Rugby World Cup: Pool C Preview - Green and Gold Rugby
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Rugby World Cup: Pool C Preview

Rugby World Cup: Pool C Preview

The long wait is nearly over as we are just under a week before the start of the Rugby World Cup. Over the next four days, we will breakdown the four pools leading into the start of the tournament on Friday.

Today we examine the so-called “group of death” at the World Cup, Pool C. The Pool is headlined by a resurgent England hungry to avenge their disappointing 2015 campaign, along with World Cup specialists France and a resurgent Argentina. It is rounded out by USA and Tonga, two nations which can blow up the plans of their much-fancied rivals if they are on their game.

England

Photo by Keith McInnes

Photo by Keith McInnes

England comes into the tournament as one of the major contenders for the title, with the side witnessing a resurgence under Aussie Eddie Jones. His influence was immediately shown during their 17-game winning streak in 2016/2017. Whilst the wheels fell off for a brief period in 2018, Jones appears to have England primed for a strong showing at this year’s World Cup.

How they Qualified

Through finishing third in their pool at the 2015 World Cup

Recent form

England finished off 2018 strongly, with wins over Japan, Australia and South Africa followed with a narrow loss to the All Blacks by a point. However, they struggled to meet their lofty expectations in the Six Nations, losing to Wales and blowing a 31 point lead against Scotland to draw the match. The side has since drawn a series with the Welsh, followed by thumping wins over Ireland and Italy.

Squad

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, 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

Coach: Eddie Jones

Player to watch

Photo courtesy of Tim Anger

Photo courtesy of Tim Anger

Owen Farrell
Farell has been the spiritual leader of the side throughout their revival and injury to Dylan Hartley will all but ensure his position as the starting flyhalf. Farrell needs to step and guide the side around the park with his kicking game if the English wish to vanquish their demons of 2015.

World Cup History

Played: 44
Wins: 31
Loses: 13
Best Finish: Winners (2003)

Last Five World Cups
2015: Group Stages
2011: Quarter Finals
2007: Runners Up
2003: Winners
1999: Quarter FInal

Prediction

England should comfortably get through the pool on top if they play as they did against Ireland and Italy. From here, they likely face an uphill battle against Wales/Australia in the quarter-finals. If they can get past this challenge, then the sky’s the limit for this team and they can make a deep run.

France

The crowd errupts after the French national anthem finishes.

Les Blues will be looking to continue their strong World Cup form, having made the semi-finals in four out of the last five tournaments. Jacques Brunel was rushed into the head coaching role at the end of 2017 and the side initially struggled with the turbulence. However, the French seem to have mastered the art of dégressif (tapering) with a pair of wins over Italy and Scotland boosting hopes of a deep World Cup run.

How they Qualified

Through finishing second in their pool at the 2015 World Cup

Recent form

The French had a lean 2018 with just one win in their six games after the Six Nations, which was against pool rivals Argentina. Since then, Les Blues have been very inconsistent in their performances, with narrow loses over Wales and Ireland mixed in with a thumping by England and two solid wins over Italy and Scotland. In the lead up to the World Cup, they split their series against Scotland 1-1 before a 47-19 hammering of Italy.

Squad

Guilhem Guirado(c), Maxime Medard, Thomas Ramos, Yoann Huget, Damian Penaud, Aivereti Raka, Wesley Fofana, Gael Fickou, Sofiane Guitoune, Virimi Vakatawa, Camille Lopez, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont, Maxime Machenaud, Baptiste Serin; Gregory Alldritt, Yacouba Camara, Arthur Iturria, Charles Ollivon, Wenceslas Lauret, Louis Picamoles, Paul Gabrillagues, Bernard Le Roux, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Demba Bamba, Emerick Setiano, Rabah Slimani, Camille Chat, Peato Mauvaka, Cyril Baille, Jefferson Poirot

Coach: Jacques Brunel

Player to watch

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images


Damian Penaud
Penaud has excelled for club and country since his shift to winger and he enters the tournament as one of the most exciting prospects. Son of former French international Alain Penaud, his combination of power, speed and agility ensures that he can take over a game at any moment. For the French to go far in this tournament, they need to focus their attack around Penaud and give him plenty of early ball.

World Cup History

Played: 38
Wins: 33
Loses: 14
Draw: 1
Best Finish: Second (1987, 1999, 2011)

Last Five World Cups
2015: Quarter FInals
2011: Second
2007: Fourth
2003: Fourth
1999: Second

Prediction

I think France will be in a real arm-wrestle for second spot in the group, with their opening round clash against Argentina near must-win. I think they will just qualify with a last gasp win over the Pumas but will be outclassed by the likes of Wales/Australia in the quarter-finals.

