Rugby World Cup: The business of the game

Sponsorship, video games, and tickets – what brings the most revenue to rugby and how good an investment is the sport?

As rugby fans celebrate the thrills and highlights of the past few world cup matches, the tournament’s organisers can rub their hands with glee: the economic boon and revenue the event has given to host France is sizeable.


A previously released report from Ernst & Young’s claimed that the tournament in Japan in 2019 saw the highest ever economic impact in Rugby World Cup history, and increased the GDP by $2.93 billion (€2.75 billion).

The profitable sport mega event is attracting even more tourists to France, meaning hotels, airlines, museums, and more cleaning up.

The 2023 tournament – the tenth edition – is expected to attract more than half a million visitors to the country, and bring approximately $1 billion (€940 million) into its economy.

Meanwhile, the organisation Rugby World Cup Ltd is expected to rake in a hefty revenue, in the vicinity of $500 million.

Football’s a very different ball game

It’s by comparing rugby to other commercial sports that you can clearly see the impact it has. The obvious one is football.

The Rugby World Cup is considered to be a top 20 sport mega event, while the Football World Cup is in the top three, and so predictably brings in a gargantuan sum.

“So it’s believed that for World Rugby, the organisers of this particular competition, may generate around $500 million from the competition,” said Simon Chadwick Professor of Sport and Geopolitical Economy at Skema Business School in Paris.

“In comparison with FIFA, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar brought somewhere in the region of about $7.5 billion to the organisers,” he added.

Where is the money coming from?

While the financial value of football may eclipse that of rugby on the world stage, the funds that flow through old rugger are not to be sniffed at.

There are three major drivers that put the balance sheet of the Rugby World Cup into the positive every four years, following three preparatory years of huge expense and investment.

The majority of the revenue comes from broadcasting rights, followed closely by sponsorships and then income from ticketing and merchandise.


Broadcasting rights include everything from showing live games to edited highlights, news reports and social media clips.

The big question is, how many pairs of eyes can the Rugby World Cup attract across the globe?

The amount dictates how many sponsorship deals can be struck and how much the organiser can charge for broadcasting fees.

“In broadcasting terms, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people,” Chadwick said. “But if we were to compare that to global sports like, for example, the Olympic Games or the Football World Cup, we’re talking about billions.

“And once a sport is able to offer to commercial partners, to sponsors, to broadcasters, to investors, billions of eyeballs, it suddenly becomes very attractive,” he said.


For this reason, becoming an Olympic sport can be an extremely lucrative commercial lifeline for a game such as rugby.

Rugby union, the version of the sport played at the Rugby World Cup, only turned professional in 1995. While it has appeared at the Olympic Games before – specifically in the early 1900s – it’s sevens, the aptly-named version of the game played with seven players, that since became an official Olympic event in 2016.

Similarly, sponsorship deals are struck based on the same logic: the more people are watching, the more attractive a sponsorship is for big brands who want to show off their wares and services to as many people as possible.

This year’s edition includes sponsors such as Emirates, Mastercard and French railway company SNCF.

“We’re looking at some fairly sizeable sponsorship revenues, perhaps upwards of $100 million US dollars from sponsoring the Rugby World Cup,” Chadwick said.


Investing in the young to invest in the sport

Rugby as an investment may seem to be in its infancy but it has clear potential, according to Professor Chadwick.

“Rugby is still in the process of transformation,” he said “It is becoming increasingly popular in territories such as the United States, and we’re even beginning to see teams and competitions staged in places like China.”

“Moving forwards in the next 10 to 20 years, the financial and commercial attractiveness of rugby will change considerably,” he added.

Some European private equity firms are dabbling in the sport already, but most come from across the Atlantic.

“The US market for sport is still the biggest in the world, one-third of global economic activity in sports has its origins in the US,” said Chadwick. “So the fact that the US is now beginning to take interest in rugby and does see a potential commercial return, I think is significant.”

In the case of sports like rugby, an investment may take decades to yield though, as it’s based on long-term engagement.

“Sustainable engagement is very often built during childhood. This is absolutely crucial for the long term health of a sport,” said Chadwick. “Evidence demonstrates that for many of us, particularly in Europe, that first sport, the first team, the first player, the first game that you ever saw sticks. Up until when you’re 90 years old, that is still your team.”

The result is that this engagement drives fans to follow their team and buy the merchandise for decades.

However, with the huge popularity of video game series such as Fifa, the foundation of long-term engagement is changing.

Electronic Arts, that develops and publishes sports video games, earned $7.4 billion last year, the equivalent of €6.75 billion, with FIFA 23 yielding record sales figures.

“The new generation of consumers, kids who are now six or seven years old, are increasingly getting their first engagements with the sport, a player, or a club, via a console game,” the professor said.

Chadwick predicts that the question of how popular or successful a certain player or team is in a game, as opposed to real life, will determine the relationship of the next generation to the sport.

Therefore, investing in video games is likely to be an evermore lucrative investment for the world of rugby.

Giraffonomics: How a psychic giraffe can contribute to rugby’s economy

Believe it or not, the same can also be said of the importance of the natural world for rugby investments.

Joining a long list of supposedly psychic creatures that can predict sports results, a French giraffe, Obano, correctly predicted the outcome of France’s first match of the Rugby World Cup this year. And while it may just be a colourful, light-hearted moment to some, it can actually contribute to increasing the number of rugby fans worldwide.

Gambling is still legal in Europe and is an important part of life for many on the continent. While regulations exist, gambling sponsors bring money into sport.

And a clairvoyant giraffe entering the news can help give it a push.

“It serves as a way of getting new audiences to engage with the competition now, and some of those people will stay,” says Chadwick. “They’ll become rugby fans for life because of what’s going to happen over the next month. And so this whole thing of animals predicting scores might seem funny, but there will be some people who genuinely are engaged by it and they will remain rugby fans.”

Rugby has been steadily growing in popularity across the world for decades.

According to the Rugby World Cup, almost 9 million people play the game regularly in more than 130 countries. In short, as the sport grows further, investors’ interest has the potential to do so too.

But we can’t predict the future… unlike a certain giraffe, apparently.

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‘Buzz in the air’: Preliminary finals for both Brisbane NRL and AFL home teams sparks fan frenzy

For decades a cross-code war has raged but, as Brisbane prepares to be the epicentre of Australian sport tonight, it’s clear — the city’s football sides have never been more united.

For five hours the sporting spotlight will shine bright over the river city, as the Lions and Broncos both look to book places in their respective AFL and NRL grand finals.

Never before have both teams hosted preliminary finals, in the same year, in Brisbane.

