995.
South Africa are the most successful team in the World Cup’s history, winning it on four occasions, one more than New Zealand. South Africa were champions in 1995, 2007, 2019 and 2023 with New Zealand victorious in 1987, 2011 and 2015. Australia have won the competition twice, whilst England have won it once. No other nation has won the World Cup outright. As always, there are some other more interesting facts you might wish to know about:
- The most attended World Cup to date was the 2015 tournament hosted by England. Just shy of two and a half million people watched the 48 matches across the six weeks
- France have finished as runners-up three times but have yet to win
- England have also finished runners-up three times, sharing the record of most silver medals of any nation with France
- Ireland have reached the knockout stages eight times without progressing to the semi-finals, more than any other country
- Jonah Lomu is the youngest player to take part in a final at the age of twenty years and forty-three days when he played for New Zealand in 1995
- No player has been older than Diego Ormaechea in the World Cup, given he was forty years and twenty-six days old when he appeared for Uruguay against South Africa in 1999