Argentina

Puma's celebrate a try, watched by the Wallabies

Puma’s celebrate a try, watched by the Wallabies

The Pumas enter this year’s tournament relying heavily on the back of the Jaguares, with 26 of the 31 players named featured in Super Rugby this year. It’s this chemistry that coach Mario Ledesma will help propel them to the knock-out stages. However, they are lacking confidence in terms of closing out games on the international stage, with their last win coming in September last year.

How they Qualified

Through finishing second in their pool at the 2015 World Cup

Recent form

To call their recent form disappointing is an understatement, with the Pumas losing 10 of their last 11 games over the past 18 months. Despite this, six of those losses were by under 12 points, showing that they can hang with the best of them, but struggle to finish off a game when it counts. Their morale and confidence was boosted by a 74-0 victory over Sydney club side Randwick a fortnight ago.

Squad

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

Coach: Mario Ledesma

Player to watch

Photo by Tom Offer

Photo by Tom Offer

Emiliano Boffelli
Boffelli has made the fullback position his own since debuting for the Pumas in 2017, with his strength under the high ball forcing Ledesma to shift their style of play. I think the best strategy for the Pumas is a trial by high ball and he will be their main target. He also provides a massive boot with the ability to consistently slot penalties from over 50 metres.

World Cup History

Played: 37
Wins: 19
Loses: 18
Best Finish: Third (2007)

Last Five World Cups
2015: Fourth
2011: Quarter Finals
2007: Third
2003: Group Stages
1999: Quarter Finals

Prediction

On paper, this team looks like that it should really test their northern hemisphere rivals in England and France. However, it’s the lack of execution in tight games that has left me wary of them heading into the tournament. Wouldn’t be surprised if they get back to the quarter-finals, however, I think they will narrowly miss out.

USA

Georgia v USA Eagles - International Freindly

The USA Eagles have emerged as one of the most improved teams since the last World Cup thanks to the professionalisation of their local competitions. Strong showings over the past twelve months, especially in the Pacific Nations Cup, have left the Eagles confident of securing a win or two in this tough pool, lead by Welshman Gary Gold.

How they Qualified

Defeated Canada 70-44 on aggregate over a two-game series.

Recent form

The USA is starting to sprout the fruits of having a professional competition over the past 18 months, with the standout performance coming with a 30-29 win over Scotland in 2018. The Eagles opened 2019 with a disappointing Americas Rugby Championship, which saw them drop games to Uruguay and an Argentinan XV. They bounced back in the Pacific Nations Cup with strong wins over Samoa and Canada before a narrow loss against Japan.

Squad

Blaine Scully (c), 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, Joseph Taufete’e, Nate Augspurger, Marcel Brache, Bryce Campbell, Shaun Davies, Ruben De Haas, Will Hooley, Martin Iosefo, Paul Lasike, AJ MacGinty, Will Magie, Thretton Palamo, Mike Te’o

Coach: Gary Gold

Player to watch

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

AJ MacGinty

MacGinty grabbed the rugby worlds attention during their win over Samoa, contributing all 13 points in the victory. The Sale product will be the ring-master for the Eagles heading forward and his steady boot needs to control the game and be the difference if they wish to cause an upset.

World Cup History

Played: 25
Wins: 3
Loses: 22
Best Finish: Group Stages

Last Five World Cups
2015: Group Stages
2011: Group Stages
2007: Group Stages
2003: Group Stages
1999: Group Stages

Prediction

I think they will be one of the most surprising teams in this tournament, with the Eagles capable of pushing their much-fancied rivals to the limit if taken lightly. They’ll eye off the clash with Tonga as a must-win and they should have the class to get the result.

Tonga

Tonga Sipi Tau 2011

Tonga is looking to rebound from a disappointing 2015 Rugby World Cup with a better performance in Japan. However, they face an uphill battle in this pool, with their latest run of form less than inspiring. However, the ‘Ikale Tahi’ or the Sea Eagles will bring their usual flair and physicality to the tournament, with Aussie Toutai Kefu looking to impart his wisdom.

How they Qualified

By finishing second in the 2017 Pacfic Nations Cup

Recent form

Tonga looked primed for a strong showing in this tournament 18 months ago, with wins over Fiji and Samoa signalling their intentions. However, they have struggled since, winning just one out of their last seven games, losing to the likes of Georgia, Fiji and Japan. They were humbled in their last performance, losing 92-7 to the All Blacks.

