A capsule look at all 20 Rugby World Cup teams in France – NBC Los Angeles

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A capsule look at all 20 Rugby World Cup teams in France. The 10th tournament starts on Friday.

POOL A

FRANCE

World ranking: 3

Captain: Antoine Dupont. Regarded as the best player in the world, for which he has been well rewarded. Six Nations Grand Slam, European and French club titles, world and Six Nations player of the year. Dupont’s ambition also reportedly includes a desire to play for France sevens at the Paris Olympics next year.

Coach: Fabien Galthie. Played in four World Cups and one final. Assistant coach at the 2019 World Cup and took charge afterward. Has primed France to peak at its home World Cup thanks to a winning percentage of 80 and an unbeaten record at home for nearly two years.

World Cup history

1987 Final

1991 Quarterfinal

1995 Semifinal

1999 Final

2003 Semifinal

2007 Semifinal

2011 Final

2015 Quarterfinal

2019 Quarterfinal

Prospects: This tournament is France’s to lose. Les Tricolores have everything going for them; good coaching, a sweetly executed four-year buildup, strength and depth and smarts, and home advantage. In its unbeaten run at home since November 2021, France has knocked over every other team ranked in the top 10. Flyhalf Romain Ntamack, who’d won 16 of his last 17 tests, was ruled out of the World Cup by an ACL injury but France doesn’t lose much in his replacement Matthieu Jalibert, who’s averaged a try or assist every 85 minutes since the last World Cup, the best rate by a tier one flyhalf. But Jalibert better stay healthy. His understudy is Antoine Hastoy, who has five caps and one start. The World Cup opener against New Zealand is a big deal only in attracting more eyeballs to the tournament. Win, and France is off and running. Lose, and France has three winnable pool games to regain momentum for a likely monster quarterfinal against probably Ireland or South Africa.

Keep eye on: Antoine Dupont. Everyone else will be. France’s poster boy and leader makes everyone around him look better. He pops up everywhere, sniping from rucks, covering in defense, and creating tries. Where he goes, France follows.

World Cup high: The greatest World Cup comeback, the 1999 semifinal. A second Jonah Lomu try lifted New Zealand 24-10 ahead five minutes after halftime. France crept back almost to par on Christope Lamaison’s crafty boot then unleashed 26 points in 13 minutes.

Squad: Forwards: Cyril Baille, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Reda Wardi, Uini Atonio, Dorian Aldegheri, Sipili Falatea, Julien Marchand, Peato Mauvaka, Pierre Bourgarit, Thibaud Flament, Bastien Chalureau, Romain Taofifenua, Cameron Woki, Gregory Alldritt, Paul Boudehent, Francois Cros, Sekou Macalou, Charles Ollivon, Anthony Jelonch. Backs: Antoine Dupont (captain), Maxime Lucu, Baptiste Couilloud, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Hastoy, Damian Penaud, Gabin Villiere, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Arthur Vincent, Yoram Moefana, Thomas Ramos, Melvyn Jaminet.

NEW ZEALAND

World ranking: 4

Captain: Sam Cane. Made captain in 2020 and this year stayed fit long enough to finally enjoy it. Does the hard graft at breakdowns and in defense that allows others to be more showy. But doesn’t inspire.

Coach: Ian Foster. Involved with the team since 2011, will be out of work when the World Cup is over. Didn’t see the writing on the wall before the 2024 All Blacks coach was picked last March. Overseen too many unwanted results to offer confidence.

World Cup history

1987 Champion

1991 Semifinal

1995 Final

1999 Semifinal

2003 Semifinal

2007 Quarterfinal

2011 Champion

2015 Champion

2019 Semifinal

Prospects: After crushing the Rugby Championship, New Zealand’s aura was scorched by South Africa at Twickenham in the last warmup. What hurt the All Blacks more was not the record size of the thrashing but their inability to problem solve on the field and combat their issues. They lost their poise, the leadership failed, and they didn’t throw a metaphorical punch. They also started flat for a second straight test. Foster wanted the warmup to get his side battle-ready. Instead, they ended up traumatized. The World Cup opener against France has turned into therapy and a measure of the All Blacks’ powers of recovery.

Keep eye on: Shannon Frizell. The former Tonga youth soccer international has had an up-and-down test rugby career. New Zealand is still hoping he becomes the blindside flanker it has been wishing for since Jerome Kaino. Valued enough to be carried despite a hamstring injured in training, he won’t be available for the France opener.

World Cup high: The 1986 rebel tour of apartheid South Africa dimmed New Zealand’s passion for rugby. So Kiwis, like everyone else, were blown away by a 1987 team which set new standards for skill, pace and fitness. The first World Cup winners didn’t lose anywhere for three more years.

Squad: Forwards: Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Nepo Laulala, Fletcher Newell, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Tamaiti Williams, Dane Coles, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papli’i, Ardie Savea. Backs: Finlay Christie, Cam Roigard, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Jordie Barrett, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Will Jordan, Emoni Narawa, Mark Telea.

ITALY

World ranking: 13

Captain: Michele Lamaro. The carpentry hobbyist was born to lead. The well-spoken captain of Italy Under-17s, 18s and 20s, and, after seven caps, the seniors since 2021. Going to his first World Cup also as the team’s leading tackler. Even though he was sin-binned against Romania in August, he still led the tackle count.