Now there’s the prospect, they’ll both make it to the final weekend of the same season.

The Lions and Broncos are proud to represent Brisbane.(Supplied: Brisbane Lions)

“There’s certainly a buzz and that feel in the air, I guess it’s over to both of our teams now to go out there and do our supporters proud,” Lions veteran Dayne Zorko said.

“I think it’s great that not only us, but the Brisbane Broncos, have had fantastic seasons as well.

“I mean you can certainly feel the vibe around the city, everywhere you walk.”

Two football players celebrate on the field

Adam Reynolds doing Charlie Cameron’s trademark motorbike celebration.(Supplied)

For years, pundits have been trying to drive a wedge between the two codes, arguing which is the dominant force in the sunshine state, but the players argue their rivalry only extends to the golf course.

“Yeah it’s obviously great to mix and match with those fellas (the Lions’ players), they’re professionals in their sport and we’re professionals in ours, obviously there’s a bit of cross-code banter, they like to play a bit of golf, so do we,” Broncos captain Adam Reynolds said.

“It’s great for the city, it’s wonderful, obviously a few of us got out to their last game against Port Adelaide.”

After winning their game the night before, Broncos players showed up to watch the Lions win against Port Adelaide.(Supplied: Brisbane Lions)

When and where do the Brisbane footy teams play tonight?

More than 80,000 fans will attend the two matches across the city on Saturday night, starting at The Gabba when the Lions host Carlton for the chance to travel to the MCG and win the club’s first AFL premiership since 2003.

That match starts at 5:15pm.

As the Lions continue into the the final quarter of their tussle with Michael Voss’ Blues, across at Lang Park Kevin Walter’s Broncos will be kicking off their match against the Warriors at 7:50pm.

Even the Broncos players admit they’ll be interested in knowing how the AFL clash is unfolding.

The NRL premiership Provan-Summons trophy sits in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at night.

The Broncos have not held the Provan-Summons Trophy since winning the premiership in 2006.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

“It’s excellent for the city, to see Brisbane doing really well on the sporting scene. Hopefully we can get updates on the scoreboard here [to see] how things are going,” Reynolds said.

Prop Tom Flegler even suggested putting the AFL match on the television screens in the Broncos change rooms, for players to watch as they’re getting ready for their own game.

The last time the Broncos featured in a decider was 2015, when they went up against the North Queensland Cowboys.

It’s been 17 years since their last NRL premiership.

Kevin Walters stands with fans at a Broncos' training session.

Kevin Walters joins in the fun with fans at Friday’s team training session.(Supplied: Steele Tallon)

‘Super fan’ shuttles between games

Kieran Jones-Jackson is a dedicated fan of both teams and is determined to see as much of the action from both games tonight.

“The plan is to go to the Lions, go there ’til about three-quarter time, going to have to leave and then beat the crowd, get on the bus at the Woolloongabba station, and go to Lang Park, there’s a shuttle bus,” he said.

“I’m a member of both clubs so as soon as they both opened the ticketing websites, I had my code ready, computer ready.

“It’s all set up, put the codes in, got the first available tickets, bang.”

Man holds up Broncos scarf

Kieran Jones-Jackson is a dedicated fan of both teams and says he will be seeing both games tonight.(ABC News: Peter Quattrocelli)

‘Fantastic for the whole city’

The Caxton Hotel is gearing up for their second biggest night of the year, with owner Ross Farquhar believing only State of Origin matches will trump the occasion.

“We’re packed to the brim [with beer barrels ordered] … normally have 100 for an Origin and we won’t be far from that,” Mr Farquhar said.

He said for supporters who weren’t lucky enough to secure one of the 52,500 tickets at Lang Park, a lot of them would come to Caxton Street to watch the game.

Reece Walsh and Charlie Cameron embrace in a hug

Reece Walsh and Charlie Cameron may be separated by codes, but players from both Brisbane teams couldn’t be closer.(Supplied: Brisbane Lions)

“It sort of becomes it’s own event, these big football days, and a lot of people who don’t have tickets just come in the street for the atmosphere pre and post game,” Mr Farquhar said.

“We have a big carpark event and the restaurant is fully booked, so we’ll be ready for a big crowd.

“We’ve had a lot of calls about the Lions, we’re obviously supporters of the Lions too, they’ll be on our big screens up until 15 minutes before the start of the Broncos but there’ll be plenty of TVs with the Lions and Carlton game on.

“Probably only Magic Round will be the only time where [the city] has been so busy, there’s so much sport, all the restaurants are booked out, all the hotels are booked out, it’s fantastic for the whole city.”

Extra flights to cater for demand

Brisbane Airport is expecting a busy preliminary finals weekend, with more than 100 flights arriving from Melbourne between Thursday and Saturday.

Two Brisbane Lions AFL players double high-five in celebration after a goal.

The Brisbane Lions defeated Port Adelaide in early September. Tonight they face Carlton for the chance to travel to the MCG and win the premiership.

“I understand that a couple of the airlines have put on additional flights to cater for that strong demand,” Stephen Beckett from Brisbane Airport said.

Dozens of planes will also be arriving from New Zealand, with all flights almost fully booked.

However, fans travelling across interstate and international borders this week have raised concerns about airlines price gouging customers.

“Look, I understand that airline pricing is complex, it is largely a supply and demand business so as fewer seats are available, they do become more expensive,” Mr Beckett said.

Fans of both the Broncos and Lions appear to be setting their sights on the ultimate glory next week.

Brisbane Airport said there was an increase in flight bookings to Sydney and Melbourne last week – the host cities for the NRL and AFL grand finals.

“There has been a considerable uptick in last-minute bookings,” Mr Beckett said.

“We’re expecting Brisbane Bronco fans — both the men’s and women’s teams — and supporters of the Lions, are hedging their bets and booking tickets in advance.”

‘Super Saturday’ to bring $10 million into Brisbane

Tourism, Innovation and Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said tonight’s clashes would offer an exciting opportunity for Queensland’s visitor economy.

“Today, Brisbane is the sporting capital of not just Australia, but of Australasia,” he said.

“This is a huge opportunity, with both stadiums sold out [and] the interest of football fans [piqued] right across the country and in New Zealand.”

Stirling Hinchliffe stands outside Suncorp Stadium

Stirling Hinchliffe said having both the NRL and AFL preliminary finals in Brisbane will bring millions into the city.(ABC News)

Mr Hinchliffe said the numbers had been crunched and “this super Saturday is going to have a $10 million impact” on the city’s tourism economy.

“It’s a huge, bumper outcome,” he said.

