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Hansen Hands Departing Stars Chance Against Wales

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has made a host of changes for his side’s Rugby World Cup third-place play-off against Wales and given some men a chance to shine on their final appearance for the country



(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

All Blacks head coach has made a raft of changes to his side for their Rugby World Cup third-place play-off against Wales in Japan on Friday.

Following their 19-7 semi-final defeat to England on Saturday Hansen has freshened things up while also allowing some stars a chance to sign off on a high as they prepare to hang up their international boots. 

Captain Kieran Read, centres Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty, as well as utility-back Ben Smith are all set to call time on their glittering international careers with the conclusion of the tournament and have all been named in the starting XV. 

To run through the team Joe Moody continues alongside Nepo Laulala in the front-row, while the pair are joined by Dane Coles who replaces Cody Taylor as the starting hooker, Brodie Retallick retains his place in the second-row and is joined by Scott Barrett who moves from flanker to the engine-room. 

Shannon Frizell comes in as the blindside-flanker, with Sam Cane on the openside and Read completes the pack from No 8. 

Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga are once again named as the half-back pairing, but have Williams and Crotty outside them in the midfield this week. 

Rieko Ioane replaces George Bridge on the left-wing, with Ben Smith taking Sevu Reece’s spot on the right, while Beauden Barrett continues at full-back. 

The likes of Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara have been completely left out of the 23-man squad, but there are returns to the bench for the likes of Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Matt Todd and Brad Weber. 

Speaking ahead of the game Hansen admitted he struggled to pick his side and confirmed that his team are fully focused on winning the game despite what the media have said during the week. 

“This was a tough team to select because, as always, everyone wanted to play. But with a short turnaround and the nature of the tournament, we feel that this is the right team for this occasion. There’s been a lot of external talk around this being the game that no one wants to play. However, from our point of view, we can’t wait to play it. Everyone in the squad – players and management – are motivated by the opportunity to show that our last performance wasn’t at the high standard that we know we can play at. This is a test match against an opposition that will also be keen to make a statement. Therefore, we will need to turn up with real attitude, intent and work ethic, and then execute our skill sets to the highest level possible,” he said. 

New Zealand will want to end their campaign on a high having failed in their quest to win three Webb Ellis Cups on the bounce. However, Wales will be no push-overs as they look to give Warren Gatland a perfect send-off with victory over the mighty All Blacks. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV:

1. Joe Moody (44)

2. Dane Coles (68)

3. Nepo Laulala (24)

4. Brodie Retallick (80)

5. Scott Barrett (35)

6. Shannon Frizell (8)

7. Sam Cane (67)

8. Kieran Read – captain (126)

9. Aaron Smith (91)

10. Richie Mo’unga (16)

11. Rieko Ioane (28)

12. Sonny Bill Williams (56)

13. Ryan Crotty (47)

14. Ben Smith (83)

15. Beauden Barrett (82)


16. Liam Coltman (7)

17. Atu Moli (7)

18. Angus Ta’avao (13)

19. Patrick Tuipulotu (29)

20. Matt Todd (24)

21. Brad Weber (4)

22. Anton Lienert-Brown (41)

23. Jordie Barrett (16)

Rugby World Cup

Women’s Rugby World Cup looks set to be postponed.



World Rugby has made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between 18 September-16 October, until next year. The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on 8 and 9 March respectively.Play Video

While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family.

The recommendation is based on the evolution of the uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape. It has become clear in recent discussions with key partners including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand Government and participating unions, that, given the scale of the event and the COVID-19-related uncertainties, it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport’s greatest stage.  

The challenges include uncertainty and the ability for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand, and challenging global travel restrictions. 

World Rugby can assure teams, New Zealanders and the global rugby family that the recommendation to postpone the tournament will help to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2021 will be all it can be next year for players, fans and the rugby family – one of the great Rugby World Cups.

Further updates will be issued following the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meetings next week.  

Statement Ends.

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Rugby World Cup

RWC 2023 Pools confirmed.




How the draw worked

As host nation, France was drawn first and placed randomly in one of the four pools. The teams were then drawn randomly from each band, starting with Band 5 (Africa 1, Oceania 1, Asia / Pacific 1, Final Qualifier Winner), then Band 4 (Americas 1, Americas 2, Europe 1, Europe 2), then Band 3 (Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy), then Band 2 (Ireland, (France), Australia, Japan) and finally Band 1 (South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales). The first drawn in each band was placed in Pool A, the second in Pool B, the third in Pool C and the fourth in Pool D.