Coach: Kieran Crowley. The best Italy coach in decades wanted to continue in the job after this World Cup but the federation shockingly turned him down. Coaching in Italy since 2016, he’s had the national team since 2021. Mantra has been ‘respect and credibility.’ Achieved historic wins over Wales and Australia.

World Cup history

1987 Pool

1991 Pool

1995 Pool

1999 Pool

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Of all the World Cup teams never to have reached the quarterfinals, Italy has the most wins (13). It is unlikely to advance this time, also, but Italy’s transformation under Crowley suggests they will go down swinging. When he took over, Italy hadn’t won in over two years. Crowley decided the old ways weren’t working so he went younger, faster and fitter. The average age of the squad is still only 26. Italy isn’t a doormat anymore. Lamaro and the forwards can hold their own and the backline is fizzing: Varney, Garbisi, Brex, Ioane and Capuozzo can thrill.

Keep eye on: Ange Capuozzo. Returned just in time in August from a six-month shoulder injury sustained in the Six Nations. Fullback hit the ground running to help Italy end a losing streak that began last year: He had five line breaks against Romania and set up two tries against Japan.

World Cup high: A packed Welford Road in Leicester gave Italy a standing ovation after losing to New Zealand in 1991. The All Blacks led 16-3 at halftime but Italy won the second half 18-15. The 31-21 final scoreline flattered the defending champions.

Squad: Forwards: Pietro Ceccarelli, Simone Ferrari, Danilo Fischetti, Ivan Nemer, Marco Riccioni, Federico Zani, Luca Bigi, Hame Faiva, Giacomo Nicotera, Niccolo Cannone, Dino Lamb, Federico Ruzza, David Sisi, Lorenzo Cannone, Toa Halafihi, Michele Lamaro (captain), Sebastian Negri, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani. Backs: Alessandro Fusco, Alessandro Garbisi, Martin Page-Relo, Stephen Varney, Tommaso Allan, Giacomo Da Re, Paolo Garbisi, Juan Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Pierre Bruno, Ange Capuozzo, Montanna Ioane, Paolo Odogwu, Lorenzo Pani.

URUGUAY

World ranking: 17

Captain: Andres Vilaseca. The midfielder emulates his older brother Santiago, who captained Los Teros to the 2015 tournament in England.

Coach: Esteban Meneses. Coached entirely in Argentina until invited by Uruguay in late 2015 to take charge. Has 44 wins from 75 matches.

World Cup history

1999 Pool

2003 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Uruguay won one game — stunning Fiji — in 2019 and wants two wins this time. Los Teros are targeting Italy and Namibia and aren’t afraid to say so. The warmups were swept. Chile was edged, Namibia was subdued in a precursor to their World Cup meeting, and an Argentina XV beaten by a Uruguay-record score. Uruguay’s maul defense was solid after the forwards suffered at the hands of Georgia in 2022. But Uruguay knows its pool rivals will try it. Since Los Teros qualified in October 2021 it has won five of its 12 fixtures. They are bringing seven players to their third World Cup, and a dozen more to their second. There’s a strong core of experience but their most capped player, back-rower Diego Magno with 106, missed out. Uruguay President Lacalle Pou is going to the Teros’ opening game against France.

Keep eye on: Santiago Arata. The scrumhalf who plays for Castres, described as Dupont-esque by French scribes. He’s recovering from hand surgery and will be available for the second pool game against Italy.

World Cup high: Uruguay raced into a 24-12 halftime lead against Fiji in 2019 in Kamaishi. Los Teros braced for Fiji’s comeback. It came but Fiji couldn’t slot goalkicks, missing 11 points off the boot. Uruguay, however, nailed six of seven shots and won 30-27.

Squad: Forwards: Mateo Sanguinetti, Matias Benitez, Facundo Gattas, German Kessler, Guillermo Pujadas, Ignacio Peculo, Diego Arbelo, Reinaldo Piussi, Ignacio Dotti, Manuel Leindekar, Felipe Aliaga, Manuel Ardao, Santiago Civetta, Manuel Diana, Lucas Bianchi, Carlos Deus, Juan Manuel Rodriguez, Eric Dos Santos. Backs: Santiago Arata, Santiago Alvarez, Agustin Ormaechea, Felipe Etcheverry, Felipe Berchesi, Andres Vilaseca (captain), Nicolas Freitas, Felipe Arcos Perez, Tomas Inciarte, Gaston Mieres, Baltazar Amaya, Juan Manuel Alonso, Rodrigo Silva, Bautista Basso, Ignacio Facciolo.

NAMIBIA

World ranking: 21

Captain: Johan Deysel, for a second straight World Cup. Scored Namibia’s only try against New Zealand in 2015, two days before his 24th birthday.

Coach: Allister Coetzee. Coached South Africa from 2016-18, took over Namibia in 2021 and qualified them in 2022. On his watch, Namibia has won eight of 11 tests.