Head of Queensland Tourism Patricia O’Callaghan said the spring school holidays, which are currently underway in the Sunshine State, have started “exceptionally strong”.

“This is a $1.5 billion bonanza over the next four weeks, as people from all across Australia travel into Queensland,” she said.

“Having blockbuster events here [like the preliminary finals] is giving people a reason to travel into the state.”

And punters who plan on heading down to Melbourne for the grand final weekend will be reminded of home, with Ms O’Callaghan today announcing new Queensland-centric advertising in Victoria.

Patricia O’Callaghan stands outside Suncorp Stadium

Patricia O’Callaghan described tonight’s games coinciding as a “blockbuster event” for Queensland.(ABC News)

“We will be launching our high-impact ambush marketing into Melbourne in the lead-up to the AFL grand final,” she said.

“You will see beautiful images and experiences all across billboards in [the city’s] key precincts, expected to be viewed by over half-a-million people, reminding [them] that – while they’re down there enjoying the AFL grand final – that Queensland is the state they need to get back to when they’re really wanting to enjoy their holiday.”

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NFL 2023 season live on Sky Sports: Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers in action across opening three weeks

Sky Sports NFL announces its live fixtures for Weeks 1-3 of the 2023 season, with Aaron Rodgers’ New York Jets, Joe Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals and Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs in action; watch the Chiefs host the Lions in the season opener in the early hours of Friday September 8

Last Updated: 07/09/23 7:12am

The 2023 NFL season has arrived on Sky Sports!

The 2023 NFL season has arrived, with Sky Sports’ dedicated channel set to showcase some of the biggest names and games as part of a bumper schedule across the first three weeks of the campaign.

Tua Tagovailoa’s Miami Dolphins take on Justin Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers in Week One and Aaron Rodgers’ New York Jets meet Dak Prescott’s Dallas Cowboys in Week Two, while both Patrick Mahomes and Trevor Lawrence are both in action live on Sky as they begin their pursuit of a spot at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

Here are the fixtures live on Sky Sports across the opening three weeks of the season…

Highlights of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

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Highlights of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

Highlights of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

Week 1:

Thursday Night kickoff:

  • (08/09 @ 1:20am) – Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs – Sky Sports NFL & Showcase

Sky Sports Sunday exclusive:

  • (10/09 @ 6pm) – San Francisco 49ers @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Sky Sports NFL & Part Sky Sports Main Event
  • (10/09 @ 9:25pm) – Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers – Sky Sports NFL

Sunday Night Football:

  • (11/09 @ 1:20am) – Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Monday Night Football:

  • (12/09 @ 1:15am) – Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Week 2:

Thursday Night Football:

  • (15/09 @ 1:20am) – Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Sky Sports Sunday exclusive:

  • (17/09 @ 6pm) – Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Sky Sports NFL & 7pm join Sky Sports Main Event
  • (17/09 @ 9:25pm) – Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Sunday Night Football:

  • (18/09 @ 1:20am) – Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Monday Night Football:

  • (19/09 @ 12:15am) – New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers – Sky Sports Arena & Sky Sports Mix
  • (19/09 @ 1:15am) – Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event
Aaron Rodgers has a second Super Bowl ring on his mind

Aaron Rodgers has a second Super Bowl ring on his mind

Week 3:

Thursday Night Football:

  • (22/09 @1:20am) – New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Sky Sports Sunday Exclusive:

  • (24/09 @ 6pm) – New York Jets @ New England Patriots – Sky Sports NFL & 7pm join Sky Sports Main Event
  • (24/09 @ 9:25pm) Chicago Bears @ Kansas City Chiefs – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Sunday Night Football:

  • (25/09 @ 1:20am) – Pittsburgh Steelers @ Las Vegas Raiders – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event

Monday Night Football:

  • (26/09 @ 12:15am) – Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sky Sports NFL & Sky Sports Main Event
  • (26/09 @ 1:15am) – Los Angeles Rams @ Cincinnati Bengals – Sky Sports Arena & Sky Sports Mix

How to follow the 2023 NFL season

The NFL is back!

The NFL is back!

Live on Sky Sports

The 2023 NFL season kicks off live on Sky Sports in the early hours of Friday September 9 (1.20am) as the defending champion Chiefs take on this year’s potential surprise package in the Detroit Lions at Arrowhead.

Neil Reynolds will then be joined by Phoebe Schecter in Pittsburgh for the opening NFL Sunday of the season as the Steelers take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 6pm kickoff live on Sky, while Hannah Wilkes and Jason Bell guide you through the late slate of games from Sky Studios.

Make sure you tune in to Sky Sports NFL every Sunday at 6pm for the first game of our triple-header of live action. The evening’s entertainment also includes NFL Redzone action as hosted by Scott Hanson, as well as Sunday Night Football to round off the night.

Sky Sports will broadcast two exclusive live games every Sunday throughout the regular season in the 6pm and 9.25pm slots, while also showing every Thursday Night, Sunday Night and Monday Night match-up as well as the Thanksgiving and Christmas Day fixtures.

Fans can also watch every minute of the playoffs across January, followed by Super Bowl LVIII at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11.

NFL Week One fixtures

DateMatchupKick-Off (UK time)
Thursday, September 7Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs1.20am, Friday morning
Sunday, September 10Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons6pm
Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens6pm
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns6pm
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts6pm
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings6pm
Tennessee Titans @ New Orleans Saints6pm
San Francisco 49ers @ Pittsburgh Steelers6pm
Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Commanders6pm
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears9.25pm
Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos9.25pm
Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers9.25pm
Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots9.25pm
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks9.25pm
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants1.20am, Monday morning
Monday, September 12Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets1.15am, Tuesday morning

On the road again!

The Sky Sports NFL team are leaving the comfort of Sky Studios to take the show on the road again this season.

Neil Reynolds will lead a two-hour build-up show live from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 15 as Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens take on the Tennessee Titans in the third of three London games this year.

It is then off to Germany, where we will broadcast live from Frankfurt as the Dolphins take on the Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts face the New England Patriots on November 5 and 12, respectively.

2023 NFL International Games schedule

October 1 (Week 4)Atlanta Falcons vs Jacksonville JaguarsWembley Stadium
October 8 (Week 5)Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo BillsTottenham Hotspur Stadium
October 15 (Week 6)Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee TitansTottenham Hotspur Stadium
November 5 (Week 9)Miami Dolphins vs Kansas City ChiefsFrankfurt Stadium
November 12 (Week 10)Indianapolis Colts vs New England PatriotsFrankfurt Stadium

What else?

