What we learnt from England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up match

With the Rugby World Cup now less than a month away, all 20 nations are well underway in their preparations for the tournament in France.

England took on Wales in the first of four warm-up matches in Cardiff last week and while it may not have gone the way coach Steve Borthwick would have hoped, he will have learned plenty about his side’s capabilities.

Wales came out on top, beating England 20-9 in a low-scoring affair at the Principality Stadium. The hosts adopted a defensive gameplan in the first half, with George North coming to their rescue to prevent two England tries.

England were on top throughout the first period but failed to turn their dominance into points. Borthwick’s side went into the break 9-6 up thanks to three penalties from Marcus Smith.

But their failure to score tries came back to bite them as Wales improved in the second half. Warren Gatland’s team gained 22 turnovers after the break and converted two tries as they scored 14 points without reply.

Borthwick had pretty much decided his World Cup squad prior to the game but he used the Wales match to give a few players their final opportunity to impress. Unfortunately, it didn’t go to plan for some of them, with eight of those that featured in Cardiff cut from the final squad that was named on Monday.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

What to expect from the second game against Wales?

England continue their World Cup warm-up games this weekend as they welcome Wales to Twickenham for a return fixture. Should they win their pool at the World Cup, there’s a good chance they’ll face either Wales or Australia in the knockout stage, so testing themselves against Gatland’s side is invaluable for their preparation.

Borthwick will be keen to see his side be more clinical this weekend, having dominated for periods without return against Wales last Saturday. With England’s 33-man World Cup squad now confirmed, the line-up this weekend may be more of a reflection of what we can expect to see against Argentina in their opening game in France.

For Wales, Gatland is not planning on naming his squad until after their match against South Africa next Saturday. They may choose to experiment with their line-up at Twickenham, giving England an opportunity to control the game and build some momentum.

Borthwick has chosen to take three fly-halves to France so all eyes will be on who gets the nod against Wales and whether this has any bearing on who will be first choice. Owen Farrell sat out against Wales but he remains captain so will be expecting to start.

Yet his versatility at being able to play centre could give an opportunity for Marcus Smith or George Ford to make the position their own.

England take on Wales at Twickenham at 17:30 on Saturday and you can watch the action in style with one of our exclusive hospitality packages.

England’s World Cup squad

Borthwick named his World Cup on Monday and among the surprise omissions were Exeter Chiefs centre Henry Slade and Harlequins star Alex Dombrandt. Slade has played at the last two World Cups but he’ll be disappointed to have missed out this time around.

Meanwhile, Dombrandt’s exclusion has raised a few eyebrows considering Billy Vuniploa, who hasn’t played since April, is the only recognised No. 8 in the squad. Dombrandt would have provided ideal competition but Borthwick may feel that the likes of Lewis Ludlam, Ben Earl and Tom Curry can deputise if necessary.

Since taking over from Eddie Jones as England’s head coach in December, Steve Borthwick has trusted Owen Farrell with the armband and will do once again in France with the announcement that he will captain the side in his third World Cup.

This also suggests that Owen Farrell will be England’s first choice fly-half heading into the tournament, but his ability to play as a centre could benefit Marcus Smith or George Ford who will also be a part of England’s plans in France.

The England squad is packed full of experience, with more than 1,400 caps between them, although 16 of them are in line to make their World Cup debuts.

They’ll all be keen to make an impression in England’s final three warm-up games before the tournament gets underway next month. Following Saturday’s match against Wales, Borthwick’s side travel to Ireland on 19th August before hosting Fiji a week later.

Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Tom Curry, Theo Dan, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, George Martin, David Ribbans, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Billy Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis.

Backs: Henry Arundell, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Rugby World Cup 2023: Who will win the tournament in France?

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.

Can England win the Rugby World Cup?

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.

Who are the contenders?

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.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

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.

Any dark horses?

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.

Rugby World Cup warm-up games

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

Rugby World Cup France – Will the hosts go all the way?

The second round of Six Nations fixtures saw a classic encounter between Ireland and France, with the Irish coming out on top 32-19 in Dublin.

It was a breathless match between arguably the two most in-form teams in world rugby – France, the reigning Grand Slam Champions and Ireland, the number one ranked team in the world.

Unfortunately, due to the peculiarities of the World Cup draw which was made in 2020, the thrilling match will not be a World Cup Final preview, as both teams are on the same half of the draw, and destined to meet at either the quarter-final or semi-final stage.

However, it is very possible that one of those two teams will end up as world champions, and with home-soil advantage, the case for France is pretty compelling.

How have France performed in previous tournaments?

