With the Rugby World Cup in just over a year’s time, the odds on who will end the tournament victorious are starting to be determined, with host nation France already being tipped as the early favourites – thanks in part to their home advantage. 

That said, a year is a long time in rugby union and there’s still a lot that can happen between now and then to upset these predictions. But it is interesting to consider just how much of a difference being the tournament hosts can actually make. 

The advantage of being a host nation

If you look at any major sporting competition there are typically a few advantages we tend to believe that the host nation gets from holding the event. These are:

  • The home players/competitors will have an edge as they will be more accustomed to everything from the venues to the facilities and the climate. 
  • The majority of players won’t have to travel far and won’t be affected by jetlag or fatigue.
  • There’ll be larger proportion of home fans, giving a motivational boost to their nation.
  • The host nation will have invested a lot in holding the competition, so there’ll be an added level of expectation and build up for the home side. 

What the data says

However, it is fair to say that the above points are subjective, and in some cases, seemingly almost theoretical. So, what we should do is look at the real data we have on this subject from Rugby World Cups gone by. 

In this piece on the Rugby World Cup’s official website, they’ve collated this information and ultimately what it shows is while the host nations do occasionally win, it would appear this circumstance is actually the exception rather than the rule. 

Other deciding factors

What the experts and bookmakers also take into account is how well the team is playing. 

France historically haven’t been at the same level as South Africa or Australia, but of late Fabien Galthié’s team has been playing some sensational rugby. Recent highlights include their current unbeaten run, a Grand Slam Six Nations win and an impressive victory over New Zealand back in November 2021. 

They also have a quality crop of young and talented players such as World Rugby’s Men’s 15s Player of the Year Antoine Dupont.

The end result?

At the end of the day, a home advantage will matter in some respects but after considering all of the above, it’s really more about form. After all there are 20 nations competing in this tournament and it only takes one upset or one moment of magic to knock out the favourite. 

With this though, what we can probably all agree on is that it simply adds to the excitement and spectacle that comes from putting the best of the best from rugby union on the world stage for us all to enjoy.