France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023

For rugby world admirers, 2022 was no doubt an incredible year. We had our first full calendar of international rugby in what felt like ages, and this season was a better’s nightmare as any team could seemingly beat any other, so unpredictable were the results.

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France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023
France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023

The All-Blacks’ ungracious decline and the inconsistency of the Springboks allowed France and Ireland to cement their spots at the pinnacle of world rugby, while other traditionally smaller nations put in some very encouraging performances and effected some major upsets. On the women’s side, a wildly successful RWC 2021 the name of the postponed tournament was retained, hosted, and won by New Zealand’s Black Ferns, setting a new benchmark for the sport, and will do wonders for the development of the women’s game.

Next year sees the men building toward the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France, with some teams well settled and others with new management and/or major question marks hanging over their heads. Below we rate the top 10 ranked sides and give our thoughts on their focal points ahead of the France Rugby World Cup 2023

Ireland Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: B+

Record: 9-2-0 (wins-losses-draws)

Positives: An historic first-ever Test series win against New Zealand in New Zealand. They are also very settled as a team they know who their best 23 is and they are consistent in their selection. Negatives: Ireland didn’t manage to win the Six Nations and was vulnerable towards the end of the year against the Springboks and Fiji.

Focus for RWC 2023: There is an oversized reliance on 38-year-old Jonny Sexton to stay fit, who is already an injury doubt for this year’s Six Nations tournament. Their up-and-coming flyhalfs play very differently or are very inexperienced and their current best team is built around their totem. Ireland historically struggles to time their peak performances for the World Cup and must get this right to progress further than the quarterfinals.

France Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: A

Record: 10-0-0

Positives: France achieved the grand slam and deserved Six Nations winners in what was an unbeaten season. They are a very consistent side with enviable depth and lethal attacking skills. Their player core is young but highly talented.

Negatives: France had some shaky games against Wales, Australia, and Japan that they should have won comfortably. They also struggled to front up against the Springbok pack but did enough to get the win ultimately.

The focus for RWC 2023: As hosts, they will go into the World Cup as favorites. They need to get their players peaking at the right time. The likes of Antoine du Pont and Romain Ntamack can go into new gear if they are managed right.

New Zealand Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: C

Record: 8-4-1

Positives: Winners of the Rugby Championship and had an unbeaten end-of-year tour to the Northern Hemisphere.

France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023
France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023

Negatives: New Zealand had its worst season in recent memory but is judged by higher standards than any other team. They ended the season with an okay record, but their quality of play was way down on expectations, hence a lower rating. Head coach Ian Foster managed to endure a vote of no confidence and will retain his role until the Rugby World Cup at least.

Losing a series at home to Ireland was an unexpected low point, and they only narrowly avoided upsets against Scotland and Japan. They should never have allowed England to come back to draw their last fixture of the year. Worldwide Tickets and Hospitality offers Rugby World Cup tickets for the France Rugby World Cup 2023 at the best prices. Rugby fans can buy Rugby World Cup Final Tickets at exclusively discounted prices.

Focus for RWC 2023: New Zealand can never be written off, but consistency will be the focus going forward, both in terms of performance and selection. They were schizophrenic against Argentina, losing at home, but then winning emphatically away. They need to urgently sort out some important selection dilemmas the centers and back row stand out from this year and win back the confidence of their supporters with some more characteristic performances.

South Africa Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: B-

Record: 8-5-0

Positives: The Springboks have the best depth of any international team and have experimented quite successfully with players and combinations in 2022: Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Jaden Hendrikse, and Jasper Wiese have made important steps up this season. Despite a few losses, the Springboks were only truly outplayed in one game this year against Australia away and could have had a much better record if some key decisions had gone their way.

Negatives: The Springboks still don’t have solid alternatives in the midfield. Elton Jantjies’ downfall is unfortunate given the investment made in him in terms of international caps.

Focus for RWC 2023: The Springboks need to build a winning habit again and convert good performances in close games into wins rather than losses. They need to further develop one or more of Damian Willemse, Manie Libbok and Johan Goosen as trustworthy backup flyhalf should Handre Pollard be unfit.

England Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: C-

Record: 5-6-1

Positives: Their series win away against Australia needs to be applauded. They also blooded a lot of youngsters – Freddie Steward is one of the most outstanding young players currently, for example. Their comeback against the All Blacks in the final game of the season was also breathtaking until Marcus Smith inexplicably kicked the ball out to end the game in a draw.

Negatives: England only managed two wins in the Six Nations (against Wales and Italy) and placed 4th ahead of Scotland on a points difference. Losing in such a meek fashion to Argentina at Twickenham was an embarrassment. The sacking of Eddie Jones as coach puts England on a very short timeline to turn things around under new leadership before the next World Cup.

