Power Rankings heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup

Jared Wright
France's Damian Penaud and Antoine Dupont, England's Ellis Genge, Fiji's Simione Kuruvoli and New Zealand's Sam Cane - Rugby World Cup

Planet Rugby's Power Rankings ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Ahead of the Rugby World Cup, here are our power rankings based on the teams’ form ahead of the tournament, including their recent performances in the warm-up matches.

20 Romania

A change in the coaching box so close to the World Cup has not helped The Oaks, as they come in as the lowest-ranked side in our power rankings.

They were beaten 17-31 by the USA ahead of the tournament before suffering heavy defeats to Georgia (56-6) and Italy (57-7).

19 Chile

The South Americans are making their Rugby World Cup debuts, meaning they come into the tournament flying under the radar.

They did have some promising displays ahead of the tournament, albeit defeats, as they lost by a point to Uruguay and by two to Namibia and an Argentina XV.

18 Namibia

The African side coached by former Springbok coach Allister Coetzee did notch up a narrow 26-28 win over Chile before the World Cup.

However, they also fell to a 43-30 defeat at the hands of a youthful Bulls team.

17 Portugal

A modest ranking for Portugal, who are entering just their first Rugby World Cup since 2007 and just their second overall.

They had a solid Rugby Europe campaign early this year before defeating USA (46-20) earlier this month and putting up a strong fight against Australia A, who they lost 17-30 to, with a late scoring flurry in the final 10 minutes bloating the scoreline in Australia’s favour.

16 Uruguay

Wins over Chile and Namibia and a thumping 33-13 victory over a strong Argentina XV will give Los Teros confidence ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Their lack of tier one opposition has impacted their power ranking, but Pool A contenders will be wary of the South Americans who stunned Fiji four years ago.

15 Tonga

Ikale Tahi’s preparations have been far from ideal after a reasonably strong start to the year.

They defeated Australia A in their Pacific Nations Cup opener but lost their next three fixtures against Fiji, Japan and Samoa. The result against the Brave Blossoms was the closest of the three, but they would have hoped for better.

Tonga managed to claim back-to-back wins over Canada to round off their preparations but also lost centre George Moala to suspension for most of the tournament.

14 Japan

The Brave Blossoms head into the World Cup somewhat under the radar as they have failed to reproduce their 2019 form.

Jamie Joseph’s side lost to Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup and narrowly beat Tonga. In their final preparation game, Italy swept them aside 42-21.

Things haven’t quite clicked for the 2019 hosts, but Pool D will certainly be interesting if it does.

13 Georgia

The Lelos are coming in two places lower than their official world ranking, but they should certainly not be underestimated.

Georgia’s scrum struggled against Scotland in their final warm-up game, and while they did front up defensively in the first half, they were torn apart in the second.

That loss to Scotland came off the back of solid wins over Romania and the USA, so the lift in tempo may have taken the Georgians a bit by surprise.

12 Italy

The Italians are perhaps unlucky to feature outside of the top 10, but the earlier defeats in the Summer Series to Scotland and Ireland have played their role in their power rankings.

Kieran Crowley’s side did show their ruthless edge by pummelling Romania and Japan, which meant they didn’t drop any further down.

Their 12th-place power ranking is an upgrade on their current world ranking of 11th.

11 England

England players dejected after conceding try against Fiji in Rugby World Cup warm-up.

England players dejected after conceding try against Fiji in Rugby World Cup warm-up.

A win over Argentina in the Red Rose’s Rugby World Cup opener would likely move them back into the top 10, but right now, England are at one of their lowest points in history, and their power ranking reflects that.

They were comfortably beaten by Wales in Cardiff and avoided back-to-back defeats by the skin of their teeth a week later. Ireland then barely got out of third gear in a 29-10 win in Dublin before Steve Borthwick’s side were handed their first-ever defeat by a tier rwo nation, Fiji, at the home of English Rugby.

With their captain Owen Farrell suspended and the team lacking cohesion based on their performances in the warm-ups, they are ranked three places lower than their official world ranking.

10 Samoa

Just above England are fellow Pool D rivals Samoa.

Seilala Mapusua has the Pacific Islanders steaming into the World Cup after a strong performance against the world number one side, Ireland.

A botched lineout cost Samoa a stunning victory in Bayonne, albeit against a change Ireland team, but that was far from the only positive result over the past 24 months.

