Wales kick off World Cup campaign with bonus-point win against Georgia

23 Sep

Wales launched their World Cup campaign in bonus point fashion by seeing off Georgia 43-14 at City of Toyota Stadium.

The Six Nations champions delivered a strong statement of intent less than a week before tackling Pool D rivals Australia as they put Georgia to the sword during a dominant first-half display.

Wales had a bonus point wrapped up by half-time after tries from centre Jonathan Davies, flanker Justin Tipuric, wing Josh Adams and full-back Liam Williams, with fly-half Dan Biggar kicking three conversions and a penalty.

Wales got their World Cup campaign off to a solid start
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And although the second period proved a much tighter affair – tries by hooker Shalva Mamukashvili and replacement prop Levan Chilachava accurately reflected a stirring Georgia recovery – Wales were never threatened.

Fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze kicked two conversions, while Biggar added the extras to Wales’ fifth try from substitute scrum-half Tomos Williams before wing George North claimed a fine solo try that Leigh Halfpenny converted.

Wales went into the game in the wake of assistant coach Rob Howley being sent home from Japan last week for an alleged breach of World Rugby’s betting regulations.

Howley, 48, returned to Wales to assist with an investigation relating to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation six – specifically betting on rugby union.

But Wales showed no sign of a hangover from those difficult few days, blasting from their starting blocks and producing some high-tempo rugby that bristled with attacking verve, pinpoint accuracy and tactical authority to finish Georgia by the break.

Skipper Alun Wyn Jones equalled the Wales appearance record, matching prop Gethin Jenkins’ mark of 129 Tests, while Dragons flanker Aaron Wainwright made a World Cup debut two days before his 22nd birthday.

It took Wales just three minutes to open their account, with Gareth Davies breaking quickly from a scrum and sending Jonathan Davies through a huge midfield gap.

Jonathan Davies finished with ease, and although Biggar somehow hit the post with his conversion attempt from straight in front of the posts, Wales were off and running, 5-0 ahead.

Biggar then made amends for his earlier blunder, kicking a short-range penalty that put Wales eight points clear after seven minutes, before Tipuric added a second try following strong running by Gareth Davies and Adams.

Wales were all over their opponents during the opening quarter, and it was no surprise when a second try arrived after 13 minutes.

Wales return to World Cup action on Sunday when they play Australia
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Biggar’s slick pass put Adams into space and – despite a supporting Gareth Davies being tackled – Tipuric gathered recycled possession and touched down, with Biggar adding the extras.

It was very comfortable for Wales, and Adams then finished brilliantly following a 40-metre run after Biggar’s clever inside ball, and another successful conversion from the fly-half made it 22-0.

Georgia’s trademark scrummaging power surfaced when they finally moved close to Wales’ 22, but a lack of poise and precision with ball in hand denied them a chance to cut the deficit.

Wales finished a one-sided first half back on the attack, and a bonus-point try arrived when more impressive work by Jonathan Davies resulted in an opportunity for full-back Liam Williams that he gratefully accepted.

Biggar’s successful conversion took it to 29-0, and Wales were out of sight with half the game remaining.

The Wales players bowed to the crowd after their victory
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Georgia began the second period in lively fashion, reverting to a strong driving lineout, and Mamukashvili scored a try from one such show of power, before his replacement Jaba Bregvadze was sin-binned shortly afterwards for illegally halting a Wales forward surge.

Wales were given plenty to think about in the physical exchanges by Georgia, but a five-point maximum and no apparent injuries made it a case of job done.

Rugby World Cup 2019: England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland preview as bids to claim the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan start

19 Sep

The Rugby World Cup starts on Friday with plenty of expectation for all the Home Nations.

The opening fixture sees hosts Japan take on Russia in Tokyo on Friday before Ireland, Scotland and England get their campaigns underway on Sunday followed by Wales on Monday.

The 2019 tournament is perhaps the most wide open in years with Ireland ranked as the number one side in the world while New Zealand and South Africa have been drawn in the same group.

Joe Cokanasiga will be playing in his first World Cup for England
Getty Images - Getty

Here at talkSPORT.com we have taken a look at what all four home nations can expect from the tournament.

England

Four years have past since England’s humiliating exit from the Rugby World Cup on home soil that saw them not get past the pool stage.

Their route to the knockout stages may be slightly easier in 2019 but Eddie Jones’ side will be wary of the potential banana skins ahead of them.

This time the tournament is in Japan in surroundings that Jones will no doubt be comfortable in.

He is of Japanese heritage and was coach of their national team at the 2015 World Cup in England where he masterminded their win over South Africa.

The 59-year-old was also head coach of Australia when they were beaten by England in the 2003 final and was also part of the South African coaching staff when they won in 2007.

Jones was appointed in November 2015 so he would have four years to prepare for this tournament.

In his first two years, England could not stop winning as they won back-to-back Six Nations Championships.

The last two years have been a little more inconsistent, with a draw and defeat to Scotland the most notable results, as he has looked to find his best side.

Jones’ record has been strong overall with 34 wins from 44 games with nine defeats and a draw.

England possess some genuine world class talent with an array of pace and power at their disposal.

Key players

Maro Itoje – lock

The 24-year-old lock is in the prime of his career and if England harbour any hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy in October then he will need to perform.

Itoje’s incredible athleticism makes England dominant at the lineout while he is also an excellent ball carrier.

There are plenty of players in England’s line-up that opponents will fear but Itoje will be chief antagonist at this World Cup.

Maro Itoje has made 29 appearances for England
Getty Images - Getty

Joe Cokanasiga – wing

Cokanasiga may have only played eight Tests for England but he has already been compared to New Zealand great Jonah Lomu.

The 21-year-old, who was born in Fiji, has already scored five tries in those games.

He has incredible speed for a man who is 6ft 4in and weighs 17st 8lb and is a daunting prospect for any opposing defender to tackle.

Joe Cokanasiga plays his club rugby for Bath
Getty - Contributor

Full squad

Forwards; Dan Cole (prop), Luke Cowan-Dickie (hooker), Tom Curry (flanker), Ellis Genge (prop), Jamie George (hooker), Maro Itoje (lock), George Kruis (lock), Joe Launchbury (lock), Courtney Lawes (lock), Lewis Ludlam (flanker), Joe Marler (prop), Kyle Sinckler (prop), Jack Singleton (hooker), Sam Underhill (flanker), Billy Vunipola (No. 8), Mako Vunipola (prop), Mark Wilson (flanker).