The dedicated Sky Sports NFL channel will meanwhile continue to show the usual NFL Network favourites, including Good Morning Football, Pro Football Talk, Total Access, NFL Fantasy Live and America’s Game.

Neil Reynolds will be back to present his regular Inside the Huddle podcast, while Hannah Wilkes brings you exclusive interviews with the leading ladies of the NFL through Her Huddle.

Every episode of this year’s Hard Knocks as well as One Jets Drive will also be available to watch as we are taken behind-the-scenes with the Jets as they begin life with Aaron Rodgers.

Digital and Social

Throughout the season at, we will have previews and reports for every live game, a rolling blog to accompany Sunday’s busy 6pm slate, where you can catch the best of the action if you are out and about.

Stick with us for the best feature and preview content as well as the verdict from our host of experts as our line-up of pundits and guests ensure all the talking points are covered.

And follow us on Twitter @SkySportsNFL where we want you to join in the conversation with your thoughts, comments and feedback through the season.

Don’t miss a second of the 2023 NFL season with Sky Sports NFL – watch the Kansas City Chiefs being their Super Bowl title defence against the Detroit Lions in the early hours of Friday September 8 live on Sky. Stream with NOW.

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The Dallas Cowboys: Super Bowl bound or staring at yet another false dawn?

Can the Dallas Cowboys end their Super Bowl drought? An emphatic statement win in Week One has ignited a familiar flame, but will it be a familiar conclusion?; watch the Cowboys host the New York Jets live on Sky Sports NFL from 9.25pm Sunday

Last Updated: 15/09/23 9:14am

Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons wreaked havoc against the New York Giants in Week One

No team does early-season optimism better than the Dallas Cowboys.

No fan base is ready to crown their team Super Bowl champions sooner than Dallas fans, and that’s despite a title drought stretching into its 28th year. Heck, the Cowboys haven’t even so much as reached an NFC Championship game over that period – having previously made their home in them, appearing in 16 over the prior 30 seasons, en route to five Super Bowl wins.

There have been plenty of false dawns since, including posting back-to-back 12-5 seasons over the last two years that both resulted in handy defeats to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs.

But is there reason to believe that 2023 could be different? I mean, there are season-opening wins and then there is the type of 40-0 drubbing they dished out to their divisional rivals, the New York Giants – in their building – last Sunday night. Talk about making a statement.

Highlights of the Cowboys' 40-0 win over the Giants

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Highlights of the Cowboys’ 40-0 win over the Giants

Highlights of the Cowboys’ 40-0 win over the Giants

This was a Giants side fresh from their own playoff run to the divisional round last year, and one with genuine optimism of even better prospects this season. Within 15 minutes of football, those flickering flames of ambition were forcibly extinguished – and not by the driving rain at MetLife Stadium.

Riding a dominant defense, Dallas embarrassed the Giants, blocking a field goal and returning an interception to the house for a 16-0 lead after one quarter alone.

The Cowboys D held quarterback Daniel Jones to just 15 of 28 passing, for 104 yards, sacking him seven times and intercepting him twice.

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September 17, 2023, 9:15pm

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Osa Odighizuwa and Dorance Armstrong each had two of those sacks and Trevon Diggs had a key pass breakup and a forced fumble – one of five lost by the Giants.

The swarming Dallas defense was so dominant that Dak Prescott only had to provide 143 yards on 13-of-24 passing in the demolition, though Tony Pollard tacked on two TDs as the Cowboys recorded their largest shutout win in franchise history.

And the blowout has sparked that most familiar of things in Dallas, unwavering belief.

Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons said after the win: “I saw this before anybody.

“I said I can’t wait to get to New York. I knew it was coming.

“With execution meets preparation, there is no one that can beat it. We’ve already felt this. We’ve been to war before. We knew the standard.”

Parsons later added: “I think we made the statement which I’ve been trying to make. We’re the best defense in the National Football League.”

It’s hard to argue.

The Dallas defense is the first since the 1970s to lead the NFL in takeaways in consecutive seasons, with their 33 from last season bettered by one in 2021. They were also top five in terms of points allowed per game a year ago, coughing up just 20.1 on average.

Defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys' 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the Giants' field goal

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Defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys’ 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the Giants’ field goal

Defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys’ 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the Giants’ field goal

Where the Cowboys faltered, last season in particular, was on offense, ranking only in the middle of the pack in terms of yards per game (354.9), and with Prescott finishing tied for first with Davis Mills of the three-win Houston Texans for the most interceptions in the league, tossing up a career-high 15 to accompany a career-low mark of 7.3 yards per attempt.

While he wasn’t required to do much against the Giants, there is renewed optimism that Prescott and the Cowboys can rediscover their 2021 form on offense which saw them top the league both in terms of yardage (407 YPG) and scoring (31.2 PPG).

Undisputed No 1 receiver CeeDee Lamb is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-high 1,359 a year ago, while he’s complimented by speedster Brandin Cooks – acquired via trade from the Texans – and the underrated Michael Gallup, hopefully free from his injury woes of the last two years.

There’s also Pollard, who is very much the top dog at running back after Ezekiel Elliot’s overdue exit, and he looked eager to assume such a mantle with his pair of scores in New York.

Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets in Week One of the NFL season

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Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets in Week One of the NFL season

Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets in Week One of the NFL season

That offensive weaponry will get a stern test of their credentials this Sunday, however, against an Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets who themselves boast a stellar defense – one fit to challenge Parsons’ claim of being the best in the NFL and fresh from intercepting Josh Allen three times in their stunning season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills.

“It’s a great start,” Parsons added after the Giants win.

“I haven’t seen anything like that since we have been here, but it’s the consistency. We just have to keep it going.”

Head coach Mike McCarthy, conscious of keeping expectations in check in Dallas, stressed: “It’s one game.

“We know where we want to go. I feel like we are fully capable and have an understanding of how to get there. But it’s a long journey.”

Well, without wishing to contradict the coach’s sentiments, the Cowboys’ two prior season-opening shutouts have something in common: when Dallas beat the Baltimore Colts 38-0 in 1978 and the Giants 35-0 in 1995, they reached the Super Bowl on both occasions.

Try telling Cowboys fans not to get carried away right now.

Watch the Kansas City Chiefs at the Jacksonville Jaguars live on Sky Sports NFL from 6pm Sunday, followed by New York Jets on the road against the Dallas Cowboys from 9.25pm; the Miami Dolphins then take on the New England Patriots in Sunday Night Football.