Fiji were the only side that defeated Manu Samoa in the Pacific Nations Cup this year, while they won the tournament in 2022 and went on to beat Georgia and Romania.

9 Australia

The gaps between 12th and 9th on our list are marginal, but the Wallabies took the lead with a strong showing against France in their last preparation game, although it resulted in defeat.

Eddie Jones has lost all five of his first games in charge of Australia, but there has been notable developments that have culminated in their ranking.

The signs of improvement against strong opposition gives the Wallabies an edge, but they could plummet if they fail to defeat Fiji in their World Cup opener.

8 Wales

Warren Gatland’s charges can count themselves lucky that they are not lower down on the list with other poor showings, meaning they are the best of the worst tier one nations.

They finished their Summer Series with a 2-1 record, but that one is concerning as it was the biggest defeat Warren Gatland has overseen with Wales.

7 Fiji

Fiji celebrate win against England at Twickenham.

Fiji celebrate win against England at Twickenham.

The Flying Fijians are fairly ranked on the world rankings and are pressing for a higher placing on our power rankings.

Simon Raiwalui has been superb since taking over the side, turning the pack into the real weapon that it always promised to be while also flexing Fiji’s depth en route to a Pacific Nations Cup sweep.

The historic victory at Twickenham may just be the start of what is a memorable year for Fijian Rugby; we will have to wait and see.

6 Argentina

Los Pumas are under threat of switching positions with Fiji, who were saved by a resounding 3-62 victory over Spain in the final warm-up game.

Michael Cheika’s charges finished the Rugby Championship with just one win over the Wallabies after a heavy defeat to New Zealand. They did run the Springboks close in their third clash of the year but were well beaten at home a week later.

Argentina are bubbling under heading into the World Cup, and if things click, they could go incredibly deep into the tournament.

5 Scotland

The Scots are a well-drilled outfit and, like Argentina, are a team that could cause a few upsets at the World Cup.

They secured a comfortable win over the Azzurri in their first warm-up game before coming from behind to defeat France 25-21 at Murrayfield. However, they could not go back-to-back against Les Bleus a week later.

Gregor Townsend’s side were held scoreless in the first half against Georgia but comprehensively scored five tries in the second to win 33-6.

Most impressively, they dominated the Georgian packs, which will give them confidence against the Springboks.

4 New Zealand

A record defeat at Twickenham has seen the All Blacks drop to fourth in the world rankings, which is reflected in our power rankings too.

Ian Foster’s side were flying high and had not lost a game since August last year. However, the manner in which they were swept aside at Twickenham has resulted in the drop as, unlike Ireland last week, they were fielding their best available team.

The record defeat was a hammer blow before their World Cup opener against France but one that might do them well as it exploited the holes in their game that no other side really exploited this year.

3 Ireland

Just above the All Blacks in our power rankings is the official world number one side, Ireland.

Andy Farrell’s outfit comfortably won their warm-up games against Italy and England but came close to a shock defeat to Samoa in their final match.

While they were still able to get over the line, it showed that Ireland can be exposed, particularly when their frontline players aren’t starting. Samoa also got the upper hand in the scrums in the fixture.

Our top four is incredibly tight and, on form, Ireland are just behind the top two.

2 France

Saint Denis, France. 27th Aug, 2023. Damian PENAUD of France celebrate his try with Antoine DUPONT of France during the Summer Nations Series 2023, rugby union match between France and Australia on August 27, 2023 at Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris, France

Damian Penaud and Antoine Dupont celebrate.

The warm-up matches proved costly for France, who lost Romain Ntamack for the World Cup after an injury in the second game against Scotland. They then lost prop Cyril Baille and centre Jonathan Danty for the opening game.

Outside of the injuries, Fabien Galthie will be pleased with the results as France were able to claim wins over Scotland and Australia despite both oppositions putting up a good fight.

Their ruthlessness on attack is unmatched in world rugby at the moment, but the defence is still leaking tries that it should not, meaning they just miss out on the top power ranking spot.

1 South Africa

As already mentioned, the top four is incredibly close, but the Springboks top the charts after a resounding win over fellow top four side, New Zealand.

South Africa finished their preparations with two record victories, both of which were against teams they have historically had close encounters with.

What also sets the Springboks apart from the rest is their depth, with Nienaber naming two vastly different teams for the two matches, while the return of Siya Kolisi has been a huge boost for the side.

The one soft spot looked to be their placekicking, but Manie Libbok eased those concerns against New Zealand.

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