Backs; Joe Cokanasiga (wing), Elliot Daly (full-back), Owen Farrell (fly-half), George Ford (fly-half), Piers Francis (centre), Willi Heinz (scrum-half), Jonathan Joseph (centre), Jonny May (wing), Ruaridh McConnochie (wing), Jack Nowell (wing), Henry Slade (centre), Manu Tuilagi (centre), Anthony Watson (wing), Ben Youngs (scrum-half).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Tonga (11.15am)

Thursday, September 26 – USA (11.45am)

Saturday, October 5 – Argentina (9am)

Saturday, October 12 – France (9.15am)

Prediction

Semi-final

Wales

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be Warren Gatland’s swansong as Wales head coach.

The 56-year-old has spent 12 years at the helm of Wales rugby with four Six Nations victories, including three Grand Slams.

Gatland was appointed in 2007 after a dismal World Cup and his record has been solid in the tournament.

Eight years ago, they reached the semi-finals and in 2015 they managed to get out of the pool stage that included England and Australia, before losing to South Africa in the last eight.

Warren Gatland will be returning to New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup
Getty Images - Getty

Gatland will want to sign off in style before taking over as head coach of Super Rugby side Chiefs in his native New Zealand.

Strength in depth may hurt Wales as the tournament progresses but they are a reasonable bet to make it out of Pool D.

They are already without Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe and any more injuries could hurt them.

Their preparation has been far from ideal with coach Rob Howley sent home amid a betting investigation.

Key player

Alun Wyn Jones – lock

The Wales captain may be 34 but he is still at his peak and his country will need all of his 128 caps of experience if they are to progress.

Jones is one of the best in the world at his position and can drag Wales through matches if he is required.

Alun Wyn Jones is two matches away from being Wales’ most capped player
AFP or licensors

Full squad

Forwards; Jake Ball (lock), Adam Beard (lock), Rhys Carre (prop), James Davies (flanker), Elliot Dee (hooker), Ryan Elias (hooker), Tomas Francis (prop), Cory Hill (lock), Wyn Jones (prop), Alun Wyn Jones (lock), Dillon Lewis (prop), Ross Moriarty (No. 8), Josh Navidi (flanker), Ken Owens (hooker), Aaron Shingler (flanker), Nicky Smith (prop), Justin Tipuric (flanker), Aaron Wainwright (flanker).

Backs; Josh Adams (wing), Hallam Amos(wing), Dan Biggar (fly-half), Aled Davies (scrum-half), Gareth Davies (scrum-half), Jonathan Davies (centre), Leigh Halfpenny (full-back), George North (wing), Hadleigh Parkes (centre), Rhys Patchell (fly-half), Owen Watkin (centre), Liam Williams (utility back), Tomos Williams (scrum-half).

Fixtures

Monday, September 23 – Georgia (11.15am)

Sunday, September 29 – Australia (8.45am)

Wednesday, October 9 – Fiji (10.45am)

Sunday, October 13 – Uruguay (9.15am)

Prediction

Quarter-finals

Scotland

Scotland are inconsistent at best and on their day they can cause real problems for the top sides, as England found out at their cost in their last two Calcutta Cup clashes.

The bad days often outweigh the good ones and a strong performance is normally followed by an implosion.

Scotland are easy on the eye with lots of skill and pace but lack the ball-carrying up front to grind out results when Plan A fails.

Key Player

Finn Russell – fly-half

On his day, Russell can be a world beater and virtually unplayable but when he is having an off day then the rest of the team seems to follow.

He has scored 137 points in 46 matches for Scotland and has flourished with Racing 92 at club level.

Finn Russell replaced All Blacks legend Dan Carter at Racing 92
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“The Six Nations was up and down. Against Italy the first half was great, then we let in three late tries,” Russell said before the World Cup. “We had a good first period against Ireland too but slipped off again. Then the England game [a 38-38 draw at Twickenham, in which Scotland trailed by 31 points] was like that but in reverse.

“What was frustrating was we never really managed to put in an 80-minute performance. In a World Cup against the best teams on the planet you have to put in a 80-minute display every game.

“But it should be the real Scotland we see now. This is the main stage, the World Cup, so if it’s not the real Scotland we see then it will be disappointing for all of us.”

Full squad

Forwards; John Barclay (flanker), Simon Berghan (prop), Fraser Brown (hooker), Scott Cummings (lock), Allan Dell (prop), Zander Fagerson (prop), Grant Gilchrist (lock), Jonny Gray (lock), Stuart McInally (hooker), Willem Nel (prop), Gordon Reid (prop), Jamie Ritchie (flanker), Blade Thomson (back-row), Ben Toolis (lock), George Turner (hooker), Hamis Watson (flanker), Ryan Wilson (No. 8).

Backs; Darcy Graham (wing), Chris Harris (centre), Adam Hastings (fly-half), Stuart Hogg (full-back), George Horne (scrum-half), Pete Horne (utility back), Sam Johnson (centre), Blair Kinghorn (full-back), Greig Laidlaw (scrum-half), Sean Maitland (wing), Ali Price (scrum-half), Finn Russell (fly-half), Tommy Seymour (wing), Duncan Taylor (centre).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Ireland (8.45am)

Monday, September 30 – Samoa (11.15am)

Wednesday, October 9 – Russia (8.15am)

Sunday, October 13 – Japan (11.45am)

Prediction

Pool Stage

Ireland

Ireland went to number one in the world with their warm-up victory over Wales in Dublin as the early indicators for the tournament are good.

Remarkably, only once has the World Cup not been won by a side not occupying that top ranking spot.

Ireland’s record at the tournament has been dismal, though, and they have never won a knockout match in their history.

Their win over New Zealand last November was a sign that they can be world beaters but their recent loss to England may have concerned head coach Joe Schmidt.

They have been handed a relatively kind pool but are likely to face South Africa or New Zealand in the quarter-final.

Key player

Johnny Sexton – fly-half

The world’s best player has had his injury scares ahead of the tournament and a slight dip in form during the Six Nations was uncharacteristic.

Ireland’s hopes will be linked to how well Sexton can perform at the tournament and at 34 it is now or never to guide his side to glory (or at least a knockout win).

