The Rugby World Cup is now only days away, with all 20 competing nations at their base camps preparing for action.
The tournament begins on Friday night with an exciting fixture between hosts France and New Zealand in Pool A. The rest of the sides get their campaigns underway on an action-packed weekend, with England taking on Argentina on Saturday in their Pool D opener, and the Pool B clash between South Africa and Scotland a day later likely to prove crucial.
Steve Borthwick appears to have suffered another injury scare ahead of the start of the tournament, with Courtney Lawes, likely to skipper the side in Marseille in the absence of the suspended Owen Farrell, missing their welcome ceremony in Le Touquet. England insist that the flanker was just “sore” after training on the northern French coast, but Borthwick’s side can ill afford to lose another key figure after a disastrous build-up to the tournament. Follow all the latest news and updates from France below:
Rugby World Cup 2023: Felipe Contepomi expecting ‘very difficult’ encounter with England
Argentina assistant coach Felipe Contepomi expects England to be ready for their World Cup opener against the Pumas.
The 2019 runners-up have endured a difficult build up to the tournament, with injury and discipline issues adding to a strign of uneven warm-up performance on the pitch.
Contepomi, who captained Argentina at the 2011 tournament, nonethless expects England to be at their best come Saturday as the two sides prepare to kick off their campaigns in Marseille.
“England is the ‘big team’ in the group. They say they are ready for the Rugby World Cup and we expect a very tough match,” Contepomi said.
“You can analyse each rival thoroughly, but you also have to take into consideration what you can do. So you have to concentrate on everything you’ve been working on. It’s about us and doing our game in the best way possible.
“They are the strongest team in our group, if someone wants to call us favourites, it’s up to them. I don’t read the press much and I don’t use social media, so I don’t know what’s being said. But what I can tell you is that we are focused on what we have to do and that we know the power that England have.
“They’ve said they are prepared for the Rugby World Cup, so we expect a very complicated and very difficult match, very physical and strategic, the first match of the Rugby World Cup. But we are very focused on what we know how to do and want to do.”
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 16:02
Rugby World Cup 2023: Jordie Barrett emerges as injury doubt for opener
New Zealand centre Jordie Barrett has emerged as an injury doubt for the Rugby World Cup opener against France on Friday night.
Barrett, the All Blacks’ starting inside centre for most of the last year, missed training on Monday with what defence coach Scott McLeod described as a “niggle”.
Ian Foster’s side are already set to be without back five forwards Sam Whitelock and Shannon Frizell for the meeting with the hosts in Paris, while prop Tyrel Lomax could also be absent after suffering a deep gash to his leg in the defeat to South Africa at Twickenham.
“It’s a wait and see,” McLeod said of the youngest Barrett brother’s chances of featuring at the Stade de France. “It’s still early in the week for us. So, we will just wait and see how he responds today and tomorrow to a little bit more treatment.
“Our whole squad prepares to play, right up until warm-up and the game day.
“He (Barrett) has been really important to our play. However, we trust our full squad and we are going to have to in this World Cup.
“He’s a little bit frustrated with it, as would be any athlete. Same as Tyrel Lomax (injured prop). They just have to go through what they have got to do and trust our medical staff, who are world class, and see how the treatment goes.”
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 15:48
Rugby World Cup 2023: John Jeffrey believes Scotland currently have strongest team of all time
World Rugby vice-chairman John Jeffrey believes Scotland have arrived at the Rugby World Cup with their strongest team of all time and are now operating at a level that will strike fear into the top nations on the planet.
The 64-year-old, who won 40 caps in dark blue and was a star of the 1990 Grand Slam-winning team, was at the Scots’ lavish welcome ceremony just off the waterfront in Nice where he addressed the squad and told them he views them as the best group of players the nation has ever assembled.
“I think this is the best Scotland team ever,” he told the PA news agency afterwards. “If you look at where we’re ranked, fifth in the world, that’s the highest we’ve ever been ranked.
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 15:36
Ireland hooker Ronan Kelleher feeling ‘unbelievably healthy’ ahead of World Cup
Hooker Ronan Kelleher insisted his “body feels unbelievably healthy” as he declared himself fit for Ireland’s Rugby World Cup opener.
The 25-year-old has endured a series of injury setbacks during the past 18 months and missed each of his country’s warm-up matches amid a hamstring issue.
Ireland flew to France on Thursday with potential problems in the middle of their front row as first-choice number two Dan Sheehan sustained a foot injury in last month’s win over England.
Scrum coach John Fogarty said on Monday that none of Ireland’s 33-man squad have been ruled out of Saturday’s Pool B clash with Romania in Bordeaux, while Kelleher was extremely positive about his own condition.
“I’m fighting fit and ready to go,” he said. “I’ve been training fully and I’m just raring to get going now. I had a few little niggles there over the last couple of weeks.”
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 15:23
Owen Farrell says high tackle that led to World Cup suspension ‘a mistake’
Owen Farrell admits the tackle that resulted in his suspension for Saturday’s World Cup opener against Argentina was a mistake.
England’s captain is “gutted” to be unavailable for the pivotal Marseille showdown after his dangerous hit on Wales’ Taine Basham last month resulted in a four-match suspension that ends after the Pool D clash with Japan.