Draw seedings

Twelve of the 20 teams qualified automatically by finishing in the top three places of their Rugby World Cup 2019 pool. These 12 teams are: South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, Japan, Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy. Acknowledging the global COVID-19 impact on international rugby in 2020, these teams were seeded based on the World Rugby Men’s Rankings as of 1 January, 2020 and placed into the first three bands of four teams.

The remaining eight teams will come through the regional qualification process and were allocated for the draw into bands four and five based on relative strength. They are: Americas 1, Americas 2, Europe 1, Europe 2, Africa 1, Oceania 1, Asia / Pacific 1 and the Final Qualifier Winner.

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Rugby World Cup

Qualification process set for Rugby World Cup 2023



Image from World Rugby
  • Process designed to promote regional strength and the best teams to rugby’s showcase event
  • 12 teams already qualified owing to top three pool placing at RWC 2019
  • RWC 2023 on track to be a spectacular celebration of rugby and France

World Rugby has announced details of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

Following the most competitive and widely-acclaimed Rugby World Cup to date in Japan, the qualification process is designed to deliver the top teams in the world to rugby’s showcase tournament, while promoting a genuine opportunity for all unions.

With 12 teams having secured their place at France 2023 courtesy of finishing in the top three of their respective pools at RWC 2019, the remaining eight places will be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers. The process will conclude with a four-team round-robin Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022 to determine the final qualifier.

The dates for events in 2021 will be announced in due course and will be subject to an anticipated easing of the COVID-19 situation.

The announcement follows consultation with unions and regions in January 2020 and a full review of performance at Rugby World Cup 2019, where rankings upsets and the impressive performances in particular of Japan, Fiji, Uruguay, Tonga and Georgia cut the performance gap, with the average winning margin between established and emerging unions decreasing in comparison with 2015 benchmarks.

The Americas will deliver two direct places, while Oceania will deliver a direct qualifier with a further direct place available following a play-off with Asia. The Rugby Europe Championship (two direct places), Rugby Africa Cup (one direct place) and Final Qualification Tournament (one direct place) will provide the other qualifiers. Further details are provided below.

RWC 2023 qualification principles

  • Americas: the Americas will qualify two teams by September 2022. The third best team in the region will enter the Final Qualification Tournament – Americas 1 & Americas 2
  • Europe: the existing Rugby Europe Championship will have two qualifying places, with the two best teams in March 2022 qualifying directly and the third placed entering the Final Qualification Tournament – Europe 1 & Europe 2 
  • Africa: the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 winner will qualify directly and the runner-up team will go to Final Qualification – Africa 1
  • Oceania: a home and away play-off between Tonga and Samoa in 2021 will determine the direct qualifier for the Oceania region. – Oceania 1
    The loser will then play the Oceania Rugby Cup 2021 winner in the highest ranked team’s country with the eventual winner contesting Asia / Pacific (see below) as Oceania 2
  • Asia / Pacific: the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021 will play Oceania 2 home and away. The winner on aggregate will determine the qualifier and the loser will go to Final Qualification – Asia / Pacific 1
  • Final Qualification Tournament: the tournament in November 2022 will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format with the winner qualifying for RWC 2023 – Final Qualification winner

Teams already qualified: South Africa, England, New Zealand, Wales, Japan, France (host), Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Argentina, Fiji

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With the global pandemic having halted most rugby activity, confirmation of the global qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 provides a beacon of excitement for all, including players and fans.

“The process that has been developed via full consultation with our regional associations and member unions will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for our showcase men’s 15s event.

“Maximising existing regional competitions, the process is good for regions and unions in managing costs for organisers and participants alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.

“On behalf of World Rugby, I’d like to wish all teams involved the best of luck on their journey to France 2023.”

Rugby World Cup France 2023 CEO Claude Atcher added: “This qualification process gives emerging unions an opportunity to take part in our sport’s biggest competition.

“The success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and performances by the host nation is a testimony of rugby’s expansion globally. As the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is about to be won, I welcome this optimistic prospect of reconnecting with the excitement of our sport. This is the start of our journey towards France 2023, which will be the best tournament ever delivered.”

Final details of the regional competition formats and dates will be announced in due course.

Official Press Release from World Rugby

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