Johnny Sexton was named as the best player in the world in 2018
AFP

Full-squad

Forwards; Rory Best (hooker), Tadhg Beirne (lock), Jack Conan (flanker), Sean Cronin (hooker), Tadhg Furlong (prop), Cian Healy (prop), Iain Henderson (lock), Dave Kilcoyne (prop), Jean Kleyn (lock), Peter O’Mahony (flanker), Andrew Porter (prop), Rhys Ruddock (flanker), James Ryan (lock), John Ryan (prop), Niall Scannell (hooker), CJ Stander (flanker), Josh van der Flier (flanker).

Backs; Bundee Aki (centre), Joey Carbery (fly-half), Jack Carty (fly-half), Andrew Conway (utility back), Keith Earls (utility back), Chris Farrell (centre), Robbie Henshaw (centre), Rob Kearney (full-back), Jordan Larmour (wing), Luke McGrath (scrum-half), Conor Murray (scrum-half), Garry Ringrose (centre), Johnny Sexton (fly-half), Jacob Stockdale (wing).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Scotland (8.45am)

Saturday, September 28 – Japan (8.15am)

Thursday, October 3 – Russia (11.45am)

Saturday, October 12 – Samoa (11.45am)

Prediction

Quarter-final

Rugby World Cup 2019: England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland preview as bids to claim the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan start

19 Sep

The Rugby World Cup starts on Friday with plenty of expectation for all the Home Nations.

The opening fixture sees hosts Japan take on Russia in Tokyo on Friday before Ireland, Scotland and England get their campaigns underway on Sunday followed by Wales on Monday.

The 2019 tournament is perhaps the most wide open in years with Ireland ranked as the number one side in the world while New Zealand and South Africa have been drawn in the same group.

Joe Cokanasiga will be playing in his first World Cup for England
Getty Images - Getty

Here at talkSPORT.com we have taken a look at what all four home nations can expect from the tournament.

England

Four years have past since England’s humiliating exit from the Rugby World Cup on home soil that saw them not get past the pool stage.

Their route to the knockout stages may be slightly easier in 2019 but Eddie Jones’ side will be wary of the potential banana skins ahead of them.

This time the tournament is in Japan in surroundings that Jones will no doubt be comfortable in.

He is of Japanese heritage and was coach of their national team at the 2015 World Cup in England where he masterminded their win over South Africa.

The 59-year-old was also head coach of Australia when they were beaten by England in the 2003 final and was also part of the South African coaching staff when they won in 2007.

Jones was appointed in November 2015 so he would have four years to prepare for this tournament.

In his first two years, England could not stop winning as they won back-to-back Six Nations Championships.

The last two years have been a little more inconsistent, with a draw and defeat to Scotland the most notable results, as he has looked to find his best side.

Jones’ record has been strong overall with 34 wins from 44 games with nine defeats and a draw.

England possess some genuine world class talent with an array of pace and power at their disposal.

Key players

Maro Itoje – lock

The 24-year-old lock is in the prime of his career and if England harbour any hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy in October then he will need to perform.

Itoje’s incredible athleticism makes England dominant at the lineout while he is also an excellent ball carrier.

There are plenty of players in England’s line-up that opponents will fear but Itoje will be chief antagonist at this World Cup.

Maro Itoje has made 29 appearances for England
Getty Images - Getty

Joe Cokanasiga – wing

Cokanasiga may have only played eight Tests for England but he has already been compared to New Zealand great Jonah Lomu.

The 21-year-old, who was born in Fiji, has already scored five tries in those games.

He has incredible speed for a man who is 6ft 4in and weighs 17st 8lb and is a daunting prospect for any opposing defender to tackle.

Joe Cokanasiga plays his club rugby for Bath
Getty - Contributor

Full squad

Forwards; Dan Cole (prop), Luke Cowan-Dickie (hooker), Tom Curry (flanker), Ellis Genge (prop), Jamie George (hooker), Maro Itoje (lock), George Kruis (lock), Joe Launchbury (lock), Courtney Lawes (lock), Lewis Ludlam (flanker), Joe Marler (prop), Kyle Sinckler (prop), Jack Singleton (hooker), Sam Underhill (flanker), Billy Vunipola (No. 8), Mako Vunipola (prop), Mark Wilson (flanker).

Backs; Joe Cokanasiga (wing), Elliot Daly (full-back), Owen Farrell (fly-half), George Ford (fly-half), Piers Francis (centre), Willi Heinz (scrum-half), Jonathan Joseph (centre), Jonny May (wing), Ruaridh McConnochie (wing), Jack Nowell (wing), Henry Slade (centre), Manu Tuilagi (centre), Anthony Watson (wing), Ben Youngs (scrum-half).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Tonga (11.15am)

Thursday, September 26 – USA (11.45am)

Saturday, October 5 – Argentina (9am)

Saturday, October 12 – France (9.15am)

Prediction

Semi-final

Wales

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be Warren Gatland’s swansong as Wales head coach.

The 56-year-old has spent 12 years at the helm of Wales rugby with four Six Nations victories, including three Grand Slams.

Gatland was appointed in 2007 after a dismal World Cup and his record has been solid in the tournament.

Eight years ago, they reached the semi-finals and in 2015 they managed to get out of the pool stage that included England and Australia, before losing to South Africa in the last eight.

Warren Gatland will be returning to New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup
Getty Images - Getty

Gatland will want to sign off in style before taking over as head coach of Super Rugby side Chiefs in his native New Zealand.

Strength in depth may hurt Wales as the tournament progresses but they are a reasonable bet to make it out of Pool D.

They are already without Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe and any more injuries could hurt them.

Their preparation has been far from ideal with coach Rob Howley sent home amid a betting investigation.

Key player

Alun Wyn Jones – lock

The Wales captain may be 34 but he is still at his peak and his country will need all of his 128 caps of experience if they are to progress.

Jones is one of the best in the world at his position and can drag Wales through matches if he is required.

Alun Wyn Jones is two matches away from being Wales’ most capped player
AFP or licensors

Full squad

Forwards; Jake Ball (lock), Adam Beard (lock), Rhys Carre (prop), James Davies (flanker), Elliot Dee (hooker), Ryan Elias (hooker), Tomas Francis (prop), Cory Hill (lock), Wyn Jones (prop), Alun Wyn Jones (lock), Dillon Lewis (prop), Ross Moriarty (No. 8), Josh Navidi (flanker), Ken Owens (hooker), Aaron Shingler (flanker), Nicky Smith (prop), Justin Tipuric (flanker), Aaron Wainwright (flanker).