World Cup history

1999 Pool

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Namibia is still waiting for a first win at the Rugby World Cup. It has lost all of its 22 pool matches played. But the Namibians always win over new fans for their never-say-die attitude. Namibia has met France, New Zealand and Italy at previous tournaments but not Uruguay. They lost to Los Teros in Montevideo on a recent tour of South America which included a huge comeback win over Chile, 28-26 from 26-7 down. Namibia has struggled for fixtures but qualified for France in 2022 by winning the Africa Cup and beating Kenya 36-0. Sixteen players have been to a World Cup, and the newcomers include back-rower Richard Hardwick, who was born in Windhoek but raised in Australia and won two Wallabies caps in 2017. A measure of the depth of home support for the team came at the sendoff and an auction of signed 2019 World Cup jerseys. The English one went for $420, the French for $460, the All Blacks’ for $1,170, the Springboks’ for $1,800 and the Namibian for $3,500.

Keep an eye on: PJ van Lill, transitioning to dentistry at 39, will become the second oldest player in World Cup history. Only second Namibian after Eugene Jantjies to play in four tournaments.

World Cup high: The talismanic Jacques Burger was forced off after 10 minutes at Exeter in 2015 but Namibia led Georgia 6-0 at halftime. Georgia’s forward supremacy paid off to lead 17-6. Namibia closed within one with six minutes left but was held out.

Squad: Forwards: Jason Benade, Aranos Coetzee, Desiderius Sethie, Haitembu Shifuka, Louis van der Westhuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Casper Viviers, Tiaan de Klerk, Obert Nortje, Richard Hardwick, Adriaan Ludick, Johan Retief, Mahepisa Tjeriko, Tjiuee Uanivi, Max Katjijeko, Prince Gaoseb, PJ van Lill, Wian Conradie, Adriaan Booysen. Backs: Damian Stevens, Oela Blaauw, Jacques Theron, Cliven Loubser, Tiaan Swanepoel, Andre van der Berg, Johan Deysel (captain), JC Greyling, Danco Burger, Le Roux Malan, Alcino Isaacs, Gerswin Mouton, Chad Plato, Divan Rossouw.

___

POOL B

IRELAND

World ranking: 1

Captain: Jonathan Sexton. Driven to continue after not being picked for 2021 British and Irish Lions. Retiring after this World Cup. Hasn’t played since March because of injury and suspension but absolutely pivotal to team’s success.

Coach: Andy Farrell. Hasn’t won as many trophies as predecessor Joe Schmidt, but his winning percentage is better and he’s improved the side every year: 3 losses in 2020 to 0 this year, so far.

World Cup history

1987 Quarterfinal

1991 Quarterfinal

1995 Quarterfinal

1999 Quarterfinal playoff

2003 Quarterfinal

2007 Pool

2011 Quarterfinal

2015 Quarterfinal

2019 Quarterfinal

Prospects: Title or bust. There can’t be any excuses this time. Ireland has been No. 1 for more than a year, extended its team-best winning run to 13 tests, proven it can squeeze the life out of opponents and win when not firing on all cylinders, always the mark of great sides. See Australia in November and Samoa in August. The Irish have benefited immensely from Leinster’s success to grow team confidence and cohesion. Team leaders have taken ownership and Farrell has been consistent in picking his best team, which is at the point of picking itself. If there’s a doubt, it’s about the backups. Samoa showed Ireland isn’t as deep as it thinks it is. But Ireland’s best player is chomping at the bit and motivated. Sexton hasn’t played for nearly six months but he’ll be ready. The team is moulded in his image; sharp, slick, workaholic, ruthless, resilient and bloody-minded. The expected quarterfinal will be key. It’s a hump the Irish have never got over.

Keep eye on: Sexton. Even though he’s fresh and fit, he’s 38 and injury prone. Ireland doesn’t flow as well when its great flyhalf is absent.

World Cup high: Ireland lost all four previous meetings with Australia until 2011 at Eden Park. Sexton and Ronan O’Gara kicked five penalties and dropped goals to James O’Connor’s two. The Tri-Nations champions didn’t score a point in the second half and Ireland won 15-6.

Squad: Forwards: Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Furlong, David Kilcoyne, Jeremy Loughman, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dan Sheehan, Ryan Baird, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Joe McCarthy, James Ryan, Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier. Backs: Craig Casey, Jamison Gibson-Park, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley, Jonathan Sexton (captain), Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Stuart McCloskey, Garry Ringrose, Keith Earls, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan, James Lowe, Jimmy O’Brien.

SOUTH AFRICA

World ranking: 2

Captain: Siya Kolisi. So inspiring and invaluable is he to South Africa that the coaches were willing to carry their rehabbing captain deep into the pool stage to wait for him to become available. But Kolisi after knee surgery exceeded expectations, as usual, and was ready to play by mid-August.

Coach: Jacques Nienaber. Planned with Rassie Erasmus in 2018 to target the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Winning then in 2019 in Japan was a bonus. The 2023 plans still look great. South Africa has its highest ranking going into a World Cup. No matter what happens, Nienaber is leaving for Leinster.

