While the pool revealed for the 2023 Rugby World Cup was met with reservations due to the similarities between it and previous years, there was a quirky quirk that still has fans salivating.
New Zealand and France will meet in the group stage of the competition in what will be their eighth meeting at the World Cup. Adding some extra intrigue to the clash is the fact that the tournament is of course taking place in France. Rugby fans can book Rugby World Cup Tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.
While the All Blacks have had the best of both teams throughout matches, winning five of the seven to date, Les Bleus’ two victories are arguably best remembered by Kiwi fans due to how emotional they were defeats.
In 1999, France won 43-21 in the semifinals. Eight years later, a highly favored All Blacks team was defeated 20-18 in the quarterfinals in what was their worst World Cup performance to date. France will not have a chance to knock New Zealand out of the 2023 competition until the final if both teams advance that far, but they do have a chance to inflict a first group stage defeat on the men in black.
Since the first iteration of the tournament in 1987, the World Cups have always started with a game with the hosts. Typically, especially since the game turned pro, their opposition has been a team they were expected to defeat, but not by a scandalous margin.
That is understandable. Many fans want the tournament hosts to start the competition with a victory, but they still want the game to be a show. This is especially true for occasional local viewers, who are probably only tuning in to the game because it is played at a World Cup in their home country.
Since that first flagship competition in New Zealand in 87, seven of the opening nine matches have been won by the hosts, England fell short against New Zealand in 1991 and France suffered at the hands of Argentina in 2007.
With France and New Zealand back in the same group for the first time since 2011, the two rivals will naturally meet at an early stage in the competition, but the jury is still out on when that clash should take place.
From the point of view of the two nations, would it be better to start the competition with a challenge and then be able to move on to the knockout stages of the competition or would it make more sense if the more difficult group match occurred closer to the end of the match group stage?
Perhaps the All Blacks, who have thrived in tough competition would prefer the latter. In 2007, New Zealand’s toughest group match was against a humble Scottish side who finished better 40-0. A few weeks later, France picked them up bit by bit and pulled them out by hand.
In the last competition, they played South Africa in the opening week and scored a well-earned 23-13 victory. The only other top-tier team to play between that opening game and their defeat to England in the semi-finals was Ireland, a team that has never made it past the quarter-finals.
The All Blacks’ 32-point victory in that game marked the second-largest quarter-final victory in tournament history and when they faced a team from England that had been consolidating in the competition with victories over Argentina and Australia barely fired a shot.
However, the latest report in the French newspaper L’Equipe suggests that French coach Fabien Galthie wants his team to play the All Blacks in the opening match of the 2023 competition. With France and New Zealand as the strongest teams in the group, probably the only other semi-competitive games for the top two teams in the group will involve Italy, the world’s 14th-ranked nation.
If Galthie and the French rugby union asked World Rugby to come true, the story would be made one way or another. A victory for the French would end New Zealand’s unbeaten streak during the World Cups group stage, while a defeat would make France the first host nation to lose two games on opening night.
The 2019 World Cup draw was unveiled in November 2017, suggesting that World Rugby probably won’t release the full tournament schedule for the 2023 competition until much later this year.
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