Backs; Josh Adams (wing), Hallam Amos(wing), Dan Biggar (fly-half), Aled Davies (scrum-half), Gareth Davies (scrum-half), Jonathan Davies (centre), Leigh Halfpenny (full-back), George North (wing), Hadleigh Parkes (centre), Rhys Patchell (fly-half), Owen Watkin (centre), Liam Williams (utility back), Tomos Williams (scrum-half).

Fixtures

Monday, September 23 – Georgia (11.15am)

Sunday, September 29 – Australia (8.45am)

Wednesday, October 9 – Fiji (10.45am)

Sunday, October 13 – Uruguay (9.15am)

Prediction

Quarter-finals

Scotland

Scotland are inconsistent at best and on their day they can cause real problems for the top sides, as England found out at their cost in their last two Calcutta Cup clashes.

The bad days often outweigh the good ones and a strong performance is normally followed by an implosion.

Scotland are easy on the eye with lots of skill and pace but lack the ball-carrying up front to grind out results when Plan A fails.

Key Player

Finn Russell – fly-half

On his day, Russell can be a world beater and virtually unplayable but when he is having an off day then the rest of the team seems to follow.

He has scored 137 points in 46 matches for Scotland and has flourished with Racing 92 at club level.

Finn Russell replaced All Blacks legend Dan Carter at Racing 92
Getty Images - Getty

“The Six Nations was up and down. Against Italy the first half was great, then we let in three late tries,” Russell said before the World Cup. “We had a good first period against Ireland too but slipped off again. Then the England game [a 38-38 draw at Twickenham, in which Scotland trailed by 31 points] was like that but in reverse.

“What was frustrating was we never really managed to put in an 80-minute performance. In a World Cup against the best teams on the planet you have to put in a 80-minute display every game.

“But it should be the real Scotland we see now. This is the main stage, the World Cup, so if it’s not the real Scotland we see then it will be disappointing for all of us.”

Full squad

Forwards; John Barclay (flanker), Simon Berghan (prop), Fraser Brown (hooker), Scott Cummings (lock), Allan Dell (prop), Zander Fagerson (prop), Grant Gilchrist (lock), Jonny Gray (lock), Stuart McInally (hooker), Willem Nel (prop), Gordon Reid (prop), Jamie Ritchie (flanker), Blade Thomson (back-row), Ben Toolis (lock), George Turner (hooker), Hamis Watson (flanker), Ryan Wilson (No. 8).

Backs; Darcy Graham (wing), Chris Harris (centre), Adam Hastings (fly-half), Stuart Hogg (full-back), George Horne (scrum-half), Pete Horne (utility back), Sam Johnson (centre), Blair Kinghorn (full-back), Greig Laidlaw (scrum-half), Sean Maitland (wing), Ali Price (scrum-half), Finn Russell (fly-half), Tommy Seymour (wing), Duncan Taylor (centre).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Ireland (8.45am)

Monday, September 30 – Samoa (11.15am)

Wednesday, October 9 – Russia (8.15am)

Sunday, October 13 – Japan (11.45am)

Prediction

Pool Stage

Ireland

Ireland went to number one in the world with their warm-up victory over Wales in Dublin as the early indicators for the tournament are good.

Remarkably, only once has the World Cup not been won by a side not occupying that top ranking spot.

Ireland’s record at the tournament has been dismal, though, and they have never won a knockout match in their history.

Their win over New Zealand last November was a sign that they can be world beaters but their recent loss to England may have concerned head coach Joe Schmidt.

They have been handed a relatively kind pool but are likely to face South Africa or New Zealand in the quarter-final.

Key player

Johnny Sexton – fly-half

The world’s best player has had his injury scares ahead of the tournament and a slight dip in form during the Six Nations was uncharacteristic.

Ireland’s hopes will be linked to how well Sexton can perform at the tournament and at 34 it is now or never to guide his side to glory (or at least a knockout win).

Johnny Sexton was named as the best player in the world in 2018
AFP

Full-squad

Forwards; Rory Best (hooker), Tadhg Beirne (lock), Jack Conan (flanker), Sean Cronin (hooker), Tadhg Furlong (prop), Cian Healy (prop), Iain Henderson (lock), Dave Kilcoyne (prop), Jean Kleyn (lock), Peter O’Mahony (flanker), Andrew Porter (prop), Rhys Ruddock (flanker), James Ryan (lock), John Ryan (prop), Niall Scannell (hooker), CJ Stander (flanker), Josh van der Flier (flanker).

Backs; Bundee Aki (centre), Joey Carbery (fly-half), Jack Carty (fly-half), Andrew Conway (utility back), Keith Earls (utility back), Chris Farrell (centre), Robbie Henshaw (centre), Rob Kearney (full-back), Jordan Larmour (wing), Luke McGrath (scrum-half), Conor Murray (scrum-half), Garry Ringrose (centre), Johnny Sexton (fly-half), Jacob Stockdale (wing).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Scotland (8.45am)

Saturday, September 28 – Japan (8.15am)

Thursday, October 3 – Russia (11.45am)

Saturday, October 12 – Samoa (11.45am)

Prediction

Quarter-final

Rugby World Cup 2019: England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland preview as bids to claim the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan start

19 Sep

The Rugby World Cup starts on Friday with plenty of expectation for all the Home Nations.

The opening fixture sees hosts Japan take on Russia in Tokyo on Friday before Ireland, Scotland and England get their campaigns underway on Sunday followed by Wales on Monday.

The 2019 tournament is perhaps the most wide open in years with Ireland ranked as the number one side in the world while New Zealand and South Africa have been drawn in the same group.

Joe Cokanasiga will be playing in his first World Cup for England
Getty Images - Getty

Here at talkSPORT.com we have taken a look at what all four home nations can expect from the tournament.

England

Four years have passed since England’s humiliating exit from the Rugby World Cup on home soil that saw them not get past the pool stage.

Their route to the knockout stages may be slightly easier in 2019 but Eddie Jones’ side will be wary of the potential banana skins ahead of them.

This time the tournament is in Japan in surroundings that Jones will no doubt be comfortable in.