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Dan Campbell says Detroit Lions ‘expected’ to beat Kansas City Chiefs as Patrick Mahomes urges young players to learn from loss

Cameron Hogwood

Interviews, Comment & Analysis @ch_skysports

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell says he “expected” his side’s upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Thursday night’s season opener; Chiefs head coach Andy Reid insists he would make “no excuses” as his offense missed star tight end Travis Kelce.

Last Updated: 08/09/23 10:30am

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Highlights of the Detroit Lions against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the NFL

Highlights of the Detroit Lions against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the NFL

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell insisted he learned nothing he did not already know about his side as they ignited their season as surprise package candidates by taking down the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in Thursday’s opening game.

Perhaps ‘surprise package’ is the wrong term for a team that warned of its ascent with eight wins from its final 10 games last season, but optimism is as lofty as it has been in some time for Detroit, with victory over the league’s very best setting the perfect marker.

David Montgomery burrowed through for an eight-yard touchdown with five minutes on the clock to put the Lions on top for good having trailed 14-7 at half-time.

He would then power through for the first down to seal a 21-20 win after the Chiefs failed to convert on fourth-and-25 with two minutes remaining.

“I love the fact our guys never wavered, it was something we talked about,” Campbell told reporters. “We knew we’d hit some tough spots in this game and that happened and nobody got down and we hung in there. I told the team they’re built for this.”

David Montgomery powers through the hole for the game winning touchdown for the Detroit Lions over the Kansas City Chiefs

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David Montgomery powers through the hole for the game winning touchdown for the Detroit Lions over the Kansas City Chiefs

David Montgomery powers through the hole for the game winning touchdown for the Detroit Lions over the Kansas City Chiefs

For all the Lions were doing to frustrate the Chiefs early on, they were dealt an ominous reminder of the task at hand as Patrick Mahomes connected with Marquez Valdez-Scantling for 34 yards on third-and-17 to maintain a drive that would end in Blake Bell’s four-yard touchdown catch late in the first half.

The Chiefs had the opportunity to try and extend their cushion after the break, only for rookie safety Brian Branch to pounce on an inexcusable dropped-catch from Kadarius Toney to run in a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown, bringing Detroit level.

By the end of the third quarter they found themselves trailing again at 14-17, before fending off Mahomes in the fourth to earn themselves winning territory.

“I didn’t learn anything, I got verification on what I already knew, and this is a resilient team,” said Campbell. “It already was a resilient team and we added pieces to that resilient team, so we’re built to handle some stuff and we did that against a very good opponent.

“We expected to win this game. We came in here and we knew what we needed to do, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we did that. Really what it means is that’s one [win]. That’s one. So, we’ve got to clean up our issues. It hurt us on some stuff and be ready for Seattle in 10 days. That’s what it is.”

Amon-Ra St. Brown scores the first NFL touchdown of the season, cunningly set up by a fake punt by the Detroit Lions against the Kansas City Chiefs

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Amon-Ra St. Brown scores the first NFL touchdown of the season, cunningly set up by a fake punt by the Detroit Lions against the Kansas City Chiefs

Amon-Ra St. Brown scores the first NFL touchdown of the season, cunningly set up by a fake punt by the Detroit Lions against the Kansas City Chiefs

While Ben Johnson’s Lions offense took the plaudits, Campbell was also full of praise for Aaron Glenn’s defense as it shut the Chiefs out of the end zone in the second half.

“It’s something we talk about, closing games out,” he continued. “Everybody knows the strength of our offense, but defensively I thought they showed up in a big way. We needed a takeaway and needed to be much better on third downs and we did that.”

Reid: No excuses

Mahomes had been without his right hand man Travis Kelce as the tight end watched on from the sideline having been ruled out due to a knee injury sustained during practice earlier in the week.

His absence became amplified by a series of dropped catches from Mahomes’ receiver group, the most notable being that of Toney before Jerick McKinnon also fumbled a simple grab to undo his quarterback’s fine work to keep his feet in a collapsing pocket.

Brian Branch intercepts Patrick Mahomes after a Kadarius Toney tip and returns it 50 yards for a touchdown to bring Detroit level against Kansas City

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Brian Branch intercepts Patrick Mahomes after a Kadarius Toney tip and returns it 50 yards for a touchdown to bring Detroit level against Kansas City

Brian Branch intercepts Patrick Mahomes after a Kadarius Toney tip and returns it 50 yards for a touchdown to bring Detroit level against Kansas City

“They know I’m going to keep firing, we’ll get it fixed in this next week and correct it going into the next game,” said Mahomes, who underlined his faith in Kelce’s supporting cast.

“You’re losing the best tight end of all time, but other guys have to step up in moments because there’s times when he gets doubled.

“We’re going to have to rely on these other guys who are young and talented to step up and make plays, I believe they will.”

He noted the defeat arrives as an early wake-up call for some team-mates of the depth in competition, coupled with the glowing target on their back as Super Bowl winners.

“It will be good for the young guys to know we aren’t just going to walk in and win the game, we’re going to have to play good football,” he added. “I’ve preached it to them all preseason and now they know. Hopefully guys learn from it and get better.”

Marquez Valdes-Scantling takes a big hit to catch a 34-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes in the Kansas City Chiefs' loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the NFL

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Marquez Valdes-Scantling takes a big hit to catch a 34-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes in the Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the NFL

Marquez Valdes-Scantling takes a big hit to catch a 34-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes in the Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 1 of the NFL

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid played down the absence of Kelce and insisted he was confident of ironing out the mistakes that cost his side on Thursday.

“No excuses, at all,” Reid explained. “We’ve got guys that can play that are right there to take care of business, and [the Lions] got us on special teams to continue the drive, they got us on the tipped ball.

“Listen, it’s unusual for the guys that dropped the ball to drop the ball, that’s not what I’ve seen from them, and I wouldn’t expect them to do that. So, you do that, you take care of business there, and we’ll be alright.”

Week One of the 2023 NFL season continues Sunday as the San Francisco 49ers visit the Steelers, with coverage from 4.30pm ahead of kickoff at 6pm, followed by the Dolphins at Chargers at 9.25pm. Stream with NOW.

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Rugby World Cup 2023: Who are the favourites?

The Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on Friday with pundits pointing to a wide-open contest between four teams that are a cut above the rest. A skewed draw has placed all four sides – France, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa – in the same half of the competition, meaning they will face off as early as the pool stage.

Picking a favourite for this year’s Rugby World Cup was a tough call for the former England hooker Brian Moore, a longtime bête noire for the French. Now a sport columnist at the “Daily Telegraph”, Moore has predicted a final showdown between old rivals France and New Zealand on October 28, backing the hosts to clinch their first title on home soil.

