- Sam Warburton predicts that France is the favorite to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, given the home advantage and the electric atmosphere at the Stade de France.
- He believes that France's Damian Penaud will emerge as the tournament's top try-scorer, considering his skill and the likelihood of France progressing to the latter stages.
- Warburton highlights players to watch, including Caelan Doris from Ireland, and Ardie Savea from New Zealand, whom he considers to be some of the most talented in the world.
At the height of his powers, Wales legend Sam Warburton was considered one of the best players in World Rugby.
Captaining Wales on, what was then, a record-breaking 49 occasions, as well as being the youngest captain the sport had seen at a World Cup at just 22 years old, it's fair to say the back-row enjoyed quite the stellar career.
Winning two Six Nations titles, as well as leading the British and Irish Lions to a 2–1 series win over Australia and to a draw with 2015 world champions New Zealand, the legendary flanker has been immortalised in Welsh and British Rugby history.
Sitting down with GIVEMESPORT on behalf of Canterbury to discuss the upcoming 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, the now-retired Wales international gives his thoughts on everything from his World Cup favourites to the best flankers ever…
Sam's predictions for tournament winners and top try-scorer
Who are your favourites to win the RWC?
“I think the World Cup is France’s to lose.” Even though Ireland are number one, I think they could definitely win it, of course they could, because it’s a one-off game if the teams meet each other in the final.”
“With the Six Nations, I’ve always thought whoever had the home advantage would win that fixture, I think they’re that close to each other.”
“I just think the Stade de France will produce an atmosphere that not many of us, if any in the world have experienced before in the Rugby World Cup. Every home game is going to be like a carnival there.”
Who will be the top try scorer at the RWC?
“If I could pick a winger to play in my team now, it would be France’s Damian Penaud.
"I just think he’s a ridiculous player, and massively underrated for one of the world’s very best. Given that France are very likely to go through to the latter stages as well, he’s going to get at least five to seven games under his belt, so I fancy him to be the tournament’s top try scorer.”
Sam's picks for players to look out for
Which players should we look out for at the RWC?
“Obviously, France’s Antoine Dupont at scrum-half.
"I think it will be a big tournament for Caelan Doris at number 8 for Ireland, he’s a classy operator and hasn’t necessarily got the name he deserves.
"He would have almost certainly gone on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour if he hadn’t got injured beforehand, which definitely held him back.”
“I’d love it if England played Henry Arundell, he’s got an ability that not many players have.”
“I’d also go with Ardie Savea of New Zealand. I thought he was the best player in the world last year. He’s another player I can’t wait to watch.”
Sam's best flankers of all time
Bonus question: Who are the best flankers of all time?
“I’d go with Richie McCaw, David Pocock, Jerome Kaino, and Pierre Spies.”
Sam Warburton's Rugby World Cup XV: Ethan de Groot, Dewi Lake, Uini Atonio, Eben Etzebeth, Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Caealan Doris, Dalton Papalii, Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntmack, Jonathan Danty, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Henry Arundell, Damian Willemse.
Sam Warbuton is a Canterbury ambassador. Sam was speaking as Canterbury and The British & Irish Lions extend their partnership for the 2025 tour of Australia, launching the Origins Schools programme, marking the first official collaboration between The British & Irish Lions, Canterbury, and schools’ rugby.