He is of Japanese heritage and was coach of their national team at the 2015 World Cup in England where he masterminded their win over South Africa.

The 59-year-old was also head coach of Australia when they were beaten by England in the 2003 final and was also part of the South African coaching staff when they won in 2007.

Jones was appointed in November 2015 so he would have four years to prepare for this tournament.

In his first two years, England could not stop winning as they won back-to-back Six Nations Championships.

The last two years have been a little more inconsistent, with a draw and defeat to Scotland the most notable results, as he has looked to find his best side.

Jones’ record has been strong overall with 34 wins from 44 games with nine defeats and a draw.

England possess some genuine world class talent with an array of pace and power at their disposal.

Key players

Maro Itoje – lock

The 24-year-old lock is in the prime of his career and if England harbour any hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy in October then he will need to perform.

Itoje’s incredible athleticism makes England dominant at the lineout while he is also an excellent ball carrier.

There are plenty of players in England’s line-up that opponents will fear but Itoje will be chief antagonist at this World Cup.

Maro Itoje has made 29 appearances for England
Getty Images - Getty

Joe Cokanasiga – wing

Cokanasiga may have only played eight Tests for England but he has already been compared to New Zealand great Jonah Lomu.

The 21-year-old, who was born in Fiji, has already scored five tries in those games.

He has incredible speed for a man who is 6ft 4in and weighs 17st 8lb and is a daunting prospect for any opposing defender to tackle.

Joe Cokanasiga plays his club rugby for Bath
Getty - Contributor

Full squad

Forwards; Dan Cole (prop), Luke Cowan-Dickie (hooker), Tom Curry (flanker), Ellis Genge (prop), Jamie George (hooker), Maro Itoje (lock), George Kruis (lock), Joe Launchbury (lock), Courtney Lawes (lock), Lewis Ludlam (flanker), Joe Marler (prop), Kyle Sinckler (prop), Jack Singleton (hooker), Sam Underhill (flanker), Billy Vunipola (No. 8), Mako Vunipola (prop), Mark Wilson (flanker).

Backs; Joe Cokanasiga (wing), Elliot Daly (full-back), Owen Farrell (fly-half), George Ford (fly-half), Piers Francis (centre), Willi Heinz (scrum-half), Jonathan Joseph (centre), Jonny May (wing), Ruaridh McConnochie (wing), Jack Nowell (wing), Henry Slade (centre), Manu Tuilagi (centre), Anthony Watson (wing), Ben Youngs (scrum-half).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Tonga (11.15am)

Thursday, September 26 – USA (11.45am)

Saturday, October 5 – Argentina (9am)

Saturday, October 12 – France (9.15am)

Prediction

Semi-final

Wales

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be Warren Gatland’s swansong as Wales head coach.

The 56-year-old has spent 12 years at the helm of Wales rugby with four Six Nations victories, including three Grand Slams.

Gatland was appointed in 2007 after a dismal World Cup and his record has been solid in the tournament.

Eight years ago, they reached the semi-finals and in 2015 they managed to get out of the pool stage that included England and Australia, before losing to South Africa in the last eight.

Warren Gatland will be returning to New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup
Getty Images - Getty

Gatland will want to sign off in style before taking over as head coach of Super Rugby side Chiefs in his native New Zealand.

Strength in depth may hurt Wales as the tournament progresses but they are a reasonable bet to make it out of Pool D.

They are already without Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe and any more injuries could hurt them.

Their preparation has been far from ideal with coach Rob Howley sent home amid a betting investigation.

Key player

Alun Wyn Jones – lock

The Wales captain may be 34 but he is still at his peak and his country will need all of his 128 caps of experience if they are to progress.

Jones is one of the best in the world at his position and can drag Wales through matches if he is required.

Alun Wyn Jones is two matches away from being Wales’ most capped player
AFP or licensors

Full squad

Forwards; Jake Ball (lock), Adam Beard (lock), Rhys Carre (prop), James Davies (flanker), Elliot Dee (hooker), Ryan Elias (hooker), Tomas Francis (prop), Cory Hill (lock), Wyn Jones (prop), Alun Wyn Jones (lock), Dillon Lewis (prop), Ross Moriarty (No. 8), Josh Navidi (flanker), Ken Owens (hooker), Aaron Shingler (flanker), Nicky Smith (prop), Justin Tipuric (flanker), Aaron Wainwright (flanker).

Backs; Josh Adams (wing), Hallam Amos(wing), Dan Biggar (fly-half), Aled Davies (scrum-half), Gareth Davies (scrum-half), Jonathan Davies (centre), Leigh Halfpenny (full-back), George North (wing), Hadleigh Parkes (centre), Rhys Patchell (fly-half), Owen Watkin (centre), Liam Williams (utility back), Tomos Williams (scrum-half).

Fixtures

Monday, September 23 – Georgia (11.15am)

Sunday, September 29 – Australia (8.45am)

Wednesday, October 9 – Fiji (10.45am)

Sunday, October 13 – Uruguay (9.15am)

Prediction

Quarter-finals

Scotland

Scotland are inconsistent at best and on their day they can cause real problems for the top sides, as England found out at their cost in their last two Calcutta Cup clashes.

The bad days often outweigh the good ones and a strong performance is normally followed by an implosion.

Scotland are easy on the eye with lots of skill and pace but lack the ball-carrying up front to grind out results when Plan A fails.

Key Player

Finn Russell – fly-half

On his day, Russell can be a world beater and virtually unplayable but when he is having an off day then the rest of the team seems to follow.

He has scored 137 points in 46 matches for Scotland and has flourished with Racing 92 at club level.

Finn Russell replaced All Blacks legend Dan Carter at Racing 92
Getty Images - Getty

“The Six Nations was up and down. Against Italy the first half was great, then we let in three late tries,” Russell said before the World Cup. “We had a good first period against Ireland too but slipped off again. Then the England game [a 38-38 draw at Twickenham, in which Scotland trailed by 31 points] was like that but in reverse.

“What was frustrating was we never really managed to put in an 80-minute performance. In a World Cup against the best teams on the planet you have to put in a 80-minute display every game.

“But it should be the real Scotland we see now. This is the main stage, the World Cup, so if it’s not the real Scotland we see then it will be disappointing for all of us.”

