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HomeEuropeIn Their Quest for the Championship, Ireland and France Face Their Curse

In Their Quest for the Championship, Ireland and France Face Their Curse

Dublin, London (9/10 – 25)

The pool stage of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France reached its final day on Sunday. The eight quarter-final contenders who will compete on 14 and 15 October are now confirmed.

Host France are the Pool A winner, followed by three-time champion New Zealand. Italy finished third in Pool A, neatly qualifying them for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

From Pool B, current World Number One Ireland are flexing their muscles with a perfect record: four wins out of four matches makes them Group Winner. Defending champion South Africa finished second, with Scotland managing third place.

Wales are the Pool C winner with Fiji through to the quarter-finals as the runner-up. Australia finished the pool stage in third place in Pool C with 11 points, the same as Fiji. But The Wallabies got knocked out because of their inferior record in the head-to-head against Fiji.

England conquered Pool D with perfect results, leaving Argentina in second place and Japan taking third. In the quarter-finals, Wales will face Argentina at Marseille, and Ireland are up against New Zealand in a blockbuster match at Saint-Denis on 14 October. The next day, England play Fiji at Marseille and France will try to eliminate South Africa at Saint-Denis.

With Australia out, there are only three former champions left in the knock-out round of the 2023 Rugby World Cup: New Zealand, South Africa, and England. The possibility of the emergence of a new champion in the Rugby World Cup automatically clicks upward.

The betting odds at the end of the pool stage suggest that this time around, a new country will snatch that Webb Ellis Cup on 28 October. Most betting houses are stacking odds for Ireland and France, as two of the three favorites to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup. They are indeed the worthy ones.

Since their win over South Africa in Pool B, Ireland are practically the new tournament favorite. Johnny Sexton and Co. haven’t lost a test match since February 2022. Andy Farrell’s team also came into this year’s World Cup by winning their third Grand Slam.

Home advantage has been a huge factor for France, as they bid to win their first-ever Rugby World Cup. Since day one, when they humiliated New Zealand in the tournament opener, Fabien Galthie’s team look pretty solid and are brimming with confidence.

France suffered the loss of their star, with the injured Antoine Dupont on the sidelines. But without their mercurial scrum half, France destroyed Italy 60-7 in the last match of Pool A. The demolition of Italy may have shown that France are peaking at just the right time for the knock-out stages.

“After a first ‘World Cup final’ against New Zealand, our match next weekend will be a second ‘World Cup final’, clearly,” said Galthie. “South Africa are world champions and have clearly been preparing to win back-to-back titles and on the other side is the number one team in the world,” he continued. “The draw is what it is, and it’s up to us to do our job.”

Interestingly, given their track records in the tournament, Ireland and France are each burdened with a “curse” that can derail them in their quest to become the champion. In nine appearances at the World Cup, Ireland has never succeeded in reaching the semifinals. They infamously have never been able to get past the quarter-finals. On the other hand, France have never been able to reach World Cup glory as their best finish was runner-up in 1987, 1999, and 2011.

The quarter-finals will furthermore test the credentials of Ireland and France. As if it was destined, the two strongest candidates for a new champion will clash with two former winners. If they can get past New Zealand and South Africa, it looks like nothing will stop Ireland and France from going head-to-head at the final to determine who is the new champion.

“We’re in the quarter-finals against the toughest opposition we could get,” said Sexton. “The way the draw was made three years ago turned out to be a bit unfair, but it’s the hand that we were dealt and we have to be ready for New Zealand next week,” said the 38-year-old, who is due to retire after this tournament.

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