World Cup history

1995 Champion

1999 Semifinal

2003 Quarterfinal

2007 Champion

2011 Quarterfinal

2015 Semifinal

2019 Champion

Prospects: The way in which South Africa tore into and smothered New Zealand in their Twickenham tuneup put the entire rugby world on notice. New Zealand’s yellow and red cards were a symptom of desperation in the face of South Africa’s overwhelming power. The world champion set a standard that should carry it far. It’s no coincidence the Springboks found a sweet spot in their last two warmups with the return of the inspirational Kolisi following a torn ACL in April. His time is being managed: 40 minutes against Wales, then 47 against New Zealand. When he was brought off in both games, the Springboks were out of sight. The Boks have been battering other packs for decades, but they have a battery of backs that offers options and shades the 2019 trophy-winning class.

Keep eye on: Manie Libbok. Thanks to the Boks’ two dominant packs — one for each half — against New Zealand, the rookie flyhalf played and kicked well to put his skeptics at arm’s length. But Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am are on the standby list.

World Cup high: South Africa hosted the first tournament after it was readmitted to rugby, in 1995. Jonah Lomu was contained in the final and Joel Stransky’s drop kick in extra time won it. Nelson Mandela wore a Springboks jersey at the trophy presentation.

Squad: Forwards: Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Jean Kleyn, Marvin Orie, Franco Mostert, Dean Fourie, RG Snyman, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese. Backs: Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach, Grant Williams, Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Jesse Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Canan Moodie.

SCOTLAND

World ranking: 5

Captain: Jamie Ritchie. Captain since the autumn. Considers performance in pool loss to Japan in 2019 World Cup one of his best. Japan recognized the effort and gave him a katana, a samurai sword.

Coach: Gregor Townsend. Signed a new deal to stay on as coach to 2026. Since he took charge six years ago, has 39 wins in 70 tests with one draw for a 56% percent win record, second best for a Scotland coach in the last 50 years.

World Cup history

1987 Quarterfinal

1991 Semifinal

1995 Quarterfinal

1999 Quarterfinal

2003 Quarterfinal

2007 Quarterfinal

2011 Pool

2015 Quarterfinal

2019 Pool

Prospects: The world rankings make themselves harder to understand when Scotland, a distant third in the Six Nations, is one spot below a New Zealand team which swept the Rugby Championship. Scotland is well capable of good days but isn’t capable of stringing enough of them to have a major impact on the World Cup. Considering their own pool opponents, the Scots haven’t beaten South Africa since 2010 and never away from home. The record against Ireland is slightly better; the last win was in 2017, but not on Townsend’s watch. Scotland is deeper and fitter than in 2019 but still susceptible to not getting the basics down when the pressure is on, and losing focus and letting opponents get away from them on the scoreboard.

Keep eye on: Blair Kinghorn. Stuart Hogg’s startling retirement in July vacated the fullback spot. Townsend tried to turn Kinghorn into a flyhalf last year until he patched things up with Finn Russell. Kinghorn is happy to be back in his natural position.

World Cup high: In front of Harry Potter author JK Rowling, captain Greig Laidlaw was magic with a 26-point haul in a breathtaking 36-33 win over Samoa in Newcastle in 2015. Laidlaw’s own late converted try sealed Scotland a quarterfinal.

Squad: Forwards: Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, WP Nel, Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Rory Sutherland, Ewan Ashman, Dave Cherry, George Turner, Scott Cummings, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, Sam Skinner, Luke Crosbie, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie (captain), Hamish Watson. Backs: George Horne, Ali Price, Ben White, Ben Healy, Finn Russell, Chris Harris, Huw Jones, Cameron Redpath, Sione Tuipulotu, Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn, Ollie Smith, Kyle Steyn, Duhan van der Merwe.

TONGA

World ranking: 15

Captain: Sonatane Takulua. The scrumhalf became Tonga’s first 50-cap player in July. It took him nine years to get there.

Coach: Toutai Kefu. Replaced Willie Ofahengaue as the Australia No. 8 and helped the Wallabies win the 1999 World Cup. He’s in his second spell coaching Tonga. Previously in charge from 2016-19.

World Cup history

1987 Pool

1995 Pool

1999 Pool

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Would do incredibly well to win more than one pool game. The ‘Ikale Tahi finished last and winless in the Pacific Nations Cup then beat Canada twice at home to complete their warmups. When World Rugby’s eligibility rules changed in 2021, an array of stars pitched up for Tonga. The squad includes former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa — a 2015 World Cup winner — Vaea Fifita, George Moala, Charles Piutau and Augustine Pulu, and former Wallabies lock Adam Coleman. Coleman has yet to play for Tonga but appeared for his new French club Bordeaux in August. Coach Toutai Kefu regards it as the best Tonga side ever assembled, and he had to drop Wallabies great Israel Folau and leading World Cup try-scorer Telusa Veainu because they were injured. Kefu also warned Ireland, South Africa and Scotland they shouldn’t feel safe.

Keep eye on: Charles Piutau. Earned 17 caps for New Zealand from 2013-15, missed out on the World Cup, then enhanced his reputation overseas. Was the highest paid player in the English Premiership and still class at fullback at age 31.

World Cup high: One of the tournament’s biggest shocks. Tonga 19, France 14 in 2011 in Wellington. Tonga had it won long before the end by dominating for long periods. Would have made the quarterfinals if also beaten Canada.