Full squad

Forwards; John Barclay (flanker), Simon Berghan (prop), Fraser Brown (hooker), Scott Cummings (lock), Allan Dell (prop), Zander Fagerson (prop), Grant Gilchrist (lock), Jonny Gray (lock), Stuart McInally (hooker), Willem Nel (prop), Gordon Reid (prop), Jamie Ritchie (flanker), Blade Thomson (back-row), Ben Toolis (lock), George Turner (hooker), Hamis Watson (flanker), Ryan Wilson (No. 8).

Backs; Darcy Graham (wing), Chris Harris (centre), Adam Hastings (fly-half), Stuart Hogg (full-back), George Horne (scrum-half), Pete Horne (utility back), Sam Johnson (centre), Blair Kinghorn (full-back), Greig Laidlaw (scrum-half), Sean Maitland (wing), Ali Price (scrum-half), Finn Russell (fly-half), Tommy Seymour (wing), Duncan Taylor (centre).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Ireland (8.45am)

Monday, September 30 – Samoa (11.15am)

Wednesday, October 9 – Russia (8.15am)

Sunday, October 13 – Japan (11.45am)

Prediction

Pool Stage

Ireland

Ireland went to number one in the world with their warm-up victory over Wales in Dublin as the early indicators for the tournament are good.

Remarkably, only once has the World Cup not been won by a side not occupying that top ranking spot.

Ireland’s record at the tournament has been dismal, though, and they have never won a knockout match in their history.

Their win over New Zealand last November was a sign that they can be world beaters but their recent loss to England may have concerned head coach Joe Schmidt.

They have been handed a relatively kind pool but are likely to face South Africa or New Zealand in the quarter-final.

Key player

Johnny Sexton – fly-half

The world’s best player has had his injury scares ahead of the tournament and a slight dip in form during the Six Nations was uncharacteristic.

Ireland’s hopes will be linked to how well Sexton can perform at the tournament and at 34 it is now or never to guide his side to glory (or at least a knockout win).

Johnny Sexton was named as the best player in the world in 2018
AFP

Full-squad

Forwards; Rory Best (hooker), Tadhg Beirne (lock), Jack Conan (flanker), Sean Cronin (hooker), Tadhg Furlong (prop), Cian Healy (prop), Iain Henderson (lock), Dave Kilcoyne (prop), Jean Kleyn (lock), Peter O’Mahony (flanker), Andrew Porter (prop), Rhys Ruddock (flanker), James Ryan (lock), John Ryan (prop), Niall Scannell (hooker), CJ Stander (flanker), Josh van der Flier (flanker).

Backs; Bundee Aki (centre), Joey Carbery (fly-half), Jack Carty (fly-half), Andrew Conway (utility back), Keith Earls (utility back), Chris Farrell (centre), Robbie Henshaw (centre), Rob Kearney (full-back), Jordan Larmour (wing), Luke McGrath (scrum-half), Conor Murray (scrum-half), Garry Ringrose (centre), Johnny Sexton (fly-half), Jacob Stockdale (wing).

Fixtures

Sunday, September 22 – Scotland (8.45am)

Saturday, September 28 – Japan (8.15am)

Thursday, October 3 – Russia (11.45am)

Saturday, October 12 – Samoa (11.45am)

Prediction

Quarter-final

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley sent home from World Cup in Japan for alleged breach of betting rules

17 Sep

Wales assisant coach Rob Howley has been sent home from the Rugby World Cup in Japan six days until their opening match against Georgia begins.

The former Wales captain, who has been part of Warren Gatland’s coaching team since 2008, has left the squad’s Kitakyushu base due to an alleged breach of betting rules.

British and Irish Lions assistant Rob Howley dismisses referee bullying claims from Steve Hansen
Rob Howley has been sent home from the World Cup

The developments will send shock-waves reverberating throughout the rugby world.

The 48-year-old enjoyed a glittering playing career, winning 59 caps for Wales and captaining his country on 22 occasions, while also helping Wasps to be crowned European champions in 2004.

He also played for the British and Irish Lions in 1997 and 2001, and was part of the Lions coaching staff on their last three tours.
He had been due to leave his Wales coaching role after the World Cup, along with Gatland and fellow assistants Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde.

Howley was recently linked with succeeding Conor O’Shea as Italy head coach following the tournament.

In a statement, the WRU said: “The WRU can confirm that Rob Howley has returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union.

“The decision was taken to act immediately in light of recent information passed to the WRU.

“No further details can be provided at this stage as this would prejudice the investigation. If required, an independent panel will be appointed to hear the case.

“Rob has co-operated fully with our initial discussions and we would ask that the media appreciate this is a difficult and personal matter for Rob and that his privacy is respected before an outcome is reached.

“Warren Gatland has consulted with senior players, and Stephen Jones will be arriving in Japan imminently to link up with the squad as attack coach.”


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Rugby Union news: Former Wales international Gareth Thomas reveals he is HIV positive

15 Sep

Former Wales international Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive.

Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus, and has revealed he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis.

Gareth Thomas is a former Wales captain

He went public with his illness after being put “through hell” by blackmailers who threatened to expose his secret.

The 45-year-old told the Sunday Mirror: “I’ve been living with this secret for years.

“I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.

“I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff.

“To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things.”

The former British and Irish Lions captain, who will be a TV pundit in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan, said he “broke down” when he got the news of his diagnosis.

Thomas said: “I went for a routine sexual health test at a private clinic in Cardiff.

“I didn’t feel ill and thought everything was going to be fine.

“When (the doctor) said those words… I immediately thought I was going to die.

“I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. Then I was thinking ‘how long have I got left?'”

He added: “I’ve been threatened by people who said they would give away my secret. It’s sick and I’ve been through hell.

“I was being blackmailed and in my mind I thought you only get blackmailed for something really bad, which compounded the feeling of shame.”

Gareth Thomas with talkSPORT’S Andy Jacobs and Paul Hawksbee and the Rugby League World Cup
talkSPORT

The former Cardiff Blues player won 103 caps and scored 41 tries for Wales between 1995 and 2007, and he is 13th on the all-time international test try-scoring list.

Last November, he was attacked in Cardiff city centre in a homophobic hate crime, but asked South Wales Police to deal with the 16-year-old assailant by way of restorative justice.

The sportsman now takes one tablet containing four medications each day, and doctors have said his condition is under control to the point that it is considered “undetectable” and cannot be passed on.

