The 2023 Rugby World Cup pool stages are done and dusted. The four quarter-finals will be played in France this coming weekend, following the final round of matches on Sunday.
Portugal shocked Fiji in the final pool stage match, winning 24-23 in Toulouse to register a first ever World Cup win. Fiji though still advanced to the playoffs thanks to the bonus point earned, but Australia have fallen out of the competition.
In the quarter-finals this weekend, on Saturday, Wales take on Argentina in Marseille (5pm) and Ireland face New Zealand in Paris (9pm), and on Sunday, England entertain Fiji in Marseille (5pm) and France host South Africa in Paris (9pm).
Here then are five talking points of the pool stages:
A number of big-name players missed the tournament completely because of injury, among them Romain Ntamack of France and Lood de Jager of South Africa.
But other players to pick up injuries during the pool stages included France captain Antoine Dupont, who could be back for this weekend’s quarter-final against South Africa, while Boks stars Malcolm Marx and Makazole Mapimpi left the tournament.
The match officials have been among the most-discussed topics at the 2023 tournament, with their clamping down on dangerous play especially controversial.
No less than 30 yellow cards and a further seven red cards were issued in the pool stages. The majority of these were for dangerous tackles and head on head contact.
For the first time in their history, Australia failed to make it through the group phase of a Rugby World Cup.
Australia sacked Dave Rennie months out from the tournament and re-appointed Eddie Jones, for the second time, but defeats to Fiji (22-15) and Wales (40-6) in their pool saw them crash out in spectacular fashion.
The lopsided draw, done in 2020, three years out from this World Cup tournament, means the world’s top four teams — Ireland, South Africa, France and New Zealand — all played on the same side, and only two will progress to the semi-finals.
Ireland (1) will face the All Blacks (4) and France (2) and South Africa (3) will meet in thee last-eight, meaning two of England, Wales, Fiji and Argentina will play in the semi-finals.
Besides Portugal’s shock win against Fiji, and Australia’s exit, the performances of some teams and some results raised eyebrows.
Namibia didn’t win a game and conceded 255 points in four games, scoring just 37, and Italy losing as badly as they did in their defeats of 96-17 and 60-7 to New Zealand and France respectively was a surprise and unexpected.