Squad: Forwards: Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Feao Fotuaika, Tau Koloamatangi, Paula Ngauamo, Siua Maile, Samiuela Moli, Ben Tameifuna, Paula Latu, Sosefo ‘Apikotoa, Adam Coleman, Leva Fifita, Samiuela Lousi, Sitiveni Mafi, Vaea Fifita, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Semisi Paea, Solomone Funaki, Sione Vailanu, Sione Havili Talitui. Backs: Sonatane Takulua (captain), Augustine Pulu, Manu Paea, William Havili, Otumaka Mausia, Pia Ahki, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala, Afusipa Taumoefolau, Fine Inisi, Solomone Kata, Salesi Piutau, Kyren Taumoefolau, Anzelo Tuitavuki.

ROMANIA

World ranking: 19

Captain: Cristi Chirica. Back-rower has led team only twice: In 2021 and in the last warmup against Italy. Starred in the Rugby Europe Championship with five tries.

Coach: Eugen Apjok. Former Romania flyhalf stepped up when Andy Robinson resigned last December.

World Cup history

1987 Pool

1991 Pool

1995 Pool

1999 Pool

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

Prospects: Worrying. Romania qualified when Spain was harshly disqualified for using an ineligible player twice off the bench. Ironically, Romania missed out on the 2019 World Cup for using an ineligible player. Then coach Andy Robinson resigned in December with a 50% record since 2019, saying he’d taken the Oaks as far as he could. Apjok has since struggled to pick his best side. The warmups were a disaster, even with former Scotland and Fiji coach Vern Cotter advising. The Oaks lost to the non-qualified United States 31-19, and suffered their worst defeats to Georgia, 56-6, and Italy, 57-7. Romania’s workrate, fitness and morale all appeared poor. Longtime captain Mihai Macovei, an Oak since 2006, suffered a calf tear in training and was ruled out. Flyhalf Mihai Muresan and fullback Paul Popoaia were also injured. The trio were replaced by back-rower Andre Gorin and backs Taliauli Sikuea and Lama Sioeli, who increased the Tonga-born contingent to four. The only two Oaks in the French Top 14 last season, lock Andrei Mahu and center Atila Septar, weren’t picked. Septar left the squad for personal reasons.

Keep eye on: Tighthead prop Thomas Cretu. Signed by Stade Francais academy in 2020. Played for France Under-20s in 2022 Six Nations but thanks to Romanian father, committed to Romania this year. Still only 21.

World Cup high: The biggest comeback in World Cup history. Romania rallied from 15-0 down with 27 minutes left against Canada in 2015 in Leicester. No. 8 Mihai Macovei scored two tries converted by Florin Vlaicu. A scrum penalty gave Vlaicu a 40-meter goalkick he nailed for 17-15.

Squad: Forwards: Alexandru Savin, Gheorghe Gajion, Thomas Cretu, Alexandru Gordas, Costel Burtila, Iulian Hartig, Ovidiu Cojocaru, Robert Irimescu, Florin Bardasu, Adrian Motoc, Marius Iftimiciuc, Stefan Iancu, Cristi Chirica (captain), Andre Gorin, Vlad Neculau, Dragos Ser, Cristi Boboc, Florian Rosu, Damian Stratila. Backs: Gabriel Rupanu, Florin Surugiu, Alin Conache, Gabriel Pop, Taliauli Sikuea, Tudor Boldor, Nicolas Onutu, Marius Simionescu, Tangimana Fonovai, Taylor Gontineac, Jason Tomane, Tevita Manumua, Hinckley Vaovasa, Lama Sioeli.

___

POOL C

FIJI

World ranking: 7

Captain: Waisea Nayacalevu. In 11 years in France, so far, has won the Top 14 once and European Challenge Cup twice. Going to a third World Cup.

Coach: Simon Raiwalui. The former Fiji captain coached in France and Australia. The Fiji job came earlier than expected but his pragmatism and professionalism are pushing the team to new heights.

World Cup history

1987 Quarterfinal

1991 Pool

1999 Quarterfinal playoff

2003 Pool

2007 Quarterfinal

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Fiji could have been thrown off when Vern Cotter quit as coach in February after three years. But high performance manager Simon Raiwalui stepped up and Fiji has progressed. “My job is to give direction to the staff and purpose to the players,” he said. Raiwalui has a great staff; former ref Glen Jackson, World Cup heroes Graham Dewes and Seremaia Bai, All Black Daryl Gibson, Fijian Drua assistant Brad Harris and Fiji women’s coach Senirusi Seruvakula. They have won the Pacific Nations Cup, pushed France close and beaten England for the first time. The Drua have done for Fiji what the Jaguares did for Argentina. The Drua’s success as first-time quarterfinalists in Super Rugby Pacific has rubbed off on to Fiji. In a cohesive, competitive and fit squad of 33, 18 are Drua. One of the jewels is unflustered rookie Caleb Muntz, a reliable goalkicker and a good defensive flyhalf. Add in the x-factor talents of the likes of Levani Botia, Viliame Mata, Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova and Fiji is dangerous. Ask England.

Keep eye on: Viliame Mata. The No. 8 was an Olympic gold medalist sevens player in 2016, since when he’s been playing for Edinburgh. Starred at Twickenham where he softened up England with 12 carries and 11 tackles.