Thomas said that his husband Stephen, who he met after his diagnosis and married three years ago, does not have HIV.

His decision to speak out was backed by the Duke of Cambridge, through his Kensington Palace account, adding “W” meaning it was written by William himself.

 

Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV charity, said Thomas’s diagnosis may help change public attitudes.

“I’m very proud to call Gareth Thomas a friend. Gareth is proof that an HIV diagnosis shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do – whatever that is.

“I hope that by speaking publicly about this Gareth will transform attitudes towards HIV that are all too often stuck in the 1980s.”

Mr Green said improving treatment “means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives”.

“This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus.”

Mr Green said that Thomas blazed a trail by being the first rugby player to come out as gay and “has done so much to encourage inclusion and diversity within the sport”.

He added: “Now he is doing that once again with HIV and taking on the challenge of a lifetime in Ironman Wales to show that this virus doesn’t need to be a barrier when you’re diagnosed and accessing treatment.”

Rugby Union news: Former Wales international Gareth Thomas reveals he is HIV positive

15 Sep

Former Wales international Gareth Thomas has revealed he is HIV positive.

Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, is thought to be the first UK sportsman to go public about living with the virus, and has revealed he was driven to suicidal thoughts as a result of his diagnosis.

Gareth Thomas is a former Wales captain

He went public with his illness after being put “through hell” by blackmailers who threatened to expose his secret.

The 45-year-old told the Sunday Mirror: “I’ve been living with this secret for years.

“I’ve felt shame and keeping such a big secret has taken its toll.

“I was in a dark place, feeling suicidal. I thought about driving off a cliff.

“To me, wanting to die was just a natural thought and felt like the easier way out, but you have to confront things.”

The former British and Irish Lions captain, who will be a TV pundit in the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan, said he “broke down” when he got the news of his diagnosis.

Thomas said: “I went for a routine sexual health test at a private clinic in Cardiff.

“I didn’t feel ill and thought everything was going to be fine.

“When (the doctor) said those words… I immediately thought I was going to die.

“I felt like an express train was hitting me at 300mph. Then I was thinking ‘how long have I got left?'”

He added: “I’ve been threatened by people who said they would give away my secret. It’s sick and I’ve been through hell.

“I was being blackmailed and in my mind I thought you only get blackmailed for something really bad, which compounded the feeling of shame.”

Gareth Thomas with talkSPORT’S Andy Jacobs and Paul Hawksbee and the Rugby League World Cup
talkSPORT

The former Cardiff Blues player won 103 caps and scored 41 tries for Wales between 1995 and 2007, and he is 13th on the all-time international test try-scoring list.

Last November, he was attacked in Cardiff city centre in a homophobic hate crime, but asked South Wales Police to deal with the 16-year-old assailant by way of restorative justice.

The sportsman now takes one tablet containing four medications each day, and doctors have said his condition is under control to the point that it is considered “undetectable” and cannot be passed on.

Thomas said that his husband Stephen, who he met after his diagnosis and married three years ago, does not have HIV.

His decision to speak out was backed by the Duke of Cambridge, through his Kensington Palace account, adding “W” meaning it was written by William himself.

 

Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV charity, said Thomas’s diagnosis may help change public attitudes.

“I’m very proud to call Gareth Thomas a friend. Gareth is proof that an HIV diagnosis shouldn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do – whatever that is.

“I hope that by speaking publicly about this Gareth will transform attitudes towards HIV that are all too often stuck in the 1980s.”

Mr Green said improving treatment “means that people living with HIV like Gareth now live long healthy lives”.

“This is exactly the kind of information Gareth wants to get out there to challenge the stigma that still surrounds this virus.”

Mr Green said that Thomas blazed a trail by being the first rugby player to come out as gay and “has done so much to encourage inclusion and diversity within the sport”.

He added: “Now he is doing that once again with HIV and taking on the challenge of a lifetime in Ironman Wales to show that this virus doesn’t need to be a barrier when you’re diagnosed and accessing treatment.”

Wales climb to top of world rankings with victory over England in World Cup warm-up

17 Aug

Wales climbed to the top of rugby union’s world rankings for the first time after beating England 13-6 in Cardiff.

The hosts’ rise to the summit, which ended New Zealand’s unbroken 10-year occupation, comes just 34 days before the World Cup kicks off in Japan.

Wales edged England out in a low scoring affair
Getty Images - Getty

It was an impressive warm-up performance for the tournament as they reeled off an 11th successive home win.

Wing George North’s 34th-minute try sent Wales on their way to avenging a 33-19 defeat at Twickenham last weekend, while Dan Biggar converted and kicked a penalty to leave England 10 points adrift at half-time.

But there was an injury scare for Wales when Biggar took two blows to his left shoulder – he eventually went off five minutes from time – only six days after his fellow number 10 Gareth Anscombe suffered a World Cup-ending knee injury.

England were slicker and more cohesive after the break, but Wales restricted them to a couple of George Ford penalties before a late Leigh Halfpenny strike sealed victory.

Centre Piers Francis and prop Dan Cole delivered strong performances for England in their first game since head coach Eddie Jones announced his 31-man World Cup squad.

Wales, though, had enough in the tank to close matters out ahead of a week’s training in Turkey and resuming pre-World Cup action against Ireland in a fortnight’s time.

England suffered a blow ahead of the game when wing Ruaridh McConnochie was ruled out because of a hamstring problem.

The Bath wing was due to make his Test debut, but his club colleague Anthony Watson replaced him.

And Wales were also forced into a late switch after full-back Liam Williams suffered a hamstring issue during the warm-up, meaning that Halfpenny was handed a first Test match appearance since November.

It was a disappointing afternoon for England
Getty Images - Getty

Wales made a high-tempo start, twice testing England full-back Elliot Daly under the high ball and looking to move possession wide at pace, before an eighth-minute fracas among the forwards ended with referee Pascal Gauzere warning and penalising Wales prop Tomas Francis.

It gave England some territorial momentum, with number eight Billy Vunipola and wing Joe Cokanasiga prominent, and there was a sign of Halfpenny’s rustiness after such a lengthy international lay-off when he could not gather a steepling Ford kick.

James and Jonathan Davies, the first brothers to start together in Wales colours for 13 years, were at the heart of their team’s attacking efforts, but a lively opening quarter ended scoreless.

