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The toughest 'Pool of Death' your side could feature in ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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It has been little over a year since Siya Kolisi made history by lifting the Webb Ellis Cup aloft in Yokohama as the Springboks became World Cup champions for the third time.


However, preparations for rugby’s next global showpiece event kicks-off on Monday, as the draw for France 2023 is made in Paris.

Here’s everything you need to know before your nation finds out its fate for the next World Cup in just under three years’ time.

What is it?

The draw for the 2023 World Cup will determine which nations will play one another in each of the four pools at the upcoming tournament.

Where is it?

The draw will be held at Palais Brongniart, and will be hosted by ex-England and British and Irish Lions wing Ugo Monye and South African presenter Elma Smit.

When is it?

12:30pm Monday local time (GMT+1).

How does it work?

Like the last five World Cups, the 2023 event will consist of 20 nations divided into four pools of five teams.

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The 12 direct qualifiers – the top three teams from each of the four pools at the 2019 World Cup – have been seeded into three bands based on where they sat on the World Rugby rankings on January 1 this year.

Seedings are usually based on where teams have been ranked at the time of the draw, but, with COVID-19 preventing some teams like South Africa and Japan from playing in 2020, World Rugby chose to readjust the seedings “in the interests of fairness”.

The four highest ranked of these 12 teams have been placed in Band 1, while the next four highest ranked sides have been put into Band 2, and the remaining four direct qualifiers are all in Band 3.


This means that the top three bands heading into the draw looks like this (World Rugby rankings on January 1 in brackets):

Band 1 – South Africa (1), New Zealand (2), England (3), Wales (4)

Band 2 – Ireland (5), Australia (6), France (7), Japan (8)

Band 3 – Scotland (9), Argentina (10), Fiji (11), Italy (12)


Had the seedings been based on current rankings, France would have moved into Band 1, while Wales would have fallen into Band 3, as would have Japan, leaving Scotland and Argentina to take the two vacant spots in Band 2.

The remaining eight sides to take part in the 2023 World Cup will be determined through the global qualification process, which begins next year and will conclude in November 2022.

These teams will be known as:

Oceania 1: The winner of an aggregate play-off series between Samoa and Tonga. The loser will play the 2021 Oceania Cup champion to advance as Oceania 2 to a cross-regional play-off with Asia 1. Likely qualifier: Samoa or Tonga.

Asia/Pacific 1: The winner of an aggregate play-off series between Oceania 2 and Asia 1, the champion of the 2021 Asia Rugby Championship. The loser will advance to the Final Qualification Tournament. Likely qualifier: Samoa or Tonga.

Europe 1: The champion of the 2021-22 Rugby Europe Championship. Likely qualifier: Georgia.

Europe 2: The runner-up of the 2021-22 Rugby Europe Championship. The third-placed side will advance to the Final Qualification Tournament. Likely qualifier: Spain, Romania, Portugal or Russia.

Americas 1: The winner of an aggregate play-off series between the 2021 Rugby Americas North champion and the 2021 Sudamerica Rugby champion. The loser will advance to the Americas 2 play-off. Likely qualifier: USA.

Americas 2: The winner of an aggregate play-off series between the Americas 1 runner-up and the winner of an aggregate play-off series between the runners-up of 2021 Rugby Americas North and 2021 Sudamerica Rugby. The loser advances to the Final Qualification Tournament. Likely qualifier: Uruguay or Canada.

Africa 1: The champion of the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup. The runner-up advances to the Final Qualification Tournament. Likely qualifier: Namibia.

Final Qualifier: The champion of a round-robin tournament between the loser of the Asia/Pacific play-off, the third-placed Rugby Europe Championship side, the loser of the Americas 2 play-off and the Rugby Africa Cup runner-up. Likely qualifier: Third-place Rugby Europe Championship side or Americas 2 play-off loser.

These eight teams will be divided into Band 4 (Oceania 1, Europe 1, Americas 1 and Asia/Pacific 1) and Band 5 (Africa 1, Europe 2, Americas 2, Final Qualifier) and will be drawn alongside the 12 automatically qualified sides.

In order to ensure the strength of each pool is evenly balanced, one team will be drawn at random from each band and placed into one pool.

This means every pool will have one team from each band.

What are the best and worst outcomes for teams in each band?

Band 1

One would have to think that, given their recent form in the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, Wales would be the preferred team to be drawn alongside for those in Bands 2 and 3.

With just four wins from their last 11 matches, which saw them plummet from fourth to ninth on the world rankings between January and December, Wayne Pivac’s side currently look far weaker than the likes of England, the All Blacks and the Springboks.

Drawing any of the other three sides would make life significantly tougher in the pool stages for the lower seeded teams.

Band 2

Of those in Band 2, the emergence of France as potential world-beaters, something they have become on the U20 scene over the past couple of seasons, makes them a threatening prospect.

Weigh in the fact that they will be playing in front of their home fans, and Les Bleus loom as a genuine force in 2023, which could have intriguing implications if they are drawn with either England, New Zealand or South Africa.

At the other end of the spectrum, it remains to be seen whether Japan can build on the historic success they enjoyed on their home soil last year.

With coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown committed to the Brave Blossoms for the next three years, though, they have every chance of replicating the stunning rugby that made them quarter-finalists for the first time ever in 2019.

The Wallabies haven’t kicked on as well as they would have liked under Dave Rennie in his first year in charge, but that could change in the coming years, while Ireland remain a work in progress following the departure of long-serving boss Joe Schmidt.

Band 3

As is the case in Band 1, there is one team in Band 3 that most sides would probably prefer to be drawn with due to their comparative weakness to those seeded alongside them, and that is Italy.

Still yet to qualify for the quarter-finals of a World Cup, the Azzurri went winless on the field throughout the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, with their only success coming from their cancelled fixture against Fiji, which forced an automatic win.

Had they actually played the Fijians, it wouldn’t have surprised to see the Pacific Island nation come out on top considering the talent in their ranks.

If the likes of Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova, Leone Nakarawa and Nemani Nadolo are all involved in 2023, especially with their impressive new coaching staff all at the helm, Fiji would be a dangerous team to have in any side’s pool.

The same can be said of Argentina, who proved their worth with a maiden victory over the All Blacks in this year’s Tri-Nations before drawing twice with the Wallabies.

There is also plenty to like about Scotland, but, similarly to Ireland, there is plenty of progress to be made between now and the World Cup if they are to ensure their place in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2015.

Band 4

Although the teams in this band are still yet to be confirmed, it’s highly likely Georgia, Samoa, Tonga and (probably) the United States will all qualify here.

Of that quartet, Georgia currently stand as the biggest threats, but it would be unwise to ignore the threat posed by Samoa and Tonga, while the Eagles continue to grow as minnow rugby force.

Band 5

Likewise, nobody yet knows which nations will fill out the spots in Band 5, but the safe money would have to go on Namibia, Uruguay and any two of Canada, Spain, Russia, Romania and Portugal.

In all likelihood, none of those teams are going to pose any trouble for any of the top sides, but, strictly on the basis of their shock win over Fiji at last year’s World Cup, Uruguay might be considered the strongest of the lot.

Possible ‘Pool of Death’

South Africa/England/New Zealand

Possible Easiest Pool



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