World Cup high: One of the best World Cup matches. Nantes, 2007. Fiji leads Wales 25-3 after 26 minutes. Wales leads 29-25 after 51. Then its Fiji 31-29. Wales 34-31. 76th minute, video confirms Graham Dewes scores in a pileup, Fiji 38-34. 80th minute, breathe.

Squad: Forwards: Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesake Doge, Luke Tagi, Samu Tawake, Tevita Ikanivere, Sam Matavesi, Zuriel Togiatama, Isoa Nasilasila, Temo Mayanavanua, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Albert Tuisue, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Levani Botia, Vilive Miramira, Meli Derenalagi, Viliame Mata. Backs: Frank Lomani, Simi Kuruvoli, Peni Matawalu, Caleb Muntz, Teti Tela, Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra, Waisea Nayacalevu (captain), Iosefo Masi, Selesitino Ravutaumada, Vinaya Habosi, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Sireli Maqala, Ilaisa Droasese.

AUSTRALIA

World ranking: 9

Captain: Will Skelton. Smart to have a captain who has some fluency in French. Lived in France since 2020 and burnished his reputation by winning four European Cups with Saracens and La Rochelle.

Coach: Eddie Jones. His World Cup CV is enviable but he hasn’t won his last seven tests, dating to last year.

World Cup history

1987 Semifinal

1991 Champion

1995 Quarterfinal

1999 Champion

2003 Final

2007 Quarterfinal

2011 Semifinal

2015 Final

2019 Quarterfinal

Prospects: Eddie Jones’ typical smokescreen comments can’t hide the fact Australia doesn’t look ready or good enough to win the World Cup. But even though the Wallabies are barely a top-10 side, they could compensate for their shortcomings by going deep thanks to being in the weak half of the draw. They could reach the semifinals without facing any of the top five. The decision in January to dump coach Dave Rennie and bank on Jones’ quick-fix reputation has backfired, so far. Australia has lost all five tests this year and was far more competitive last year under Rennie who operated without 20 injured players. Jones has railed against the critics but his decision to pick many young and inexperienced test players is evidence he’s plotting to use his five-year contract to build a squad capable of challenging for the 2027 World Cup title — in Australia.

Keep eye on: Max Jorgensen. The outside back hasn’t played for Australia yet because of a knee injury in May. Just turned 19, he’s in France for the experience because of his promise. The schoolboy star scored two tries in his New South Wales debut in Super Rugby Pacific this year.

World Cup high: Australia’s David Campese baited an attritional England to run the ball in the 1991 final. England complied but was flawed. The Wallabies pack was destroyed but the defense was resilient and they scored the only try and won their first World Cup title.

Squad: Forwards: Angus Bell, Pone Fa’amausili, Zane Nonggorr, Blake Schoupp, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Matt Faessler, Dave Precki, Jordan Uelese, Richie Arnold, Nick Frost, Matt Philip, Will Skelton (captain), Langi Gleeson, Tom Hooper, Josh Kemeny, Rob Leota, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini. Backs: Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Tate McDermott, Nic White, Carter Gordon, Lalakai Foketi, Samu Kerevi, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Max Jorgensen, Andrew Kellaway, Marika Koroibete, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Suliasi Vunivalu, Ben Donaldson.

WALES

World ranking: 10

Captain: Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan. Breaking with tradition, Wales is going with co-captains. Lake and Morgan are teammates at the Ospreys and played together for Wales Under-20s. Ken Owens would have been captain but he was ruled out by a back injury.

Coach: Warren Gatland. One of the best of this generation, he returned for a second spell in charge in November after the forced exit for fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac. He is back in much tougher circumstances and with many stalwarts no longer around.

World Cup history

1987 Semifinal

1991 Pool

1995 Pool

1999 Quarterfinal

2003 Quarterfinal

2007 Pool

2011 Semifinal

2015 Quarterfinal

2019 Semifinal

Prospects: As low as Wales’ world ranking. Having plunged to No. 10, the Welsh have never been further down the list, with the team in freefall on the back of five wins in 20 games since the start of 2022. Gatland’s return hasn’t halted the slide and he is attempting the tough job of overseeing a change of eras – with the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric retired – while putting together a team capable of performing at the World Cup. Gatland said he couldn’t resist another shot at a World Cup with Wales but rugby’s global landscape has changed since 2019 and the Welsh are way off the world’s best teams. Still, beat Australia or Fiji in the pool and the quarterfinals beckon. Then anything is possible. Write off Gatland at your peril.

Keep eye on: Louis Rees-Zammit. Wales had the top try-scorer at the 2019 World Cup in Josh Adams, who crossed seven times in Japan, so fellow winger Rees-Zammit has a tough act to follow. He is 22, the fastest in the squad and has nine tries in 27 tests heading into his first World Cup. He is unlikely to be overawed — he was a British and Irish Lion at 20.

World Cup high: Beating England 28-25 at Twickenham in 2015. There’s no better result for a Welsh native at the home of rugby. Gareth Davies’ late try completed a turnaround from 22-12 down with half an hour to go and after three Wales players went off injured.

