With the Rugby World Cup 2023 fast approaching, aside from seeing Owen Farrell lift the trophy in Paris, what does our English rugby nut want to see in the tenth edition of rugby's biggest tournament?
There’s a strange excitement coursing through my veins every time I think about this year’s Rugby World Cup, and for once it’s not reckless optimism regarding England’s chance of lifting a second William Web Ellis trophy.
The tenth edition is packed with so much narrative and feels like the shot in the arm that the professional sport needs during a testing time – especially in England and Wales.
Here’s three of Rugby World‘s Bobby Bridge dreams for Rugby World Cup 2023…
Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa and others to boost second tier nations
When eligibility rules changed to allow international stars to represent a second Test nation, it was met with a degree of scepticism. How can a player pull on the colours, sing the anthem and represent one country – then do it all again with another just a few years later?
While respectful of those who are firmly against switching allegiance, one point is undeniable, it will raise the standard of tier two nations and make this the most competitive tournament in the professional era.
Andy Farrell to realise Irish dreams for Rugby World Cup
It’s a source of national shame for the Irish supporting rugby public that they have yet to win a Rugby World Cup knock-out match as we enter the tenth edition of the tournament.
How can such a proud rugby nation go this far without winning a game when it really matters on the sport’s biggest stage?
A Six Nations Grand Slam win backed up an incredible series win in New Zealand, there’s England 2003 vibes coming from from Andy Farrell’s side.
However, progressing to the last four will be no foregone conclusion. Ireland are in the ‘group of death’ Pool B with South Africa, Scotland, Tonga and Romania. They’re likely to face France or New Zealand in the next stage should they progress.
Ireland’s brand of rugby and recent heroics has won me over and I’ll be right behind them in their bid to reach the business end of the tournament – anything less than a semi-final would be an abject failure for the men in green.
The competition needs a Northern Hemisphere winner and Ireland and France are the best hopes of emulating England’s success of 20 years ago.
Warren Gatland to end Wales’ woes
As a passionate, flag waving Englishman, it’s rare you’ll catch me willing Wales on to succeed on the rugby pitch.
It has been a traumatic time for Welsh rugby with wars ensuing off the pitch and performances on it, both domestically and on the international stage, doing little to improve morale.
This now feels like a free shot for Warren Gatland in France. Never before have expectation levels been so low entering the big dance.
The Welsh must surely be wincing and fearing the worst looking at their Pool C rivals, with memories of the 2007 loss to Fiji in mind and Georgia’s recent win in Cardiff. Australia are strong favourites to progress as Pool winners with Eddie Jones pulling the strings.
But Wales have proven in the past when the chips are down, they can come out fighting and play a brand of rugby that excites and appeals. A positive World Cup and escaping the pool stage would go a long way to rebuilding a proud rugby nation after a torrid time.
A likely quarter-final would follow against England, Argentina or maybe even Japan – all of which are winnable if Wales get it right on the night.
Then they would return home as heroes and Gatland heralded as a genius. It’s a long shot, but Wales could well be the dark horses of this tournament.
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