For French rugby, the World Cup represents a series of missed opportunities. Les Bleus have competed in every tournament since the World Cup began in 1987 and have reached the final on three occasions, of all the Six Nations sides, only England has a better record.

Yet, the narrative of France at the World Cup has been one characterised by self-implosions. 2007 springs to mind, when the French were hosts and strong contenders before losing to Argentina in Paris in the opening match.

Les Tricolores followed this with a quarter-final victory over New Zealand in Cardiff, only France could be so awful one week and so brilliant the next.

The 2007 campaign ended in a semi-final defeat to England, after finishing the break 5–6 ahead the hosts lost 14-9. Their World Cup misery was complete with a defeat to Argentina again in the bronze medal match.

France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Four years later in 2011, France’s World Cup campaign was marked by turmoil within the camp; reports before the tournament indicated as many as 25 of the 30-member squad had turned against head coach Marc Lièvremont.

In pool play, France had unimpressive wins over Japan and Canada, an expected loss to New Zealand, and a shock loss to Tonga.

Despite the losses, they qualified for the knockout stage. At this time, the players effectively rebelled against Lièvremont; after the tournament, Harinordoquy would tell the French rugby publication Midi Olympique, “We had to free ourselves from his supervision.”

In true French fashion, the team responded by defeating England 19–12 in the quarter-final and controversially beating Wales 9–8 in the semi-final

The French proved admirable opponents in the final, however, losing out to hosts New Zealand 8–7 to finish second for the third time in a Rugby World Cup.

The 2011 tournament left many wondering if the French would kick on, under a new head coach as a unified team. However, the ensuing decade was something of a decline for French rugby, punctuated by moments of individual brilliance.

Rugby World Cup France 2023

Even with current head coach Fabien Galthié in charge, the 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan exposed France’s tendency to implode – 17 points ahead in the first half against Argentina and Tonga only to be hanging on by a thread in the final stages. In the quarter-final, Les Bleus were 12-0 up against Wales but failed to score a point in the second half, in part due to the dismissal of Sébastien Vahaamahina for violent conduct – they lost the game 20-19.

Since the tournament’s inception in 1987, Ireland has never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage – it’s a classic sporting curse, equal to England and penalty shootouts or Tim Henman and Wimbledon semi-finals.

The closest Ireland has come to a semi-final was back in 2015, when they lost to Argentina at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Ireland had defeated France in the last pool game, avoiding a quarter-final clash with New Zealand in the process. A match against underdogs Argentina was seen as Ireland’s best-ever opportunity to break the quarter-final curse, but, after coming back from a 17-point deficit to come within 3 points of The Pumas, Ireland eventually lost 43–20.

Could it be France’s year?

In spite of a chequered World Cup past France do go into the tournament, at the time of writing, as favourites, and there is good reason for this.

Before the defeat to Ireland in the Six Nations, France were on an unbeaten run since 2021. Les Bleus played 10 Test matches last year and won them all, including victories against South Africa and Australia as well as a Six Nations Grand Slam.

The French also boast some of the finest talents in world Rugby such as star scrum-half Antoine Dupont, winger Damian Penaud and centre Gaël Fickou, not to mention lock Cameron Woki and centre Jonathan Danty who were both absent through injury for the Ireland match.

Combine this with home-soil advantage and a clear, coherent strategy under coach Fabien Galthié and France should be a force to be reckoned with.

Marseille Rugby

Rugby World Cup France 2023

How do France look in their group?

France are currently ranked 2nd in the world thanks to their form over the past two years. Unfortunately for Les Bleus, this has no bearing on the World Cup draw which was made in 2020.

As a result, some of the rankings have changed but the draw has remained the same.

By March 2022, the top-four ranked teams were South Africa, Six Nations champions France, the All Blacks and Ireland. Despite this, all teams will be in the same half of the draw at the 2023 World Cup, meaning two of them will not make it beyond the quarter-finals.

To add insult to injury France were drawn into the same pool as three-time champions New Zealand.

France will play The All Blacks in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup at the Stade de France in September.

A repeat performance of that quarter-final in 2007 and French rugby fans will certainly start believing that this is their year.

It’s a tough draw but the French have already proven they can go unbeaten, week after week, at last year’s Six Nations so why not on the world stage in their back garden?

England’s route to RWC23 Glory

As the Autumn Internationals draw to a close, and with it, England’s worst year since 2008, talk of 2023 Rugby World Cup glory may seem a bit premature. However, with England in Pool D and their opponents already revealed, a clear route to the final in Paris can be drawn.

England’s Route to the Final – Updated 26 September

Heading into the tournament on the search for some form, England fans now have reason to be optimistic with the pool stages nearly complete and a 100% record still in-tact following wins against Argentina, Japan and Chile.