Squad: Forwards: Nicky Smith, Gareth Thomas, Corey Domachowski, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Henry Thomas, Dewi Lake (co-captain), Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Adam Beard, Dafydd Jenkins, Will Rowlands, Christ Tshiunza, Taine Basham, Dan Lydiate, Tommy Reffell, Jac Morgan (co-captain), Taulupe Faletau, Aaron Wainwright. Backs: Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, Sam Costelow, Johnny Williams, Nick Tompkins, Mason Grady, George North, Josh Adams, Rio Dyer, Louis Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.

GEORGIA

World ranking: 11

Captain: Merab Sharikadze. The center made his Lelos debut at 18 in 2012. Heading to his third World Cup.

Coach: Levan Maisashvili. After a test in South Africa in July 2021, caught COVID-19 and almost died. In a coma for a month in a Johannesburg hospital. Returned home that September and resumed coaching that October. Georgians call him ‘The Phoenix.’

World Cup history

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Georgia remains without doubt the best side in Europe outside of the Six Nations. Since the 2019 World Cup, the Lelos have won every Rugby Europe, the tier below the Six Nations, and 12 of the last 13 titles. Under coach Maisashvili the last four years, they haven’t lost a Rugby Europe match. Tbilisi club the Black Lion have also won both editions of the Rugby Europe Super Cup. The Black Lion have 15 in the World Cup squad. Georgia also added historic wins over Wales in Cardiff and Italy at home in 2022 in nine tests against tier one sides since 2020. They threatened another boilover in their last warmup at Murrayfield, where Georgia led Scotland 6-0 at halftime. But the Scots took the ball on a more direct path in the second half and won 33-6. That has to concern Georgia, but its in a pool with underwhelming Australia and Wales teams so can’t be discounted. There’s plenty of experience: 15 of the squad have been to a World Cup; a fourth for fullback Lasha Khmaladze and wing Alexander Todua. Losing centurion hooker Giorgi Chkoidze was a blow eased by the availability of their other centurion hooker Shalva Mamukashvili. But the two understudies have four caps combined.

Keep eye on: Fullback Davit Niniashvili, who scored seven tries for French club Lyon last season.

World Cup high: Georgia made 213 tackles against Tonga’s 48 to win their contest 17-10 at Gloucester in 2015. The Lelos withstood a tense comeback by Tonga, which had two tries disallowed.

Squad: Forwards: Nika Abuladze, Beka Gigashvili, Guram Gogichashvili, Luka Japaridze, Mikheil Nariashvili, Guram Papidze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Luka Nioradze, Tengiz Zamtaradze, Vladimer Chachanidze, Nodar Cheishvili, Lasha Jaiani, Konstantine Mikautadze, Mikheil Gachechiladze, Beka Gorgadze, Luka Ivanishvili, Tornike Jalagonia, Beka Saginadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze. Backs: Gela Aprasidze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Tengiz Peranidze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Luka Matkava, Demur Tapladze, Aleksandre Todua, Merab Sharikadze, Tornike Kakhoidze, Modebadze Mirian, Akaki Tabutsadze, Davit Niniashvili, Lasha Khmaladze, Giorgi Kveseladze.

PORTUGAL

World ranking: 16

Captain: Tomas Appleton. A Lisbon dentist by profession. Attended the 2007 Portugal-Italy World Cup game as a member of the Portugal Under-15s.

Coach: Patrice Lagisquet. One of France’s best wingers in the 1980s. In coaching, led Biarritz to three Top 14 titles and has only burnished his reputation by qualifying Portugal for the World Cup.

World Cup history

2007 Pool

Prospects: Os Lobos, the Wolves, were the 20th and last team to qualify in Dubai last November when they knocked out the United States with a last-gasp penalty by Samuel Marques. In 2007, they returned home from their first World Cup appearance winless but celebrities, who launched a rugby boom. The federation, however, wasn’t geared to handle it and the boom faded. Portugal fell into Europe’s third tier and didn’t climb out of it until 2019. The great Patrice Lagisquet called about the national job and accepted. His stature allowed him to access untapped Portuguese talent in France and place Portuguese in French clubs to improve skills. He opened pathways and persuaded players of the need to prepare professionally without being paid. Portugal remains amateur. But the team is full of pros. In the squad, 17 play in France. The backs will thrill if they receive ball. Many were part of teams which won the European Under-20s for three years in a row and reached the final of the second-tier World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2017 and 2019. Their stated aim is to win a pool game in France.

Keep eye on: Wingers Rodrigo Marta and Raffaele Storti. Marta has 35 tries from 44 tests. Storti has 25 tries from 31 tests. Marta is aged 23. Storti is 22.

World Cup high: 2007 in Lyon. Portugal quick-tapped a penalty and inched closer to the New Zealand tryline until a pile went over. After a lengthy video review, the try was awarded to replacement prop Rui Cordeiro and the 40,000-strong crowd went nuts. The All Blacks won 108-13, and Os Lobos won the 5-a-side soccer game afterward.