“I don’t really like saying that,” he quipped with a grin in a video released on Wednesday. “But they do produce some very good wine.”

Most analysts agree that France’s 2023 vintage is their best yet, striking an almost perfect balance between the “French flair” of old and a tighter, more disciplined style. But the hosts are not the only team to enter the World Cup in fine form.

Ireland, who beat France to the Six Nations title this year, are also tipped to end the Southern Hemisphere’s 16-year hold on the Webb Ellis Cup. Standing in their way are three-time winners New Zealand and South Africa, the current title holders.

Those four four teams have an almost equal chance of clinching the title, according to data analysts Opta, whose latest forecast gives Ireland a 21.7% probability of winning the competition, only marginally ahead of France (21.4%), South Africa (20.5%) and New Zealand (20.2%).

A quirk in the tournament draw, however, has landed all four teams in the same half of the competition, setting the stage for some tantalising clashes early on in the tournament – and meaning only two of them, at most, will get past the quarter-finals.

Will it be fourth-time lucky for the host nation? Having lost three World Cup finals already – in 1987, 1999 and 2011 – Les Bleus know better than most teams that nearly is not quite enough.

Ranked No. 3 in the world, the French have everything going for them this time: an abundance of talent, good coaching, a smooth build-up to the tournament – and home advantage.

Since former captain Fabien Galthié took over as head coach in 2020, the mercurial French have cast aside their reputation for inconsistency, amassing an impressive tally of 31 wins out of 39 games, including a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2022.

In their unbeaten run at home since November 2021, France have defeated every other team ranked in the top 10, starting with a 40-25 thumping of New Zealand – whom they face in the tournament’s opening match on Friday, September 8.

Injury to flyhalf Romain Ntamack has robbed the home team – and the tournament – of one of their stars, but the squad’s strength in depth means Galthié still has plenty of options. Add in the world’s best player in scrum-half Antoine Dupont, Les Bleus’ poster boy and leader, and this tournament is France’s to lose.

France win the 2022 Six Nations rugby tournament. © Pierre-René Worms

Rugby’s perennial favourites, New Zealand have opted to play just one test match in the run-up to the World Cup – a move that backfired spectacularly after they were humbled by defending champions South Africa in a 35-7 drubbing at Twickenham in London.

That match was intended to get the squad battle-ready ahead of the World Cup opener against France. Instead, it revived the doubts that had dogged the All Blacks throughout a lacklustre 2022.

“We got squeezed and exposed,” New Zealand coach Ian Foster acknowledged after the humiliating defeat. “Maybe this will take a lot of heat off us. No one will rate us now.”

Still, the jarring loss at Twickenham may be little more than a hiccup for the All Blacks, coming just weeks after they cruised to a third consecutive Rugby Championship title – the southern hemisphere equivalent of the Six Nations – with victories over Argentina, Australia and the same Springboks.

That’s how the bookmakers see it: most still have the All Blacks as slight favourites to go all the way in France and become the first team to win four World Cup titles.

Like the host nation, Ireland have their best chance yet of winning a World Cup – and ending a miserable run that has seen them fail to get past the quarter-finals at all past editions.

The World Cup’s great underachievers have been ranked No. 1 in the world since July 2022, a ranking they vindicated in style by cruising to a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year.

Back-to-back wins against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil last summer have also dispelled any inferiority complex among coach Andy Farrell’s players, whose run-up to the World Cup included a 29-10 demolition of England in Dublin.

Read moreKey numbers for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France

The Irish will be brimming with confidence following the return of talismanic flyhalf Johnny Sexton, 38, who is back from injury and a three-match suspension. They also have the 2022 world player of the year in flanker Josh van der Flier.

If there is a doubt it involves the team’s depth. A tricky clash against Samoa last week suggested the Irish bench is still a notch below the first-choice team, a potential weakness that could turn into a major worry as they face bruising contests against the Springboks and resurgent Scotland in Pool B, the so-called “group of death”.

While Ireland have consistently underachieved on the World Cup stage, South Africa have done the exact opposite, winning all three finals they contested – including the last one played on French soil, in 2007.

One reason for the Springboks’ success is their knack for moving into top gear just when it matters. Their crushing defeats of Wales (52-16) and New Zealand, in the run-up to this World Cup, suggest they have once again hit form at the right time.

The two warm-up games coincided with the return of South Africa’s inspirational captain Siya Kolisi, just months after he underwent knee surgery. He is now hoping to equal New Zealand’s Richie McCaw, the only player to have captained his team to back-to-back World Cup titles (in 2011 and 2015).

As always, South Africa boast a fearsome pack capable of breaking down the toughest opponents. They also have a wealth of backs that provide attacking options aplenty.

Like Ireland, the Springboks will be wary of the threat from Scotland, whom they face in their opening match on September 10, with a tricky test against Tonga also looming after their showdown with Ireland on September 23.

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi holds up the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama, Japan, after the Springboks' final victory over England on November 2, 2019.
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi holds up the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama, Japan, after the Springboks’ final victory over England on November 2, 2019. © Peter Cziborra, Reuters

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Mixed martial arts is only getting bigger in Australia. Here’s why

This Sunday, Sydney will host UFC 293 – the first pay-per-view event the fight promotion has held in NSW since 2011.

The long-awaited return of the UFC to Sydney is the first of a $16 million agreement between the state government and the UFC that will bring three events to NSW over four years.

UFC stands for Ultimate Fight Championship and is the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.

It is set to be one of the biggest fight cards this year with New Zealand superstar Israel Adesanya defending his belt against American Sean Strickland — a trash-talking provocateur who revels when asked to be the pantomime villain.

For those involved in the sport the move by the state government to bring premium UFC events back to Sydney is easy to understand.

Ben Johnston is a fighter, trainer, gym owner and training partner of Sunday’s main event fighter Adesanya.

Ben Johnston is a training partner of UFC champion Israel Adesanya and fights under Australian fight promotion Eternal MMA. (Supplied: Ben Johnston)

“There’s just something about the event the UFC put on, the scale, the emotions. It’s so much more exciting and the stakes are so high,” he told The Drum.

A former Muay Thai world champion, Johnston was recruited as a striking specialist by the UFC champion and is hoping that the increasing number of UFC events in Australia will open up a pathway to the UFC’s iconic octagon cage for more Australian fighters like himself.

“The UFC is the goal, but my job as a fighter is just to keep winning, making myself marketable and appealing and hopefully they make that offer one day,” he said.

