2019 Rugby World Cup
- When: 20 September to 2 November
- Where: 12 locations across Japan
- Teams: 20
- Number of matches: 48
- UK TV channel: live on ITV
England are among the favourites to win the Rugby World Cup, although didn’t the pundits say something similar four years ago?
The 2015 tournament turned into a nightmare for the host nation as they were thrown out of their own party at the group stage after losing to Wales and Australia.
On paper, this year England have an easier pool. Tonga, their first opponents, will tackle wildly but little offer in terms of a challenge; they were slaughtered 92-7 by New Zealand last month.
The United States will be similarly enthusiastic but under-powered to pose a threat, while Argentina and France have neither the power nor the pace to unduly worry Eddie Jones’s squad.
Bring to the boil
There is a confidence in the England squad, a feeling that they are peaking at just the right time, unlike Wales and Ireland, who also don’t have the strength in depth of their Six Nations rivals.
The confidence isn’t just confined to the players. Writing in The Sunday Times at the weekend, two men who have won the World Cup – England’s Lawrence Dallaglio and Michael Lynagh of Australia – tipped Jones’s men as their joint tournament favourites along with South Africa. As Dallaglio said, England “are coming to the boil nicely”.
In Eddie Jones, England have one of the most experienced World Cup coaches in the tournament’s history.
He guided his native Australia to the final in 2003 (where they lost to England), was on the South African coaching staff when they won the tournament in 2007 and in 2015 he was in charge of Japan, who created the greatest ever upset in the competition when they beat the Springboks in the group stage.
Since his appointment as England head coach, Jones has experienced some giddy highs (a grand slam in 2016, which was part of a run of 17 straight wins) and some dismal lows (finishing second bottom in the 2018 Six Nations).
But he’s been unwavering in his strategy despite criticism in some quarters over his training methods and selectorial decisions, most notably in ignoring the claims of Danny Cipriani at fly-half.
A ‘daisy’ team
As The Guardian remarks: “After four years of selectorial trial and error, Jones is heading to the World Cup with an array of power and pace and some genuine world-class quality… and yet, in terms of consistency, England remain a ‘daisy’ team: some days they do, some days they don’t.”
There’s no doubt that in Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola and Jonny May they have some world-class players, not to mention the giant but raw wing Joe Cokanasiga, who may turn out to be the tournament’s star turn.
“I look around the room at the team-mates and the talent we have and for me the belief is genuine that we can beat anybody if we are at our best,” says May. “I genuinely believe we will peak at this World Cup.”
Australian broadcaster Fox Sports believes the rest of the world will be “scared” of England but it nonetheless identifies a couple of weaknesses: the defence, “particularly that of attacking full-back Elliot Daly, both under the high ball and in open play”, and the temperament of captain Owen Farrell.
The Saracens fly-half sometimes struggles to keep calm in the heat of battle, his mind fogging over, as it did so memorably in last season’s Six Nations when England collapsed mentally in the second half against Scotland.
Get to Farrell, England’s opponents will think, and you can beat England.
England RWC fixtures and squad
Pool C: France, Argentina, England, Tonga, USA
All times below are UK and matches are live on ITV.
- 21 September: France vs. Argentina (8.15am; Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo)
- 22 September: England vs. Tonga (11.15am; Sapporo Dome, Sapporo)
- 26 September: England vs. USA (11.45am; Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)
- 28 September: Argentina vs. Tonga (5.45am; Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka)
- 2 October: France vs. USA (8.45am; Hakatanomori Football Stadium, Fukuoka)
- 5 October: England vs. Argentina (9am; Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo)
- 6 October: France vs. Tonga (8.45am; Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto)
- 9 October: Argentina vs. USA (5.45am; Prefectual Kumagaya Rugby Grounds, Kumagaya)
- 12 October: England vs. France (9.15am; International Stadium, Yokohama)
- 13 October: USA vs. Tonga (6.45am; Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka)
- Head coach: Eddie Jones
- Forwards: Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Jack Singleton, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Mark Wilson
- Backs: Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (captain), George Ford, Piers Francis, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ruaridh McConnochie, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs
Rugby World Cup guides and features
- Winner predictions and betting odds: who will lift the Webb Ellis Cup?
- Fixtures: pool matches, dates, UK start times, knockout schedule, TV guide
- Squads: who will be playing for the 20 teams in Japan?
- Manu Tuilagi says ‘special’ England are raring to go
- Scotland team profile, pool A fixtures, squad
- Ireland team profile, pool A fixtures, squad
- Wales team profile, pool D fixtures, squad