Rugby fans, the wait is almost over. One thousand four hundred six days after South Africa’s Siya Kolise raised the trophy in Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium, France and New Zealand will kick the 2023 Rugby World Cup off in the Stade de France. The tournament is shaping up to be arguably the most exciting in competition history, and there are plenty of records in danger of breaking over the next seven weeks.
The good people of BettingExpert have compiled some of the most fascinating, from all-time victories to first-time contests and more.
1. Most Match Wins
All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock has been a fixture in the New Zealand side since making his debut in 2010. With 146 test appearances to his name (and three World Cups), it is no surprise that Whitelock is on the verge of making appearance-based history in France.
If the Crusaders forward is on the winning side three times, he will become the winningest player in Rugby World Cup history, passing former AB’s skipper Richie McCaw in the top spot. Whitelock is currently joint third with 18 wins (tied with Sonny Bill Williams), behind Kevin Meleamu (19) and McCaw (20).
2. Most World Cup Appearances
If Whitelock doesn’t break the record for most wins, it is fair to say that New Zealand will have suffered a seismic shock. Even so, Sam Whitelock is just four appearances away from breaking the record for most Rugby World Cup matches.
That record is joint-held by Richie McCaw and England’s Jason Leonard, who crossed the whitewash on 22 occasions at the World Cup. New Zealand should make it out of the groups, so Whitelock will have ample opportunity to build on his 19 appearances.
3. Most Team Wins
Sticking with New Zealand, the All Blacks are set to continue their historic dominance at this tournament. The Kiwis are currently at the top of the all-time wins pile with 49 and will become the first team in tournament history to win 50 games if they defeat France on the opening night.
If New Zealand doesn’t win a single game in the tournament, it will be the biggest shock in the history of sports, so this total will be passed at some point over the next seven weeks. Australia is currently in second place with 42 wins.
4. Most Championships
Only four nations have won the Rugby World Cup in its 36-year history. New Zealand (1987, 2011, 2015) and South Africa (1995, 2007, 2019) hold the record with three championships, meaning either side will stand alone if it wins the ultimate prize in 2023. Australia’s two titles (1991 and 1999) put the Wallabies in second place, with England (2003) the only other side to win the Webb Ellis Cup.
5. First Championship With a Foreign Coach
No team has ever won the Rugby World Cup under the tutelage of a foreign coach. Many have come close, but the tournament’s history is the history of homegrown coaches bringing home the trophy. That could change in 2023, as number-one-ranked Ireland has been chiseled into a well-oiled machine under the watchful eye of England’s Andy Farrell. Argentina and Wales are also coached by men from other countries, but Ireland is the most likely to change history here.
6. First Non-English Speaking Champions
Ireland might be the world’s top-ranked side, but hosts France are the favorites heading into the tournament. Les Bleus have come agonizingly close to victory in the past, coming up short in three finals (1987, 1999, 2011). Is 2023 the year that Fabien Galthie’s charges finally lift the Webb Ellis Cup? If so, they will become the first non-English-speaking nation to win rugby’s most prestigious prize.
7. First Winner From Pool D
Did you know that no team has ever won the Rugby World Cup after qualifying from Pool D? Now you do. This time, England and Argentina are the strongest sides in the final group, but it would be a major surprise if either were victorious when all is said and done. Still, stranger things have happened.
8. A Grand Slam of Medals for England
England is in disarray heading into the tournament, arriving in France after a wretched run of results and with disciplinary problems hanging over the team. Despite the black cloud, many pundits predict that Steve Borthwick’s team will have enough to make the semi-finals. If England finishes third, they will join Australia and New Zealand as the only teams to win gold, silver, and bronze at the Rugby World Cup.
9. Youngest Try Scorer
With each passing tournament, the gap between the oldest and youngest players diminishes. Only one teenager is listed in the 2023 Rugby World Cup squads, but that young man has a chance to make history. If Australian winger Max Jorgensen scores a try at any point in the tournament, he will become the youngest man to do so in the competition’s history. The record is currently held by Welsh winger-turned-centre George North, who was 19 years and 166 days old when he touched down (twice) against Namibia in 2011.
10. Japan on Top of Tier 2
When referee Neheun Jauri Rivero blew the whistle in Valparaiso on October 9, 2021, Canada’s 33-24 defeat to Chile confirmed that Le Rouges had failed to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the first time. As Japan had already qualified for the tournament, Canada’s defeat meant that the Brave Blossoms were now the only Tier 2 side to qualify for every World Cup.
Japan has gone backward a little since hosting the 2019 tournament, but Jamie Joseph’s side remains an inspiration for all up-and-coming teams worldwide.
11. An All-South American Clash
Canada’s failure to qualify (along with the USA falling short) means that three South American sides will feature at the Rugby World Cup for the first time in history. Moreover, two of them are in the same group. When Argentina and Chile do battle in Nantes on September 30, it will be the first time in Rugby World Cup history that two sides from South America have faced each other.
Argentina is a heavy favorite for that match, but never rule out the motivational power of making history.
12. Referee Records
With all this attention on the players and teams, what of the man in the middle? Rugby referees are a different breed to other sports, and no officials wield as much respect on the field. Twelve referees will officiate at the tournament, with two notable achievements.
England’s Wayne Barnes will become the first man to referee at five Rugby World Cups, while Georgia’s Nika Amashukeli will be the first referee from a Tier 2 nation to take charge of a World Cup match since the game turned professional. Moroever, Ireland’s Joy Neville will be the first female named on a match official panel at a men’s World Cup.