Barring any major twists and turns in the remaining matches in Pool D, England will secure top spot in the group to set up a quarter final with the runners-up from Pool C.

After Wales’ statement 40-6 victory over Australia in that pool, they look to have secured top spot. That leaves Eddie Jones’ side are staring at elimination – meaning England will likely face Fiji in the last eight if they are able to record wins against the lower ranked Georgia and Portugal in their final pool matches.

Looking further ahead, should England get past an unpredictable Fiji side (or potentially Australia if they slip up) in the quarter-finals, they will likely face the winner of France – who look in control of Pool A – and South Africa in the semi-finals at the Stade de France.

Who is in England’s Pool?

There is cause for optimism for England fans, after being handed what many critics have described as a favourable draw to the knockout stages. England is joined in Pool D by Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile, who are making their first-ever appearance at the RWC.

The draw, which was based on 2020 rankings due to the impact of Covid on international rugby, placed England in Band 1, alongside holders South Africa, New Zealand and Wales.

In Band 2 were the hosts France, plus Australia, Japan and Ireland. Band 3 consisted of Scotland, Italy, Fiji and Argentina. Bands 4 and 5 were made up of qualifiers outside of the top 12 ranked teams.

Based on England’s possible opponents for the Pools, the draw is as close to the best-case scenario as possible. Eddie Jone’s side has managed to avoid France, the current bookie’s favourite and Ireland, the number one ranked team in the world at present. Based on rankings, Japan was the most favourable team to draw from Band 2, and England will be confident of getting a result against Argentina, who themselves are ranked 8th.

France v Argentina Rugby World Cup

When does the tournament start?

The tournament kicks off Friday, September 8, 21:00 (local time) as hosts France take on New Zealand in a blockbuster tie at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis in Paris.

When does England play?

England’s first game is against Argentina, arguably their toughest rivals in the group, on Saturday, September 9, at 21:00 (local time) at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. The city, home to the largest port in France, is perfectly positioned on the Mediterranean coast and was a host city for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 RWC.

For the second Pool game, the England team will travel east along the French Riviera to Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur region. The match kicks off on Sunday, September 17, at 21:00 (local time) at the Stade de Nice. With 300 days of sunshine on average per year, travelling fans will be able to enjoy some nice weather at the very least.

The final two Pool games both take place in Lille, close to the Belgian border at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. The first is against Chile on Saturday, September 23 at 17:45 (local time). England’s final Pool game before the knockout stages is against Samoa on Saturday, October 7 at 17:45 local time.

England’s route to the final as Pool winners

Barring any major shocks, England should make it out of the Pools, most likely as Pool winners.

If England finishes first in Pool D they will face the runners-up of Pool C, which, based on current world rankings is likely to be Wales (9th in the world). This quarter-final match will take place on Sunday, October 15 at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille at 17:00 (local time).

Marseille Rugby

Beyond the quarterfinals, all matches will take place at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris. The bookmakers currently have England as the fifth favourites to win the tournament behind host nation France, three-times-champions New Zealand, Grand-slam champions Ireland and title-holders South Africa.

Following England’s projected route as Pool winners, the red and whites will face France based on current rankings in the semi-final. That match will kick off Saturday, October 21, at 21:00 local time, at the Stade de France.

The final of the 2023 RWC is on Sunday, October 28 at 21:00 (local time) at the Stade de France. If all goes to plan, England’s opponents will be Ireland (based on current world rankings).

England’s route to the final as Pool runner’s-up

Should England finish second in the Pools, travel plans won’t have to be altered too much as the quarter-final contest, most likely against Australia will still be in Marseille at the Stade Vélodrome, although a day earlier on Saturday, October 14, at 17:00 (local time).

The semi-final, most likely against Ireland or New Zealand, will take place at the Stade de France on Friday, October 20, at 21:00 (local time).

If England lost the semi-final, they would play in the Bronze Final on Friday, October 27, at 21:00 (local time) at the Stade de France.

So there we have it, England’s projected route to the 2023 RWC final, via Marseille, Nice, Lille and finally Paris where the semi-finals and final will take place. Given England’s favourable draw in the group, it might be wise to make your travel arrangements for the knockout stages sooner rather than later, especially with the quarterfinals and semi-finals guaranteed to be in Marseille and Paris respectively.

Secure your Rugby World Cup Hospitality Today

You can secure official hospitality for all of the Rugby World Cup matches, including the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.

We also have City Packs, where you can base yourself in one of the beautiful cities in France for a few matches during the tournament.

Official Hospitality Providers

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Written by @BayleyCakes_