Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool A squads: Italy complete the line-up
Italy are the fifth and final team in Pool A to unveil their squad for RWC 2023, with Uruguay, France, Namibia and New Zealand having shown their hand before them.
When Antoine Dupont and Sam Cane lead their teams onto the Stade de France turf next Friday, they will set a new tournament record as they kick off Rugby World Cup 2023.
No fixture has been contested at Rugby World Cups on more occasions than France versus New Zealand – although Australia against Wales will draw level on 24 September – and the eighth edition of the contest is set to be one to remember.
Les Bleus and the All Blacks head into RWC 2023 with designs on the Webb Ellis Cup and separated by just 0.16 rating points in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, sitting third and fourth respectively.
Whoever comes out on top in Saint-Denis on 8 September will leave the Stade de France with a boost in confidence and their path to the quarter-finals mapped out.
But as past meetings between the sides suggest, neutrals are in for a treat whatever the outcome. Here are four of the best from the teams’ Rugby World Cup back catalogue.
Following an opening 20-20 draw against Scotland, France had grown into the inaugural Rugby World Cup making light work of Romania and Zimbabwe before a quarter-final win against Fiji.
Serge Blanco then sealed Les Bleus’ progression to the first-ever final with a stunning late try against the Wallabies in Sydney, but Australia’s co-hosts New Zealand would prove an insurmountable obstacle a week later.
The All Blacks had been imperious on their run to the showpiece match, scoring 269 points and conceding only 43.
Following a Grant Fox drop-goal, Michael Jones scored the opening try of the final midway through the first half before David Kirk and John Kirwan crossed the whitewash in quick succession around the hour mark to give New Zealand a 23-3 lead.
Pierre Berbizier scored a consolation try for the French, but it came far too late to have any bearing on the outcome and the co-hosts saw out a deserved 29-9 victory. Kirk then became the first captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Four years after announcing himself on the game’s biggest stage and changing the way that fans viewed wingers, Jonah Lomu appeared to be leading the All Blacks to a third Rugby World Cup final.
Less than five minutes after half-time, Lomu scored his and New Zealand’s second try of their semi-final against France, to give his side a 24-10 lead at Twickenham. The chances of a comeback seemed remote, but then Christophes Lamaison and Dominici took over.
Two drop-goals and a pair of penalties from Lamaison, who had scored the opening try of the match and was only playing because of an injury to Thomas Castaignède, cut France’s deficit to just two points before Dominici judged the flight of a bouncing ball perfectly to put Les Bleus in front.
France added further tries through Richard Dourthe and Philippe Bernat-Salles, converted by Lamaison, to take their run of unanswered points to 33 and give them a 43-24 lead with around five minutes remaining.
Jeff Wilson did notch a third All Blacks try in the final minute, but it was France who were off to the RWC 1999 final in Cardiff, where they would lose to Australia.
If the All Blacks had been favourites for the pair’s RWC 1999 semi-final meeting, then eight years later they appeared nailed on to banish the painful memory of Twickenham.
New Zealand had beaten France by an aggregate of 103-21 in a two-test series only four months previously while Les Bleus had been exiled to Cardiff for the quarter-finals of their home Rugby World Cup due to a defeat to Argentina in the opening match of the tournament.
Once again it was the All Blacks who made much of the early running at the Millennium Stadium, as if affronted by their opponents’ decision to face the haka at close proximity, building a 13-3 half-time lead thanks to Luke McAlister’s try and the boot of Dan Carter.
However, following a second Lionel Beauxis penalty, Thierry Dusautoir helped level the score at 13-13 with a fine finish.
Rodney So’oialo restored the All Blacks lead with less than 18 minutes to go but the conversion was missed and France would make New Zealand pay. Yannick Jauzion profited from a Frederic Michalak break to score before Jean-Baptiste Elissalde added the all-important extras.
There was still plenty of time for New Zealand to mount a comeback of their own but a late, long-range drop-goal attempt from McAlister dipped short of the posts and France were able to hold on.
Les Bleus almost proved to be the ultimate party poopers 12 years ago when they faced the All Blacks in the final of their home Rugby World Cup, again at Eden Park.
New Zealand were looking to end their 24-year wait for a second Webb Ellis Cup on home soil and had overcome obstacles on and off the pitch to reach the showpiece match. The hosts had lost Dan Carter and his deputy Colin Slade to injury, while captain Richie McCaw was playing through the pain barrier.
France, beaten 37-17 by the All Blacks during the pool phase, had come close to exiting the tournament at that stage having also lost to Tonga, but once through to the knockouts, Les Bleus edged past England and Wales.
Tony Woodcock scored the opening try of the final in the 15th minute, but Piri Weepu missed the conversion as well as two first-half penalties which left the score at 5-0 heading into the break.
Replacement fly-half Stephen Donald, a late call-up playing his first minutes of the entire tournament, stretched that advantage to eight points early in the second half but France soon narrowed the deficit as Thierry Dusautoir went over and Francois Trinh-Duc converted.
Dusautoir’s intervention made the score 8-7 with more than half an hour to play, however, the All Blacks soaked up wave after wave of French pressure to secure a second Rugby World Cup title.