The pull of the UFC is undeniable for aspiring fighters — the promotion has a monopoly of the world’s best fighters, creating a sporting product that is unrivalled by any other organisation.

And that product is loved by Australian fight fans who consistently break records when the UFC is on our shores.

The two highest ever attended UFC events both took place in Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium and the organisation eclipsed the Rolling Stones to be named Australia’s highest ever grossing arena event in Perth’s RAC Arena earlier this year.

On Sunday, 10 athletes will be fighting out of Australia and New Zealand, a testament to the region’s impressive representation at the top end of the sport.

Contrast this to the last time Sydney hosted an pay-per-view event, the sport was widely considered fringe and there was not a single ranked fighter from Australia or New Zealand on the UFC roster. Today there are eight considered in the top 15 of their respective divisions.

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From spectators to practitioners

Unlike traditional codes, MMA does not have a governing body in Australia tracking participation numbers.

This makes getting a real sense of the sport’s participation rate difficult, with many aspiring athletes partaking in various disciplines; such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing and boxing.

NSW and WA’s combat sports association bodies provided data to The Drum that shows a trend of growing registration for amateur and professional combat sports athletes in their states.

In NSW, there has been a 22 per cent increase in registered amateur MMA fighters since 2017, rising from 918 to 1,175 athletes.

Registration across all combat sports athletes (including both amateur and professional boxing and kickboxing) increased by 21 per cent in the same time frame, rising from 6,930 to 8,682.

The increase in MMA participation in WA is even more stark, considering cage-fighting was illegal in the state as recently as 2016.

According to data from the state’s combat association, the number of all registrations (including trainers, officials and industry partners) increased by 79 per cent from 2021-22 to 2022-23, a rise from 559 to 1,003 in just a single year.

The state’s combat sports commission chair Bob Kucera told The Drum that there was “no doubt” that the UFC visiting Australia was increasing participation in combat sports.

Navigating the growth of a violent sport

Besides a tourism windfall, the sport carries a obvious reputation for violence.

The Australian Medical Association called for a complete ban on combat sports in 2015, and when initially Mr Minns initially supported the UFC coming to NSW, the Liberal then-government rebuked the proposal as a promotion of violence.

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‘Special moment’ for South American rugby as Chile join Argentina and Uruguay at World Cup

For the first time in Rugby World Cup history, South America will be fielding three representatives at the 2023 edition that kicks off in France on September 8, with first-timers Chile entering the fray alongside Uruguay and tournament regulars Argentina. The trio of nations will be counting on this unprecedented exposure to accelerate the sport’s development back home.

Argentina’s Pumas have been a fixture of the Rugby World Cup since the tournament’s inception back in 1987. For their 10th entry in as many editions, they will boast a brand-new logo on their striped shirts – correcting a six-decade-old feline mix-up that gave birth to their iconic nickname.

South America’s rugby powerhouse was an unknown quantity until 1965, when a successful tour of Rhodesia and South Africa finally put the Argentinians on the map. A local journalist mistook the spotted jaguar on their shirts for a puma, handing the visitors a moniker that has stuck ever since.

When Argentina kick off their latest World Cup campaign in Marseille on September 9, the players’ jerseys will finally reflect the nickname, having traded the jaguar for an actual puma.

But their return to French soil is set to evoke painful memories among the local fans, 16 years after the Pumas twice stunned the home nation at the 2007 World Cup in France.

A surprise bronze medal that year propelled the Pumas into the rugby elite, paving the way for their admission into the Rugby Championship five years later, alongside the Southern Hemisphere’s traditional heavyweights New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Their fourth-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, complete with a quarter-final demolition of Ireland, further cemented the team’s international standing.

Argentina stunned home nation France in the opening game of the 2007 World Cup, before repeating the feat in the third-place playoff. © Christophe Ena, AP

While the Pumas have enjoyed mixed fortunes over the past year, their historic defeat of England at Twickenham last November will give them plenty of confidence as they prepare to take on the 2019 World Cup runner-ups in their first group match in Marseille. They will then face Japan, Samoa and Chile – in the first all-South American clash at a Rugby World Cup.

Going professional

The tournament’s underdogs, Chile face an uphill battle against their Andean neighbours – their first encounter since Argentina triumphed in a 70-7 mismatch three decades ago. Since then, the Condors, as Chile are known, have only ever faced junior Argentinian squads stripped of their international stars.

“It’s going to be a historic match for South America,” said Paul Tait, cofounder of the specialist website America Rugby News. “It proves that rugby is progressing in the region.”

Chile’s qualification for their maiden World Cup was the main surprise of the qualifying round, coming at the expense of better-ranked teams including the United States and Canada. The Chileans have since struggled in their World Cup warm-up tests, notably conceding a home defeat to Namibia earlier this month.

Long hampered by their geographical isolation and a limited pool of players, the Condors have benefited from the 2020 creation of the Superliga Americana de Rugby (SLAR), South America’s first professional rugby championship, set up with support from World Rugby, the sport’s international governing body.

Since then, a group of around 50 Chilean players have trained and played together at the Santiago-based club Selknams, sparring with rival teams from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. That group has provided the backbone of the national team, which has few internationally based players to rely on.

Similarly, Uruguay’s national squad – known as Los Teros, after the national bird – is drawn largely from the ranks of local club Penarol, which won the SLAR trophy last year, defeating Selknam in the final. While it proved to be the last season for the short-lived SLAR, both Penarol and Selknam are now part of a successor league, the Super Rugby Americas, which also features a club from the United States.

In the shadow of football

Uruguay will be playing in their fifth World Cup in France, eight years after they secured a famous win over Fiji in the pool stage at the 2015 tournament in England. Los Teros have landed in a fiercely competitive group, which includes three-time champions New Zealand and host nation France, as well as Italy and Namibia.

Their presence at the World Cup alongside Chile and Argentina marks a “very special moment” for the continent, said Sebastian Pineyrua, head of Sudamerica Rugby, the sport’s local governing body – a success he credits in large part to the establishment of a professional league in South America.

Uruguay's Facundo Gattas (left) and Felipe Etcheverry celebrate after their historic win over Fiji at the World Cup in 2019.
Uruguay’s Facundo Gattas (left) and Felipe Etcheverry celebrate after their historic win over Fiji at the World Cup in 2019. © Charly Triballeau, AFP

Pineyrua hopes the unprecedented exposure at the World Cup in France can help further develop the game back home, including in other South American countries where rugby is overshadowed by other sports.

“We have two problems, the first of which is football, which takes up a lot of space in our countries,” he explained. “The other is the lack of international experience: Our teams lack the competitive opponents that can help them prepare for this type of event.”

