The year 2023 is an important year for rugby. Not only is it the sport’s bicentennial – rugby officially turns 200 in the latter half of 2023 – it's also the year of rugby’s biggest and most celebrated event: the Rugby World Cup.
With the men’s and women’s Six Nations over, many fans are turning their attention to this year’s upcoming rugby tournaments. This includes some of rugby’s most exciting matches: the Heineken Cup final, the Super Rugby final, and of course, the RWC final.
Here, we take a closer look at these three highly anticipated rugby matches and consider why they’re so important.
The 2023 Heineken Cup final
This year’s Heineken Cup kicked off in December 2022 and the final is due to take place on 20 May. This game is essentially a rematch of the 2022 final when La Rochelle beat Leinster 24-21 to claim their first Heineken Cup title.
As it stands, both teams have delivered exceptional performances throughout the tournament. Leinster and La Rochelle entered the knockout stages undefeated, with both sides winning all four of their pool games. They also continued to dominate during the semi-finals, where Leinster defeated Toulouse 41-22 and La Rochelle crushed Exeter Chiefs 47-28.
The final will be held at Aviva Stadium in Dublin where fans will be hoping home advantage can lead Leinster to their fifth title.
The 2023 Super Rugby final
The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season began in February 2023 and after four months of thrilling matches, the final will be contested on 24 June. This is an exciting year for Super Rugby fans as it’s only the second time the tournament has been contested in its existing format; the first Super Rugby Pacific season only took its professional bow last year.
Featuring five teams from Australia, five from New Zealand, and one each from Fiji and the Pacific Islands, it was the Crusaders that won the 2022 tournament and cinched their 11th title (following previous incarnations). This year it seems as though the Chiefs could claim the title, as according to the latest odds, they are the current favorites. If successful, this would be the club’s third title and their first major trophy since 2013.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup final
As far as exciting rugby fixtures go, there are few matches that can compete with the final of the 2023 RWC. This 10th edition of the RWC will be hosted by France, making it the first to be held in the Northern Hemisphere since 2015.
The opening match will be contested between the hosts and New Zealand on 8 September at the Stade de France. These two teams enjoyed mixed performances at the 2019 tournament; Les Bleus crashed out during the quarter-finals after a 20-19 defeat against Wales, while the All Blacks beat Wales 40-17 to finish in third place.
It goes without saying that as the hosts, France will be hoping to deliver a better performance during this year’s tournament. To date, England is the only Northern Hemisphere team to have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup, a feat that Les Bleus will of course be hoping to replicate on home soil.
As of May 2023, it seems that France could be in with a chance of securing rugby’s biggest title as some of the leading bookmakers have France as the odds-on favorites.
However, one of the great things about sport is that anything can happen. As such all of the favorites we’ve listed above could claim glory or could fall at the final hurdle. We can’t wait to find out which way all three encounters go.
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