Try not to miss the Rugby World Cup 2023 Live

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Friday: Rugby World Cup 2023 Live (ITV1, 6.45pm)

It has been 20 long years since Jonny Wilkinson dropkicked England to Rugby World Cup glory in Sydney.

But other than Clive Woodward’s men’s famous triumph in 2003, no other side from the Northern Hemisphere nation has lifted the William Webb Ellis Trophy.

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Is this the year that a European side finally manages to break New Zealand, Australia and South Africa’s near-exclusive monopoly on rugby union’s biggest prize?

Maggie Alphonso, Mark Pougatch, Jill Douglas, Jonny Wilkinson, Greg Laidlaw, Brian O’Driscoll and Sam WarburtonMaggie Alphonso, Mark Pougatch, Jill Douglas, Jonny Wilkinson, Greg Laidlaw, Brian O’Driscoll and Sam Warburton
Maggie Alphonso, Mark Pougatch, Jill Douglas, Jonny Wilkinson, Greg Laidlaw, Brian O’Driscoll and Sam Warburton

Although the draw has been favourable to England, few people are expecting Steve Borthwick’s men to go all the way in France.

And it may not help that they’ll have to do without skipper Owen Farrell for the first two games, against Argentina tomorrow (September 9) and Japan (September 17), after he received a four-game ban for a high tackle in the recent international against Wales.

While England have had a disappointing 2023 so far, Scotland appear to be a team on the up.

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Gregor Townsend’s men beat France in a warm-up game last month, thanks to substitute Dave Cherry’s late try. They get their World Cup campaign under way on Sunday against South Africa.

Mark PougatchMark Pougatch
Mark Pougatch

Head Coach Warren Gatland is in his second spell in charge of Wales. They had a terrible Six Nations and few people are expecting them to be competing for the world title – but can they get off to a winning start against Fiji, also on Sunday?

One of the big questions coming into France 2023 is whether Ireland can finally overcome their World Cup hoodoo, having previously only made it to the quarter-final stage.

The No.1 ranked team in the world are in brilliant form evidenced by their phenomenal tour of New Zealand, a perfect ‘Greenwash’ in the Six Nations and recent victories in the summer internationals.

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There is superstar quality all over Andy Farrell’s team, including captain Johnny Sexton, who will be playing his final game in a green shirt during this tournament.

The veteran fly half and his teammates will be looking to get off to a flier against Romania tomorrow (September 9).

Away from the home nations, Fabien Galthié’s France must fancy their chances of lifting the trophy – the three-time runners-up are on home soil and have arguably the most exciting player in the world, Antoine Dupont, pulling the strings.

The first of 48 live Rugby World Cup matches over the next six weeks is the pool stage’s most anticipated clash, with Galthié’s Les Bleus kicking off against three-time world champions New Zealand, one the opening ceremony is out of the way.

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There’s a real ‘Last Dance’ atmosphere surrounding the All Blacks, who come in with the most experienced World Cup squad in the nation’s history.

Coach Ian Foster has already confirmed he will depart his role at the end of the tournament, while a few senior players are also set for retirement. Can they go out on a high in France?

With these two sides both heavily fancied to succeed 2019 champions South Africa and lift the trophy at the Stade de France on Saturday, October 28, tonight’s showdown, presented by Mark Pougatch, with analysis from Jonny Wilkinson, Brian O’Driscoll and Maggie Alphonsi, has all the ingredients to be a cracker.