Focus for RWC 2023: England will need to adapt to Steve Borthwick’s management in a very short time, which will be a massive challenge. They also need to iron out the combination between Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell.

Australia Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: C-

Record: 5-9-0

Positives: Australia outperformed in some of their games, with good wins against the Springboks and England, as well as unexpectedly narrow losses against Ireland and France. The Wallabies blooded some promising youngsters this year, which should bode well for their future.

Negatives: Australia used every man and his dog on their roster this year, both because of an unusually large injury list and some questionable selections there isn’t an Aussie franchise without a capped Wallaby hooker, and multiple have two.

They have been unwilling to back their young flyhalves, Noah Lolesio and Ben Donaldson, with the stars of a bygone generation like Quade Cooper, James O’Connor, and Bernard Foley preferred. Cooper and O’Connor suffered injuries this year and, if Foley does the same before or during the World Cup, then Australia will have an undercooked playmaker in charge. Australia’s discipline was atrocious this year, particularly around the contact area and the ruck, with many high shots, neck rolls, and other repeated infringements.

This cost them a series win against England and a win against a vulnerable All Blacks side. However, this should be an easy fix with some focused coaching. More difficult will be working out why their performances have been so inconsistent, with their loss against Italy the standout disappointment and some topsy-turvy back-to-back results against Argentina and South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

Focus for RWC 2023: Australia will have to give focus to their strength and conditioning to prevent another horror season of further injuries. They will also need to consolidate their first-choice squad of 23 and give them sustained opportunities to play together. Australia is on the easy side of the draw and has the talent to make it well into the knockout stages if they can sort out their issues.

France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023
France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023

Scotland Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: C+

Record: 5-7-0

Positives: Scotland had some big wins against Argentina and England, which were rightfully celebrated. They have established the bulk of their best players and have built experience across them. Their attacking game has grown immensely, and they can now score tries from anywhere on the field.

Negatives: Scotland remains uncertain about their best options at flyhalf and fullback, with the mercurial veteran’s Fin Russell and Stuart Hogg no longer being backed unconditionally. Scotland could have ended with a much more impressive win-loss record had they managed to overturn small deficits against Wales, Australia, and Argentina.

Focus for RWC 2023: Scotland will be quietly confident of their development towards the next World Cup. This may be the strongest Scottish team in the modern era. The next few months will be used to fine-tune selections and game plans for the tournament. They will challenge bigger teams for places in the knockouts.

Argentina Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: C-

Record: 5-7-0

Positives: Michael Cheika has bedded in nicely as their new coach and has harnessed that Latin American passion effectively.

Argentina has developed a strong first team and has got some very important wins under the belt for their mental barriers, with the knowledge and not just the hope that they can beat New Zealand, South Africa, and England on their day.

Negatives: Argentina will be particularly disappointed with their two losses against Scotland and Wales in a season that featured hallmark wins against New Zealand, Australia, and England.

Argentina was guilty too often of shipping big scores against return opponents, showing their lack of consistency and inability to string good performances together. Argentina’s emotional approach to sport has resulted in hot-headed moments and indiscipline, which have cost them on many occasions.

Focus for RWC  2023: There remains a lack of depth in the broader squad, and the team is struggling with inconsistency. They need to be able to put back-to-back performances together to progress in the World Cup, rather than going through another tournament as also-rans.

Wales Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: D

Record: 3-9-0

Positives: Wales won their first Test in South Africa albeit against an experimental Springbok side in Bloemfontein. They had some strong individual performances along the way from Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland, Louis Rees-Zammit, and others.

Negatives: Wales lost to Georgia and Italy among others, which must have been highly disappointing. Their leadership was unstable throughout the year, including the appointment of a new captain and the sacking of their coach, Wayne Pivac.

Focus for RWC  2023: Like England, Wales is on a tight timeline to right the ship, with Warren Gatland now at the helm until the Rugby World Cup. Their team needs to find a way to establish a winning mindset and build some big match temperament. They have the potential for a few upsets but are not currently contenders for the title.

France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023
France Rugby World Cup: Test rugby sides of 2022, how they shape up for RWC 2023

Japan Rugby World Cup Side

Rating: D

Record: 0-5-0

Positives: Very promising performances against New Zealand and France, despite the losses. The player core has remained stable.

Negatives: Japan did not play much rugby this year, and the teams they did play France, England, and New Zealand were tough opponents. They were very disjointed against a subpar England. Focus for RWC 2023: The Japanese players need game time to work on their cohesion and execution. Without this, they will remain poor. Don’t expect more upsets without a big change in approach.

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