October 16, 2019, 22:35

Rugby World Cup 2019: Pool C preview – England, France, Argentina, Tonga, USA

Rugby World Cup 2019: Pool C preview – England, France, Argentina, Tonga, USA

England, France, Argentina, Tonga and USA face off in Pool C at the Rugby World Cup, with Eddie Jones’ side looking to avoid a repeat of their pool-stage exit four years ago.

Back in 2015, England became the first nation in history to suffer a Rugby World Cup pool-stage exit as hosts when defeats to Wales and Australia saw them dumped out. Can they avoid losses to fellow Tier 1 nations France and Argentina this time around?

Below we take a look at each nation’s 31-man squad, pick a key player to focus on, analyse current form and bring you all of the pool’s fixtures…

POOL C

England

Head coach: Eddie Jones

Captain: Owen Farrell (73 caps)

Previous Rugby World Cup best: Rugby World Cup Winners (2003)

Key player: Billy Vunipola. The No 8 has, for some time, been absolutely critical to England and their success. The Saracen is a wrecking-ball of a carrier and, when combined with his brother Mako, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje and Manu Tuilagi in attack, there are very few teams in the world who will be able to live with England’s power-based collision game.

Current form: After a terrible 2018, England rightly head into this World Cup as one of the favourites owing to their performances over the last eight months or so. Beating Ireland in Dublin back in February was the benchmark – England were absolutely phenomenal that day. Since then, Wales have beaten England in Cardiff twice, but, those two games aside, the quality of England’s displays and of the depth to their squad makes them contenders for sure.

31-man World Cup squad:

Forwards (17): 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 (14): Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell (c), George Ford, Piers Francis, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ruaridh McConnochie, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Fixtures:

  • England vs Tonga, Sunday September 22 (11.15am)
  • England vs USA, Thursday September 26 (11.45am)
  • England vs Argentina, Saturday October 5 (9am)
  • England vs France, Saturday October 12 (9.15am)

France

Head coach: Jacques Brunel

Captain: Guilhem Guirado (70 Tests)

Previous Rugby World Cup best: Rugby World Cup runners-up (1987, 1999, 2011)

Key player: Antoine Dupont. For so long going nowhere under Brunel, it was a wealth of quality youngsters brought in from Toulouse that has given France fans hope. Top of that list is scrum-half Dupont, who is a Rolls Royce of a player. Wonderful running and kicking game, he is as silky a nine as they come. Keep him fit and able to boss a huge pack around the park, and France have a chance.

Current form: In three World Cup warm-ups, France put Scotland and Italy to the sword in Nice and Paris respectively – the performance against the Scots particularly impressive – but sandwiched in between was a rather meek loss to Scotland at Murrayfield. The 2019 Six Nations proved an unmitigated disaster, with losses to everyone bar Italy, while the previous November saw them lose at home to South Africa and Fiji.

31-man World Cup squad:

Forwards (17): Jefferson Poirot, Rabah Slimani, Demba Bamba, Emerick Setiano, Cyril Baille, Guilhem Guirado (c), Camille Chat, Peato Mauvaka, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues, Arthur Iturria, Bernard Le Roux, Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Louis Picamoles, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret.

Backs (14): Antoine Dupont, Baptiste Serin, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Romain Ntamack, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Sofiane Guitoune, Virimi Vakatawa, Yoann Huget, Alivereti Raka, Damian Penaud, Maxime Medard, Thomas Ramos.

Fixtures:

  • France vs Argentina, Saturday September 21 (8.15am)
  • France vs USA, Wednesday October 2 (8.45am)
  • France vs Tonga, Sunday October 6 (8.45am)
  • England vs France, Saturday October 12 (9.15am)

Argentina

Head coach: Mario Ledesma

Captain: Pablo Matera (62 Tests)

Previous Rugby World Cup best: Semi-finals (2007, 2015) – Third place in 2007

Key player: Pablo Matera. Having taken the captaincy over from hooker Agustin Creevy, Matera is a man in the spotlight, but also a flanker who is in the conversation for world XVs at this present moment, such is his form. Matera is a sensational player, and will look to guide a customary passionate Argentina squad to more World Cup joy.

