In a thrilling opening match of the Rugby World Cup 2023, host nation France secured a hard-fought victory over three-time champions New Zealand.
The match was closely contested, with New Zealand’s Mark Telea scoring tries early in both halves, posing a significant threat to France’s opening-day celebrations. However, France managed to stay ahead thanks to the relentless accuracy of Thomas Ramos’ kicking and a well-executed try by Damian Penaud.
A crucial penalty by Ramos in the 73rd minute extended France’s lead beyond seven points, providing some comfort to the home fans. France sealed the victory with a try in the final minutes as Melvyn Jaminet collected a clever chip from fellow substitute Maxime Lucu.
France’s next match in Pool A will be against Uruguay, followed by fixtures against Namibia and Italy. Winning all three matches would secure them the top spot in the pool and set up a quarter-final clash with the runners-up from Pool B.
For New Zealand, who had the record of winning all 31 of their previous pool-stage games at World Cups, the loss serves as a reminder that early setbacks do not necessarily dictate the tournament’s outcome. In 2019, they faced a similar situation when they lost their opening game to South Africa, only to see the Springboks ultimately win the Webb Ellis Trophy.