Rugby World Cup guide: Tournament format, who is playing and how can I watch it?

The Webb Ellis Cup.
Teams are competing to win the Webb Ellis Cup. Credit: AP

By James Gray, Multimedia Producer

The tenth edition of the men's Rugby World Cup gets underway in September, with 20 teams competing to win the Webb Ellis Cup.

England, who were beaten finalists in 2019, will be hoping to go one step better, while high expectations have been placed on the likes of reigning Six Nations champions Ireland.

Organisers of the tournament have drummed up anticipation, pledging it will be "amazing from the start to the end".

Here, ITV News sets out an all you need to know guide for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Where is the World Cup being held?

France are hosting the tournament for the third time, although this will be the first where every game is staged within the country.

Fixtures will be played across a total of nine venues, including Paris' Stade de France - where the World Cup final will be held - and the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, in Saint-Etienne.

Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Nantes and Toulouse will also host World Cup matches.

How often is the World Cup held?

The Rugby World Cup is held every four years as has been the case since it was created in 1987.

The Stade de France will host the World Cup final. Credit: AP

When does the World Cup begin?

Hosts France kick off the tournament against New Zealand on Friday September 8, and matches will continue to be played for nearly two months.

When is the World Cup final?

The 2023 Rugby World Cup final will take place on Saturday October 28 at the State de France.

Who are the reigning World Cup champions?

South Africa are the current Rugby World Cup champions. Four years ago, the Springboks defeated England 32-12 to secure their third World Cup crown - which tied them for most titles alongside New Zealand.

South Africa took home the trophy at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Credit: AP

Which teams are playing at the World Cup?

A total of 20 teams will compete at the World Cup, including, for the first time ever, Chile, and Portugal, who have qualified for only the second time.

France automatically qualified for the tournament as hosts, and a further 11 teams secured their place by virtue of finishing in the top three of their pool at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all included within this list as well as southern hemisphere heavyweights South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

How does the World Cup work?

The World Cup begins with the pool stage, which sees the 20 competing teams split into four pools of five.

Teams are allocated a pool by a seeding system, which for this tournament was based on World Rugby rankings correct as of January 1 2020. The draw for the pool stage was made nearly three years ago in December 2020.

During the pool stage, every team will participate in a 'round-robin' format, playing four matches against the other nations in their respective pools.

The two teams in each pool who finish in first and second place will then progress to the knockout stages.

From this point, teams will compete in single elimination rounds (e.g. quarter and semi finals), before the tournament culminates with the World Cup final.

New Zealand are one of the favourites to win the Webb Ellis Cup. Credit: AP

When will England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales play?

England have been drawn in Pool D alongside Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile.

Consequently, Steve Borthwick's side will contest the following matches:

  • England vs Argentina (Saturday September 9)

  • England vs Japan (Sunday September 17)

  • England vs Chile (Saturday September 23)

  • England vs Samoa (Saturday October 7)

England kick off their World Cup campaign against Argentina. Credit: AP

Ireland and Scotland will face each other in the pool stage after both were drawn with South Africa, Tonga and Romania in Pool B.

Ireland's fixtures include:

  • Ireland vs Romania (Saturday September 9)

  • Ireland vs Tonga (Saturday September 16)

  • South Africa vs Ireland (Saturday September 23)

  • Ireland vs Scotland (Saturday October 7)

Scotland, meanwhile, will play on the following dates:

  • South Africa vs Scotland (Sunday September 10)

  • Scotland vs Tonga (Sunday September 24)

  • Scotland vs Romania (Saturday September 30)

  • Ireland vs Scotland (Saturday October 7)

Ireland and Scotland will face each other in the pool stage of the World Cup. Credit: PA

Elsewhere, Wales will contest a place in the knockout stages with Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal in Pool C.

Wales' pool stage fixtures are as follows:

  • Wales vs Fiji (Sunday September 10)

  • Wales vs Portugal (Saturday September 16)

  • Wales vs Australia (Sunday September 24)

  • Wales vs Georgia (Saturday October 7)

Did you know...

The 2023 edition of the Rugby World Cup is taking place in the bicentenary year that William Webb Ellis - who the World Cup trophy is named after - is thought to have created the game of rugby.

How can I watch the World Cup?

ITV have exclusive broadcast rights to show the Rugby World Cup in the UK, with matches to be screened live across the broadcaster's various channels.

Exact channel information for fixtures can be found here.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...