Almanac Rugby Union – 2023 Rugby World Cup: Pool Stage Wrap and Finals Preview




It came down to the last few minutes of the last pool game to decide the last team through to the knockout phase of Rugby World Cup 2023.

On Sunday evening, the stubborn resistance of the debutantes, Portugal, was sending their fans into a frenzy. Known as Os Lobos (or The Wolves) the men from Lusitania were playing out of their skins. Their opponents, the Flying Fijians, only had to get a point from the game to advance to a quarter final rendezvous with England.

While everyone knew that losing by less than seven points would give them that precious point, very few even considered that prospect, much less the Fijians, I suspect. However, the tenacity and high-wire energy of their opponents was clearly causing them trouble.

Entering the last ten minutes of the game, it looked like Fiji had taken control. The men with the golden inlays on their guernseys wanted El Dorado desperately – their first win on the world’s biggest stage.

The last score of the game got their noses in front and you knew the bars of Toulouse would be playing fado all night long.

I have said it many, many times. If you truly love the game played in heaven you have to revel in the spirit of the game, where the game comes first and the travails of your team a distant second.

Portugal’s win gave their fans memories to last generations. It gave Fiji the point they needed, thus firing the starter’s guns for their fans to party too.

How good is this – a true win/win. Well …..

On a less joyous note, the Wallabies’ campaign has been a debacle. Losses to Wales and Fiji ensured our first ever exit at the group stage. Far from being the messiah, Eddie Jones is now the pariah of Australian rugby.

Fiji deservedly advance but they only had the two wins like Australia. Portugal could have nearly had the same tale of the tape if they had kicked a gimme against Georgia.

Yes, the team playing their first World Cup effectively put in a performance on par with a team who has won it twice and, for so long, been seen as a pillar of international rugby.

We have seen some dark days in recent years, but these last few weeks have been, without question, the darkest of them all.

Anyone else being as dismal? Fortunately, not. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Ireland, France, South Africa and New Zealand) will square off in two of the quarter finals. They are all great teams putting on masterclasses.

The Northern dominance expected before the tournament has come to pass. France beat the All Blacks on the opening night. Once that was done, we waited expectantly for a fortnight for the Ireland v Boks clash to see the men in green prevail. Both corkers.

Now they get to swap partners and see if the South can bounce back. I can’t see the ABs beating the Irish but the France v Boks is a toss-up.

Wales topped their pool, as did the English. Both have showed glimpses of footy that can withstand the barrage from the horsemen, but not 80 minutes’ worth.

Argentina got through with a workmanlike win over Japan on Sunday afternoon. However, they are really just making up the numbers, alongside their travel companions from Pools C and D – Wales, England and Fiji.

My money is on Wales v Ireland and England v France semi-finals. If so, it will be the first ever final four without a team from below the equator.

I then hope for a Ireland v France final so we are guaranteed a new name on the William Webb Ellis trophy.

Before I sign off, in keeping with my view of the game first, results second, I must admit to some sorrow about the lack of fight from the less fancied teams. Most were cannon fodder, with Samoa as an honourable exception.

Oh, yes, there is one other team as dismal as the Wallabies. Italy were bloody awful, but they don’t have as much silverware and boards with names like Ella, Campese, Catchpole, Eales, Gregan etc

To the Irish, may the road rise to meet you in Paris on the last Saturday of October. If it is not to be, for goodness sake, make sure it’s anyone other than the English.


To see the full draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup click here.

To read more about the organisation of the 2023 RWC click here.

To read more from Brian the Ruminator on The Footy Almanac click here.



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Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.


  1. Ian Hauser says

    Brian, I can but admire your restraint when commenting on the performances, or lack thereof, of the woeful Wallabies. It takes a brave sports fan to put the greater good of the game ahead of their own painful experience as their team slumps into ignominy.

    On the field, the pending clashes between the Boks and the Northern heavyweights should be intriguing. Let’s hope we see some creative, running rugby.

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