If you’re worried about an incredible summer of sport coming to an end, don’t worry – the Rugby World Cup means that autumn promises to be just as good.
We’re less than two months away from the tournament kicking off in France and after reaching the final back in 2019, England will be desperate to go one step further this time around.
But with a new coach at the helm and plenty of strong competitors to be wary of, it won’t be an easy ride. Ahead of the World Cup commencing on 8th September, we’ve taken a look at England’s chances, as well as the likely contenders to reach the final on 28th October.
The good news for England is that they’re on the kinder side of the draw and have a fairly easy looking pool that they should comfortably get out of. The bad news is they haven’t enjoyed the best few months under new coach Steve Borthwick.
The former lock replaced Eddie Jones back in December but could only guide the Red Rose to a fourth-place finish in the Six Nations, losing three of their matches. Borthwick is still finding his feet and with a mix of experience and exciting prospects in his squad, there’s hope that England can rediscover the form that guided them to the final last time out.
They’ll face Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile, with Wales or Jones’s Australia their likely quarter-final opponents should they win their pool. Yet while they’ll avoid all of the favourites until at least the semis, there’s a worry that the tournament will be deemed a failure if they fail to reach the final four.
Captain Owen Farrell was the second-highest points scorer back in 2019 and along with the likes of Manu Tuilagi, George Ford and Elliot Daly, England have a host of options in their backline. And they have a wealth of experience to call upon in the scrum in Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje and Joe Marler.
England are ranked sixth in the world and are undergoing a transitional period so the pressure on them is relatively low. But with the final in Japan still fresh in the memory, a few strong performances in their early games will have them dreaming of repeating their iconic 2003 World Cup triumph.
France are the favourites and with the tournament taking place on home soil, it’s their best opportunity yet to win their first Rugby World Cup. Having lost three finals in their history, including in 2011, they’re looking to go one better this time around.
In Antoine Dupont they have one of world rugby’s best players in their ranks and he’ll be key to them continuing their impressive form. Their defeat to Ireland in this year’s Six Nations is their only loss in the last two years.
Elsewhere, Ireland are ranked number one in the world after sailing through the Six Nations by winning every match. Last summer they became the first touring side since 1994 to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand.
World Rugby Player of the Year Josh van der Flier will lead them from the front while Johnny Sexton will want to go out with a bang ahead of his retirement after the tournament. However, Ireland will be aware that they’ve never reached a World Cup semi-final.
New Zealand will always be a contender and they’ll be looking to claim their fourth Rugby World Cup, having won it in 1987, 2011 and 2015. The All Blacks are not as formidable as they once were but they’re still a threat and they’ve won two of the last three Rugby Championships.
Three-time champions South Africa are defending their crown after beating England in the final in Japan. But they’ve not been at the races since and may not quite have enough. Meanwhile, Australia are on the favourable side of the draw. They’ll avoid most of the big boys until the semis and could face England if they win their pool.
Argentina are ranked eighth in the world and if they can shock England in their first game, just as they did at Twickenham last November, they’ll build momentum and could spring a surprise.
Few are predicting Scotland to get out of a pool that contains Ireland and South Africa. However, if they land a shock result and progress to the knockouts they’ll feel they can beat anyone.
Wales always show up and got to the semi-finals four years ago, beating Australia to win their pool. Likewise, Japan also topped their pool ahead of Ireland and Scotland when they were hosts so they may be in with a shout at reaching the latter stages.
Ahead of the tournament, England will play four warm-up games in order to get in the best shape possible. You can watch them prepare from the best seats in the house with our exclusive hospitality packages:
● Wales v England – Saturday 5th August, 5:30pm
● England v Wales – Saturday 12th August, 5:30pm
● Ireland v England – Saturday 19th August, 5:30pm
● England v Fiji – Saturday 26th August, 3:15pm
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