Despite such obstacles, the South American squads have already outperformed their wealthier northern counterparts. Both Canada and the United States – the joint 2031 World Cup hosts – will miss out on the tournament in France, despite having invested in the sport’s development and professionalisation.

To avoid the same fate, and ensure this World Cup is no flash in the pan, South American nations must now increase the number of rugby clubs, players and coaches, while raising the standards of their national teams. A strong showing over the coming weeks in France would surely help them on their way.

This article was translated from the original in French.

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Are Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles still the NFC’s best team ahead of 2023/24 NFL season?

James Simpson

NFL writer @JS_Football

The Philadelphia Eagles dominated the NFC last season but lost in the Super Bowl; Quarterback Jalen Hurts had an incredible campaign but finished second to Patrick Mahomes in MVP voting; How far will Philly go in 2023/24?

Last Updated: 30/08/23 11:04am

Do the Philadelphia Eagles have a strong chance of making it back to the Super Bowl this season?

After a promising end to their 2021/22 season, the Philadelphia Eagles attacked the offseason to retool and upgrade, and it led to a tremendous 14-3 campaign in 2022/23.

They obliterated the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, but ultimately fell just short at the final hurdle. Superhero Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs topped them 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII.

Highlights of the Kansas City Chiefs' thrilling victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII

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Highlights of the Kansas City Chiefs’ thrilling victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII

Highlights of the Kansas City Chiefs’ thrilling victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII

What now for the birds? Will they remain the NFC’s best? Or was last season too good to be repeated?

Big losses

As is the case after any productive and successful season, NFL teams see their top coaches and players picked off by other teams in the coaching carousel and free agency.

However, in a rare case, head coach Nick Sirianni said farewell to both of his coordinators. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen moved to Indianapolis and will aim to aid the development of new Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon heads to Arizona for a big rebuilding project.

Shane Steichen left Philadelphia to take over as head coach in Indianapolis

Shane Steichen left Philadelphia to take over as head coach in Indianapolis

Jonathan Gannon departed for Arizona

Jonathan Gannon departed for Arizona

The offensive transition should be seamless, with former quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson looking to continue his work with quarterback Jalen Hurts and maintain a top-five attack.

However, struggles on the defensive side of the ball should be expected. Last season, Philadelphia allowed the second-fewest yards per game in the league and produced an incredible 70 sacks. But after Gannon’s late departure to Arizona, the Eagles reportedly missed out on their top coaching targets and settled for Seahawks’ defensive assistant Sean Desai.

Defense is also the side of the ball on which the Eagles suffered their biggest player losses this offseason. Outstanding defensive tackle Javon Hargrave departed to NFC rivals San Francisco. Both starting linebackers (TJ Edwards and Kyzir White) left in free agency, and so did both starting safeties (CJ Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps) so Desai will be working with a new-look group. How will they compare to last year’s outstanding unit?

Star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave joined the NFC rival San Francisco 49ers

Star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave joined the NFC rival San Francisco 49ers

Philadelphia did lose some key contributors on offense (Isaac Seumalo offered high-level, consistent guard play and running back Miles Sanders had his most productive season in 2022) but the attack looks more locked and loaded than the D.

Key returners

With Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox signing one-year deals to return to Philadelphia, the Eagles have managed to retain their core leaders. Of course, there was no question of him leaving, but Hurts receiving a five-year, $255m deal (which made him the highest paid player in the league at the time) means there is plenty of stability in important areas of the roster.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman (middle) retained their core veteran group (left to right) of Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman (middle) retained their core veteran group (left to right) of Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce

Four of the five starting offensive linemen from last season will start again this year, and Seumalo’s replacement at right guard is last year’s second-round pick Cam Jurgens, who has a year of learning from legendary O-line coach Jeff Stoutland under his belt.

Hurts and his top three receivers – AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert – return to an attack that should again be one of the league’s best.

Watch some of Jalen Hurts' best plays from his superb 2022 season

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Watch some of Jalen Hurts’ best plays from his superb 2022 season

Watch some of Jalen Hurts’ best plays from his superb 2022 season

The defense is relying on a youth movement and some development. The Eagles crucially locked up cornerback James Bradberry to a new three-year deal and still boast Pro Bowl talents Haason Reddick and Darius Slay, but are relying a lot on second-year Georgia Bulldogs Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, who step into starting defensive tackle and linebacker roles, respectively.

An eclectic mix of additions

As has been the model in recent seasons, the Eagles aim to ‘buy low’ on talented veterans and see who hits, then work their magic in trades to make the most of their draft picks.

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In free agency, they filled holes in some lacking areas – Rashaad Penny (RB) and Terrell Edmunds (S) will see playing time – but made no ‘splash’ signings.

However in April’s NFL Draft, general manager Howie Roseman made his mark. They went into the weekend with a pair of first-round picks and turned them into two more Georgia college stars in DT Jalen Carter and edge rusher Nolan Smith. In the third round, they selected safety Sydney Brown, who made a splash in preseason and is expected to ascend the depth chart quickly.

Nolan Smith and Jalen Carter were college teammates in Georgia...

Nolan Smith and Jalen Carter were college teammates in Georgia…

... now they are teammates in Philadelphia

… now they are teammates in Philadelphia

But perhaps the most exciting addition – especially for fantasy football fans – is running back D’Andre Swift, who the Eagles acquired for a 2025 fourth-round pick and a 2023 seventh-round pick swap.

Despite three injury-riddled seasons in Detroit, Swift has proven to be an explosive runner and a fantastic receiver out of the backfield. Expect him to boom in Philly.

How do the Eagles stack up in the NFC?

Will Hurts and Philadelphia bounce back from last year's heartbreak?

Will Hurts and Philadelphia bounce back from last year’s heartbreak?

Regardless of how well the Eagles do play, they will have to contend with some tough teams to top the conference again. Their closest rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, will be back and strong again after a 12-5 record last year.

The San Francisco 49ers, who the Eagles toppled 31-7 in Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game, stole one of Philly’s best players in Hargrave and will no doubt be in the mix again in 2023.

However, unlike the AFC where quarterbacks rule, the rest of the NFC is more wide-open. Minnesota and Seattle should hypothetically return to the postseason behind Kirk Cousins and Geno Smith, but are they sure things? Will the Giants continue to improve in their second season under Brian Daboll?

Past the obvious, it appears to be a mystery. Can Detroit build on their late-season surge? Will the Saints or the Rams return to their previous heights? How far will Justin Fields take Chicago in his second year at the helm?

Expectations in Philadelphia will be high once again.

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