Squad

Siale Piutau(c), Siegried Fisi’ihoi, Vunipola Fifita, Latu Talakai, Paula Ngauamo, Sosefo Sakalia, Siula Maile, Siua Halanukonuka, Ma’afu Fia, Ben Tameifuna, Sam Lousi, Leva Fifita, Steve Mafi, Sione Kalamafoni, Mamaa Vaipulu, Fotu Lokotui, Zane Kapeli, Dan Faleafa, Nasi Manu, Sonatane Takulua, Leon Fukofuka, Samisoni Fisilau, Kurt Morath, James Faiva, Malietoa Hingano, Nafi Tuitavake, Atieli Pakalani, David Halaifonua, Viliami Lolohea, Cooper Vuna, Telusa Veainu

Coach: Toutai Kefu

Player to watch

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images


Sonatane Takulua
Takulua plies his trade in the English Premiership for Newcastle and the scrum-half will be essential to their World Cup aspirations. He will be the chief playmaker for Ikale Tahi and he will need to be automatic with the boot if the Tongans wish to compete in this group.

World Cup History

Played: 31
Wins: 12
Loses: 19
Best Finish: Group Stages

Last Five World Cups
2015: Group Stages
2011: Group Stages
2007: Group Stages
2003: Group Stages
1999: Group Stages

Prediction

I think the Tongans will continue their struggles at the World Cup, having drawn one of the toughest pools possible. They will look at the USA game as a grand final, although I think the Americans will be too strong.

Final Table Prediction

1st: England
2nd: France
3rd: Argentina
4th: USA
5th: Tonga

Fixtures (All times AEST)

21 September 2019: France v Argentina, Tokyo Stadium, Chōfu (5:15pm)
22 September 2019: England v Tonga, Sapporo Dome, Sapporo (8:15pm)
26 September 2019: England v United States, Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe (8:45pm)
28 September 2019: Argentina v Tonga, Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiōsaka (2:45pm)
2 October 2019: France v United States, Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka (5:45pm)
5 October 2019: England v Argentina, Tokyo Stadium, Chōfu (6:00pm)
6 October 2019: France v Tonga, Kumamoto Stadium, Kumamoto (6:45pm)
9 October 2019: Argentina v United States, Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Kumagaya (3:45pm)
12 October 2019: England v France, International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama (7:15pm)
13 October 2019: United States v Tonga, Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Higashiōsaka (4:45pm)

  • Keith Butler

    England may be favourites to head the group but any one of the three could take the honours. At the end of the day it could all come down to bonus points. England, France and Argentina need to rack up as many points as they can against Tonga and the US. Not sure if England playing Tonga and the US is an advantage or not. If they knock over the first two and then go through I don’t think it will make any difference who they play in the Q/Fs, the G&G or Wales will both be very tough games.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Nathan,

    TBH I think you’ve nailed this. England should clean up quite easily and I agree that France are likely to knock the Argies out. I think the Argies are struggling with the integration of the Pumas and Non-Pumas and this is creating the inconsistency in their play. If things go their way they may come out OK but I find it hard to not back France in a RWC.

  • Hoss

    Sorry Nath, your crystal ball needs some Windex, its fogged up.

    England to suffer ‘REXIT’ in pool stages.

    Soap Dodgers to come third. ‘Shoulders Farrell’ to get both a yellow and a red in pool clashes for shoulder charges / contact to melon. Both cards well overdue. Itoje to get punched in the throat in bottom of FISM ruck with ‘inconclusive video evidence’ but Montoya working away looking well pleased.

    French to play as only French can. Imperious during pool rounds and get the day wrong for QF clash and lose by forfeit.

    FISM’s to get through second in pool, play winner of Pool D (aka Us) and get rolled and join French on a clubbing holiday to Thailand.

    • NickAJW

      I vote for this option

    • Greg

      Mr Farrell has indeed had a wonderful run of good fortune with the refs. If he puts in another no-arms tackle, I can only imagine red.

  • Nick Fallowfield

    All teams will need a large slice of good fortune to go far in this RWC and especially so with injuries to key players. Even England with all their resources have a few key players that will make a difference to them. Keeping them all on the park will see England go far, but that is always a big if. Very rarely have England had both Vunipolas, Itoje, Tuilagi all fit not to mention Curry and Underhill who give them breakdown presence. Because they have not all been fit together we really don’t know what this team can bring.

  • Human

    I support Hoss’ proposal.
    Failing that the SD’s are bundled out in the QF.
    It’s the only way to shut Eddie up…BUT he is a proven RWC coach.

Argentina
@NathW1997

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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