Current form: In the reduced 2019 Rugby Championship, Argentina lost all three games, while they also lost a further Test in South Africa in August. But there is a sense with the Pumas that they are almost always building to peak for the World Cup. Two semi-finals from the last three is not to be sniffed at. Can they catch England or France cold at this one?

31-man World Cup squad:

Forwards (17): Nahuel Tetaz Chapparo, Mayco Vivas, Agustin Creevy, Julian Montoya, Santiago Socino, Juan Figallo, Santiago Medrano, Enrique Pieretto, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera (c), Tomas Lezana, Javier Ortega Desio, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni, Juan Manuel Leguizamon.

Backs (14): Tomas Cubelli, Felipe Ezcurra, Nicolas Sanchez, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Matias Orlando, Matias Moroni, Lucan Mensa, Juan Cruz Mallia, Ramiro Moyano, Bautista Delguy, Emiliano Boffelli, Joaquin Tuculet, Santiago Carreras.

Fixtures:

  • France vs Argentina, Saturday September 21 (8.15am)
  • Argentina vs Tonga, Saturday September 28 (5.45am)
  • England vs Argentina, Saturday October 5 (9am)
  • Argentina vs USA, Wednesday October 9 (5.45am)

Tonga

Head coach: Toutai Kefu

Captain: Siale Piutau (39 Tests)

Previous Rugby World Cup best: Pool stage (1987, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)

Key player: Sonatane Takulua. The Newcastle Falcons scrum-half will be vital in keeping the tempo of Tonga’s play up, while he is also his nation’s goalkicker, and so will have a hefty amount of responsibility thrust upon him in Japan.

Current form: Fresh from shipping 92 points against New Zealand on September 7, Tonga have also been well beaten by Samoa, Japan and Fiji in 2019. Very ominous signs.

31-man World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Siegfried Fisiihoi, Vunipola Fifita, Latu Talakai, Paula Ngauamo, Sosefo Sakalia, Siua Maile, Siua Halanukonuka, Ma’afu Fia, Ben Tameifuna, Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita, Sitiveni Mafi, Sione Kalamafoni, Maama Vaipulu, Fotu Lokotui, Zane Kapeli, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu.

Backs (13): Sonatane Takulua, Leon Fukofuka, Samisoni Fisilau, Kurt Morath, James Faiva, Siale Piutau (c), Malietoa Hingano, Nafi Tuitavake, Atieli Pakalani, David Halaifonua, Viliami Lolohea, Cooper Vuna, Telusa Veainu.

Fixtures:

  • England vs Tonga, Sunday September 22 (11.15am)
  • Argentina vs Tonga, Saturday September 28 (5.45am)
  • France vs Tonga, Sunday October 6 (8.45am)
  • USA vs Tonga, Sunday October 13 (6.45am)

USA

Head coach: Gary Gold

Captain: Blaine Scully (50 Tests)

Previous Rugby World Cup best: Pool stage (1987, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)

Key player: Joe Taufeteʻe. The extremely strong Worcester hooker rarely seems to have a bad game, and has a handy habit of popping up with tries (20 in 22 Tests to be precise). Saracens prop Titi Lamositele is another to look out for, with the USA front-row very strong on paper.

Current form: In 2019, the USA have beaten the likes of Canada (three times) and Samoa, but have also suffered defeats to Japan and Uruguay. They are likely to find victories very hard to come by in this pool and will most likely be targeting that Tonga clash.

31-man World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): David Ainu’u, Malon Al-Jiboori, Nate Brakeley, Nick Civetta, Cam Dolan, Dylan Fawsitt, Eric Fry, Hanco Germishuys, James Hilterbrand, Olive Kilifi, Tony Lamborn, Titi Lamositele, Ben Landry, Paul Mullen, Gregor Peterson, Ben Pinkelman, John Quill, Joe Taufeteʻe.

Sourse: skysports.com

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