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Rugby World Cup Preview – Pool C

12 September 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The Land of the Rising Sun is set to host the most closely-contested Rugby World Cup in history, setting the stage for unrivalled drama and excitement when the competition kicks off on September 20, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Twenty teams will converge on Japan to vie for the most coveted prize in the game, the Webb Ellis Cup – a golden symbol of excellence reserved for only the truly great teams. The ninth edition of the quadrennial global showpiece is set to be the most open yet, with defending champions New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Wales, Ireland and England all entering as legitimate title contenders.

It’s the world in union, and it’s bound to thrill as the tournament touches down in Asia for the first time ever. With anticipation mounting, we continue our tournament preview with a breakdown of Pool C.

The Pool of Death, Pool C will see one of three powerhouses’ World Cup campaigns come to an early end. Will it be England, France or Argentina who miss out on a place in the quarterfinals?

After the success of the Jaguares in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, which saw them feature in their first-ever final, Los Pumas looked poised to make an impact in the Rugby Championship. Instead, they endured a winless campaign, in which the team – filled with Jaguares players – were noticeably fatigued.

The break would’ve done Mario Ledesma’s men wonders and one only needs to look at the heroic performance against the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener in Buenos Aires, when they almost shocked the world, to know they can beat just about any team on any given day. Consider, as well, that Argentina are at their very best in World Cups, having reached the semi-finals in two of the last three editions of the global showpiece (2007 and 2015).

Captain Pablo Matera is one of the very best in the world; the multi-skilled loose forward was the star of Super Rugby 2019 and always leads from the front. Fellow veteran forwards Agustin Creevy, Guido Petty and Juan Manuel Leguizamon – who’ll equal Ledesma’s record of participating in four World Cup tournaments – will power the Pumas surge, while flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, who plies his trade at Stade Francais, is a world-class flyhalf who’ll steer the ship.

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

Backs: Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Carreras, Juan Cruz Mallia, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Bautista Delguy, Felipe Ezcurra, Lucas Mensa, Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Matias Orlando, Nicolas Sanchez, Joaquin Tuculet, Benjamin Urdapilleta.


The demons of their pool exit in the 2015 World Cup will drive England to avoid a similar fate as the victims of this year’s Pool of Death. Eddie Jones knows what it takes to win a World Cup, having served as one of Jake White’s assistants in the Springboks’ triumphant 2007 campaign in France, and have built a strong group with great depth capable of capturing England’s second world title.

The Jones’ era has been one of highs and lows – the Australian guided England to a Six Nations Grand Slam in his first season at the helm in 2016 and masterminded the retention of the Northern Hemisphere crown the following year. England enjoyed an unprecedented hot streak during this period, which saw Jones’ charges equal the All Blacks’ record 18-match winning streak.

The wheels came off in the 2018 Six Nations, in which they crashed to an all-time low fifth-place finish, however, they’ve been on an upward curve ever since. They beat both the Springboks and Wallabies and lost by a single point to the All Blacks during the 2018 incoming end-of-year tour, and finished runners-up in this year’s Six Nations. Their 57-15 thrashing of Ireland and 37-0 shutout of Italy in the recent warm-up Tests showed just how formidable the English are, and with dominant records against France and Argentina, they’ll take top honours in Pool C.

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


The game’s grandest stage brings out the best in Les Bleus. The French are three-time finalists and their seismic upset wins over the All Blacks in 1999 and 2007 are the stuff of legend. Their World Cup heroics make them an anomaly whose pre-tournament record doesn’t carry the usual weight.

For the record, though, they finished fourth in this year’s Six Nations and are 4-4 in 2019. The most significant of those results came in the Six Nations against their World Cup pool rivals England, who trounced them 44-8 at Twickenham. In typical French fashion, they smashed Scotland 32-3 in their warm-up Test in Nice and succumbed 17-14 in Edinburgh a week later. They soundly defeated Italy (47-19) in their final hit-out, though.

Jacques Brunel has selected a young squad sans the legendary duo of Morgan Parra and Mathieu Bastareaud. A lack of experience could, therefore, be an issue. Captained by hooker Guilhem Guirado, the pack includes the likes of Louis Picamoles and South African-born Bernard Le Roux, while Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Machenaud and Maxime Medard are among the big names in the backline.

With their unpredictable nature, France may have more surprises in store, however, we see the green squad coming up short in the all-important pool opener against the Pumas at Ajinomoto Stadium on Saturday, 21 September as well as in the other crucial clash against England and consequently crashing out early.

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

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


The 33-23 win over Canada in Lautoka last month was a rare highlight in what has been troubling times for Tonga heading into the World Cup. It was their lone victory in the Pacific Nations Cup and snapped a four-match losing streak. Coach Toutai Kefu, a member of the 1999 World Cup-winning Wallaby team, remains optimistic that his charges can spring an upset though.

He’s named another former Wallaby, Bath-based utility back Cooper Vuna, in his squad, which also includes cancer survivor Nasi Manu, co-captain of the 2015 Super Rugby champion Highlanders side, Racing 92 prop Ben Tameifuna, veteran flyhalf Kurt Morath and skipper Siale Piutau.

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


With a ton of untapped potential, who knows how high the Eagles will fly in the future when Major League Rugby truly takes off. The United States are certainly a rising force in world rugby, as highlighted by their stunning 30-29 upset win over Scotland in Houston last June. They beat Samoa by the same slender scoreline last year and showed it wasn’t a fluke when they claimed a 13-10 victory over the Pacific Islanders in their recent warm-up game.

Gary Gold is at the helm and the former Springbok assistant coach will be targeting a win over Tonga. Former Stormers utility back Marcel Brache and ex-Cheetahs scrumhalf Ruben de Haas have been part of the side for some time, however, USA’s MVP is Irish-born flyhalf AJ MacGinty.

Forwards: 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, Gregory Peterson, Ben Pinkelman, John Quill, Joseph Taufete’e.

Backs: Backs: Blaine Scully (C), Nate Augspurger, Marcel Brache, Bryce Campbel, Shaun Davies, Ruben De Haas, Will Hooley, Martin Iosefo, Paul Lasike, AJ MacGinty, Will Magie, Thretton Palamo, Mike Te’o.



Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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