Farrell initially had his red card downgraded to a yellow by a disciplinary hearing, only for World Rugby to appeal the decision, which was upheld.
“Obviously you don’t want to go back too far and I don’t want to be sat here talking about this now. I want to be talking about the weekend,” said Farrell, speaking about the incident for the first time.
“I made a mistake and I got banned for it in the end. I’m not going to sit here and moan about it now.
“I’m excited for this World Cup to start. I’m excited to see what this team can do and I look forward to being available again.
“I’m gutted not to be playing and I’m gutted not to be available. Especially a big game like this at the weekend.”
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 15:08
Rugby World Cup 2023: Jacques Nienaber says Springboks aren’t looking past first game
South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has insisted that his side aren’t looking part their opening game against Scotland as the Springboks prepare to get the defence of their World Cup crown underway.
Nienaber’s side kick off their efforts in Pool B in Marseille on Sunday, with three of the five top-ranked sides in the world all in the same group.
“Listen, the Scotland game is the most important game for us in the World Cup,” Nienaber said ahead of the start of the tournament. “It is the biggest game for us because we are in a tough pool, and it is what it is and that’s why it’s so important.
“History doesn’t have any influence on whatever the result will be of the World Cup. That’s what we believe. We must focus on the reality and the reality is how we start our week on Tuesday and how much effort we put in.
“Winning your first Test match in a World Cup doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up winning or losing the World Cup. It’s just history.
“It’s nice for the pundits and it builds up the game, but does it have an influence on if you’re going to win the World Cup or not? No. But it obviously will take a little bit of pressure off if you win the first game – and if we lose the first game, there will obviously be more pressure for us to get out of the pool.
“For us, favourite or non-favourite – it doesn’t influence Saturday’s game. We can’t control who’s the favourites.
“The reality is that doesn’t have any bearing on us, (nor will it) have bearing on Scotland or France for that matter. It’s what you as a team believe within the group.
“How prepared are you? How much effort did you put in? How hard did you train? How did you make sure that you have ticked all the boxes in getting yourself prepared for the Test match against Scotland? That is the reality. If you are the favourite or not the favourite or underdog or not the underdog, it’s not going to make Scotland perform better or worse, or us better or worse.”
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 14:27
Rugby World Cup 2023: French sports minister insists country has learned from Champions League final fiasco
France has learned its lessons from the 2022 Champions League final fiasco as the country gears up for the Rugby World Cup kickoff between Les Bleus and New Zealand on Friday, Sports Minister Amelie Oudea Castera said.
The minister said the government would deploy up to 7,000 security personnel across the country as part of measures to ensure safety during the tournament, which ends on Oct. 28.
The World Cup starts with the mouthwatering clash between France and the All Blacks at the Stade de France and the situation around the venue will be heavily monitored well before kick off.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work to learn the lessons from what happened at the Stade de France (at the Champions League final in 2022),” Oudea Castera told a press conference on Monday.
“We have revised our security policy, working on crime prevention.”
France, which will host the 2024 Olympics in Paris, came in for heavy criticism over the chaos at last year’s Champions League final.
The start was delayed by 36 minutes after thousands of Liverpool supporters were unable to get into the Stade de France for the match against Real Madrid.
French police were filmed using tear gas on fans, who complained of heavy-handed treatment as they were herded into pens outside the stadium.
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 14:05
Rugby World Cup 2023: Eddie Jones hits back at Danny Cipriani
Eddie Jones has hit back at Danny Cipriani after the former England fly half accused the coach of behaving like a “horny teenager” and prying into his private life.
Jones, though, has denied ever making the remarks, describing them as a “complete fabrication” and suggesting that the 35-year-old is merely trying to boost sales of his soon to be released memoir, Who Am I?.
“‘We didn’t have a close relationship, so I’m hardly going to engage in a conversation like that with him,” Jones told the Mail.
“To be quite frank, it’s a complete fabrication. We didn’t select him. When players don’t get selected, they always have an axe to grind – we know that.
“He’s selling a book, so nothing surprises me when players want to sell books. It’s absurd. It’s almost too absurd to talk about.
“I think it’s very sad for him that he feels he has to make something up to sell his book.
“It’s just f****** nonsense. If anyone is stupid enough to pay attention to it then good luck to them.”
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 13:50
France urged to drop lock convicted of racially motivated assault
France are facing calls to drop Bastien Chalureau just days before their home Rugby World Cup begins after the lock’s conviction for a racially motivated assault.
Chalureau was given a six-month suspended prison sentence in 2020 by a Toulouse court after assaulting two former players.
The 31-year-old, now of Montpellier, is appealing the conviction and denies the incident had any racial element.
Fabien Galthie had initially left him out of his 33-man squad for the tournament, but called up the second row after Paul Willemse’s injury last week.
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 13:35
Rugby World Cup 2023: Full England squad train in Le Touquet
Positive news for Steve Borthwick this afternoon, with all 33 of his England squad members taking part in training in Le Touquet. Courtney Lawes was absent from the team’s capping ceremony on Saturday having come up sore from England’s first session after landing in France, but the flanker was back involved today with Tom Curry, Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler – three of England’s other injury doubts – out there, too.
Harry Latham-Coyle4 September 2023 13:20