James Davies went off after 24 minutes after it appeared that England lock Maro Itoje’s knee accidentally caught him on the head, with Josh Navidi replacing him.

Tempers boiled during the fiery clash
Getty Images - Getty

Biggar kicked a penalty to open the scoring, and England then had Watson sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. Wales punished him before he had barely left the pitch.

Josh Adams made a break before possession found its way to Biggar, whose clever kick was caught by an unmarked North on the wing Watson would have been defending, before he touched down and claimed his 38th Wales try.

Biggar converted, with England seeing scrum-half Willi Heinz going off for a head injury assessment and being replaced by Ben Youngs and Wales securing a 10-0 interval advantage.

Heinz returned for the second period before Youngs took over from him permanently, while Aaron Shingler replaced an impressive Aaron Wainwright in Wales’ back row and England prop Joe Marler also appeared for a first time since coming out of international retirement.

Ford kicked two penalties in six minutes to cut Wales’ lead, but England could not breach the Welsh defence and they were left frustrated seven-point losers following Halfpenny’s long-range penalty during the closing stages.

Wales climb to top of world rankings with victory over England in World Cup warm-up

17 Aug

Wales climbed to the top of rugby union’s world rankings for the first time after beating England 13-6 in Cardiff.

The hosts’ rise to the summit, which ended New Zealand’s unbroken 10-year occupation, comes just 34 days before the World Cup kicks off in Japan.

Wales edged England out in a low scoring affair
Getty Images - Getty

It was an impressive warm-up performance for the tournament as they reeled off an 11th successive home win.

Wing George North’s 34th-minute try sent Wales on their way to avenging a 33-19 defeat at Twickenham last weekend, while Dan Biggar converted and kicked a penalty to leave England 10 points adrift at half-time.

But there was an injury scare for Wales when Biggar took two blows to his left shoulder – he eventually went off five minutes from time – only six days after his fellow number 10 Gareth Anscombe suffered a World Cup-ending knee injury.

England were slicker and more cohesive after the break, but Wales restricted them to a couple of George Ford penalties before a late Leigh Halfpenny strike sealed victory.

Centre Piers Francis and prop Dan Cole delivered strong performances for England in their first game since head coach Eddie Jones announced his 31-man World Cup squad.

Wales, though, had enough in the tank to close matters out ahead of a week’s training in Turkey and resuming pre-World Cup action against Ireland in a fortnight’s time.

England suffered a blow ahead of the game when wing Ruaridh McConnochie was ruled out because of a hamstring problem.

The Bath wing was due to make his Test debut, but his club colleague Anthony Watson replaced him.

And Wales were also forced into a late switch after full-back Liam Williams suffered a hamstring issue during the warm-up, meaning that Halfpenny was handed a first Test match appearance since November.

It was a disappointing afternoon for England
Getty Images - Getty

Wales made a high-tempo start, twice testing England full-back Elliot Daly under the high ball and looking to move possession wide at pace, before an eighth-minute fracas among the forwards ended with referee Pascal Gauzere warning and penalising Wales prop Tomas Francis.

It gave England some territorial momentum, with number eight Billy Vunipola and wing Joe Cokanasiga prominent, and there was a sign of Halfpenny’s rustiness after such a lengthy international lay-off when he could not gather a steepling Ford kick.

James and Jonathan Davies, the first brothers to start together in Wales colours for 13 years, were at the heart of their team’s attacking efforts, but a lively opening quarter ended scoreless.

James Davies went off after 24 minutes after it appeared that England lock Maro Itoje’s knee accidentally caught him on the head, with Josh Navidi replacing him.

Tempers boiled during the fiery clash
Getty Images - Getty

Biggar kicked a penalty to open the scoring, and England then had Watson sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. Wales punished him before he had barely left the pitch.

Josh Adams made a break before possession found its way to Biggar, whose clever kick was caught by an unmarked North on the wing Watson would have been defending, before he touched down and claimed his 38th Wales try.

Biggar converted, with England seeing scrum-half Willi Heinz going off for a head injury assessment and being replaced by Ben Youngs and Wales securing a 10-0 interval advantage.

Heinz returned for the second period before Youngs took over from him permanently, while Aaron Shingler replaced an impressive Aaron Wainwright in Wales’ back row and England prop Joe Marler also appeared for a first time since coming out of international retirement.

Ford kicked two penalties in six minutes to cut Wales’ lead, but England could not breach the Welsh defence and they were left frustrated seven-point losers following Halfpenny’s long-range penalty during the closing stages.

England name team to face Wales in Rugby World Cup warm-up game with Ruaridh McConnochie to make debut

15 Aug

Ruaridh McConnochie is set to make his England debut against Wales on Sunday after overcoming a hip injury.

The Bath wing and sevens specialist was picked in the team to face the Grand Slam champions at Twickenham for the World Cup warm-up match last weekend but was among a trio of late withdrawals due to injury.

Ruaridh McConnochie is set to make his England debut
Getty Images - Getty

Anthony Watson has been left out of the matchday 23 after completing his comeback from a 17-month absence due to an Achilles issue, so Joe Cokanasiga lines up on the opposite wing.

England captain Owen Farrell makes his first appearance of the World Cup warm-up schedule but is confined to a place on the bench, meaning George Ford will lead the team once more.

There are three changes in total to the side that beat Wales 33-19 with Maro Itoje restored to the second row in place of Charlie Ewels, with Joe Launchbury still present.

George Ford will lead England against Wales
Getty Images - Getty

The final adjustment comes in the back row where Courtney Lawes packs down at blindside flanker, forcing Lewis Ludlam to switch to seven.

Eddie Jones has also surprisingly opted to name two hookers on the bench in the form of Jamie George and Jack Singleton rather than choose a supporting back row.

Jones said: “Our selection strategy for our second game is similar to the first, so a bit of a mix-and-match approach.

“We are looking at different combinations and have a particular strategy for this game.”

Piers Francis and Jonathan Joseph are reunited as the centre pairing and New Zealand-born Willi Heinz wins his second cap at scrum-half.

Jones said: “The game is very much about ourselves preparing for the World Cup and we are respectful that we have got such strong opposition at their home ground.

“We are looking forward to it. The squad has been progressing well this week and I think there is a realisation now that the hard work really starts, nothing has been achieved.”