The year is coming to a close and what a year it was, filled with Rugby World Cup glory, Grand Slams, Champions Cup wins and much more.
Before 2023 signs off, Planet Rugby takes a closer look at the numbers that powered another blockbuster year of rugby union.
Rugby World Cup
4 – The number of World Cup titles South Africa has won. The Springboks became the first team to achieve the feat after defending their title in France earlier this year. It was only the second time (after the All Blacks in 2011 and 2015) that a team has successfully defended the World Cup. It also means that seven out of 10 World Cups played so far have been won by either South Africa or New Zealand.
+3 – The points difference for South Africa across all three of their knockout games at the global showpiece. Remarkably the Springboks managed one-point wins in each of their crunch games with Handre Pollard kicking late winners against France in the quarter-final and England in the semi-final. The fly-half kicked all of South Africa’s points in the decider as well. Their run into the title showcases the grit, determination and nous of the South Africans who have an incredible ability to find a way to win big games.
25 – Damian Willemse’s age as the youngest two-time World Cup winner. The Springbok joined the team in 2019 as an injury replacement for Jesse Kriel and scored against Canada in that edition. Fast forward four more years and he played a much greater role as the starting full-back for his country. It is perhaps his versatility which was most valuable for the side as his ability to cover most of the backline allowed coaches to opt for a 6-2 and even 7-1 split in the tournament.
34 – The number of points Handre ‘Iceman’ Pollard has now scored in Rugby World Cup finals which is more than any other player in history.
Handré Pollard: kicking perfection
v Tonga – 4 from 4
v France – 2 from 2
v England – 3 from 3
v New Zealand – 4 from 4
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 29, 2023
76 – Total minutes Deon Fourie played in the final of the tournament in his secondary position of hooker. A remarkable feat from the veteran 37-year-old.
28 – A new tackle record was set for a final with Pieter-Steph du Toit absolutely emptying the tank, notching up 28 tackles.
49 – The number of tackles unsung hero Franco Mostert made in the knockouts for South Africa. He did not miss one during that period.
252 – In a mammoth effort from Wales, they made a whopping 252 tackles against Fiji – a new World Cup record. It was a classic game with the spirited Fijians pushing so hard for a victory but a newly transformed Welsh side hung on showcasing their commitment to the jersey.
8 – All Blacks superstar Will Jordan put his name next to some greats of the game as he scored eight tries in France including a hat-trick against Argentina in the semi-final. The prolific star joins Jonah Lomu and Bryan Habana as the record holders for the most tries in a single tournament.
A hat-trick in a Rugby World Cup semifinal
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 21, 2023
5 – The number of tries young star Henry Arundell scored for England against Chile. The impressive tally equals an English record at a World Cup.
4 – It was a record-breaking tournament for All Blacks legend Sam Whitelock who became the first player ever to partake in four semi-finals. An outrageous display of longevity at the highest level.
152 – Whitelock would also go on to break Richie McCaw’s appearance record, becoming the first New Zealander to play 150 Tests.
26 – As the great second-row passed the 150 mark he also set a new record for most World Cup appearances in history with 26.
40 – The number of defenders beaten by World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year Mark Telea, who proved a slippery customer. He was only nine short of Lomu’s record of 49 in a single tournament.
111- The great Wayne Barnes hung up his whistle after a record 111 Tests as he finished his career with the honour of officiating the World Cup final.
22 – The shocking winning percentage of the Wallabies under Eddie Jones whose return to his homeland went absolutely pear-shaped. The team only managed two wins under his tutelage, against Georgia and Portugal.
26 – The average age of the Wallabies at the global showpiece which was the lowest for the side since the 1991 tournament. This number was kept low after Jones controversially left out veteran duo Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper.
130,000 – An impressive new beer consumption record as fans got stuck in during the pool game between Ireland and South Africa.
0 – Number of losses Ireland had during Six Nations as Andy Farrell’s men charged on to a brilliant Grand Slam in an as perfect as possible campaign.
17 – The Grand Slam formed part of an impressive 17-game win streak from Ireland started in 2022 down in New Zealand and ended by the same team as the All Blacks shocked the Irish in their World Cup quarter-final.
IRELAND ARE GRAND SLAM CHAMPIONS! ☘️
Johnny Sexton's Grand Slam! ☘️☘️
— ITV Rugby (@ITVRugby) March 18, 2023
84 – French full-back Thomas Ramos was a points machine all year long most notably in the Six Nations where he topped the charts with 84, a whopping 49 points ahead of the next best.
5 – The number of tries scored by Damian Penaud in the tournament. The Frenchman has consistently made try-scoring look very simple and was outstanding throughout the year.
35 – Defenders beaten by gargantuan Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe who broke his own Six Nations record in 2023. His campaign was typified by one of the best tries one will see as he tore the England defence to shreds in a solo run started in his own half.
Record Tests, points scorers and attendance
170 – The great Alun Wyn Jones retired from the game this year after an impressive career. The Welshman is easily the most-capped Test player in history with a ridiculous 170 caps for his country and the British & Irish Lions. He is truly one of the best to ever hold a rugby ball.
1,108 – Irishman Johnny Sexton also hung up his boots this year but not before he surpassed Ronan O’Gara as Ireland’s top scorer. The masterful tactician ended his career with a tally of 1,108 points. A legend of the game and one of the best fly-halves to do it.
Johnny Sexton brings the curtain down on an incredible career. 🙌
4× Champions Cup
1× Challenge Cup
4× Six Nations
2× Grand Slam
3× Triple Crown
2× British & Irish Lions Tours
2018 World Rugby Player of the Year
Ireland's top points scorer #RWC2023 pic.twitter.com/sfgru3BLKM
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) October 14, 2023
1,237 – Owen Farrell made history of his own as he leapfrogged 2003 World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson as England’s top points scorer. It is an outrageous achievement by the Englishmen who is second behind Dan Carter for the most points in Test history.
58,498 – The women’s game has been rapidly on the rise and a record 58,498 flocked into Twickenham for England’s Six Nations decider with France. It is the highest attendance in the history of women’s rugby union.
2 – The Springboks were not the only team who went back-to-back in 2023 with O’Gara’s La Rochelle successfully defending their Champions Cup title. The French side beat Leinster in the final again to double down on their success from last year.
22 – Toulouse were crowned Top 14 champions yet again, winning their record 22nd title. It is a remarkable achievement for such a decorated club.
6 – Saracens extended their record as the side with the most Premiership titles after Farrell inspired the side to yet another trophy.
4 – Munster’s late charge including a dramatic win over the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship saw them claim their fourth title. Three of those came before the URC era.
7 – Scott Robertson takes over the All Blacks next year and finished off with the Crusaders in 2023 by winning his seventh title in as many seasons with the club. It is a perfect record and clearly underlines the calibre of the great coach.
🏆 Super Rugby's most successful coach.
Scott Robertson's coaching career stats! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/jEmFXhy1U6
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) June 24, 2023
12 – The title extended the Crusaders’ record as the team with the most Super Rugby wins with 12 across the various iterations of the tournament.