Squad: Forwards: Antonio Machado Santos, David Costa, Diogo Hasse Ferreira, Francisco Fernandes, Francisco Bruno, Anthony Alves, Duarte Diniz, Lionel Campergue, Mike Tadjer, Duarte Torgal, Jose Madeira, Jose Maria Rebelo Andrade, Steevy Cerqueira, Martim Belo, Nicolas Martins, Rafael Simões, João Granate, Thibault de Freitas, David Wallis. Backs: João Belo, Pedro Lucas, Samuel Marques, Jeronimo Portela, Joris Moura, Jose Lima, Tomas Appleton (captain), Pedro Bettencourt, Rodrigo Marta, Vincent Pinto, Manuel Cardoso Pinto, Raffaele Storti, Nuno Sousa Guedes, Simão Bento.

___

POOL D

ARGENTINA

World ranking: 6

Captain: Julian Montoya. Puma since 2014 and captain since 2021. Played in Super Rugby final in 2019 and won English Premiership in 2022.

Coach: Michael Cheika. Moved from assistant to head coach in March 2022. Seven wins in 17 tests include first Pumas win in New Zealand, win over England at Twickenham, two wins against Australia and a home series win over Scotland.

World Cup history

1987 Pool

1991 Pool

1995 Pool

1999 Quarterfinal

2003 Pool

2007 Semifinal

2011 Quarterfinal

2015 Semifinal

2019 Pool

Prospects: Minimum target must be the quarterfinals from an underwhelming pool. Cheika has made a concerted effort to learn Spanish to make his ideas easier to get across. The Pumas are frustratingly inconsistent. They know how to pressure and hold possession but aren’t clinical enough. Discipline is another downer. Late changes had to be made when forwards Santiago Grondona and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro suffered serious leg injuries. They were replaced by flanker Joaquin Oviedo, who has one cap from 2021, and prop Mayco Vivas, who will go to his second World Cup. There’s 20 in the squad with World Cup experience. Hooker Agustin Creevy and flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez are headed to their fourth tournament. All 33 players were informed of their selection by a call from a former Puma. Emiliano Boffelli was called by Hugo Porta. Guido Petti heard from Rolando Martin. Rodrigo Isgro got the word from Santiago Gomez Cora. All of them were emotional hits. Cheika used the same ploy to inform his 2015 Australia team. They reached the final.

Keep eye on: Juan Martin Gonzalez. The back-rower signed to English champion Saracens in July a week after he scored a last-minute try to beat Australia in Sydney.

World Cup high: The Pumas ruined France’s opening night party for the 2007 World Cup with a stunning 17-12 win from 17-9 at halftime. They scored the only try. It wasn’t a fluke, either. Argentina beat France again in the bronze final to achieve a best tournament finish of third.

Squad: Forwards: Francisco Gomez Kodela, Joel Sclavi, Thomas Gallo, Eduardo Bello, Mayco Vivas, Julian Montoya (captain), Agustin Creevy, Ignacio Ruiz, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera, Juan Martin González, Joaquin Oviedo, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni, Pedro Rubiolo. Backs: Gonzalo Bertranou, Tomas Cubelli, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Santiago Carreras, Nicolas Sanchez, Santiago Chocobares, Lucio Cinti, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Matias Moroni, Emiliano Boffelli, Mateo Carreras, Rodrigo Isgro, Juan Cruz Mallia, Martin Bogado, Juan Imhoff.

ENGLAND

World ranking: 8

Captain: Owen Farrell. The flyhalf-cum-center will miss the opening two pool games against Argentina and Japan due to suspension. When he returns, all eyes will be on his much-criticized tackling technique. Farrell is regarded, though, as a reliable goalkicker and an organizer of the back division, even if his attacking threat lacks the X-factor of fellow flyhalves George Ford and Marcus Smith.

Coach: Steve Borthwick. Was rewarded with the job for strong work at Leicester, where he won the English title with a no-nonsense gameplan focused on forward domination and kick-pressure. That hasn’t been established in nine months with England.

World Cup history

1987 Quarterfinal

1991 Final

1995 Semifinal

1999 Quarterfinal

2003 Champion

2007 Final

2011 Quarterfinal

2015 Pool

2019 Final

Prospects: Not great. England has lost five of its last six games and, at that rate, will struggle to get out of the pool. Quite simply, this World Cup has come too soon for Borthwick, who isn’t even a year into his reign and is implementing his own style to transition from Eddie Jones’ seven-year tenure. Still, even if England loses to Argentina, beating Japan in the second outing is likely to ensure a place in the quarterfinals where Australia, Wales or Fiji will be the probable opponent. Borthwick could yet leave France with a semifinal appearance but one which papers over the cracks in the English game that spreads to governance issues away from the field. One thing England can usually rely on is forward strength and that is missing at the moment — and likely to be shown up by the Pumas in their pool opener on Sept. 9.

Keep eye on: Marcus Smith. The flyhalf is seen only late off the bench but he’ll offer an attacking threat that causes chaos — and often awakes England supporters from their torpor.

World Cup high: Jonny Wilkinson’s dropped goal. The extra-time kick won the 2003 final against Australia in Sydney and is etched in England’s sporting lore. The execution was perfect, from the long lineout throw near halfway to the snipe from Matt Dawson, the set-up from Martin Johnson, and the clean right-foot kick.

Squad: Forwards: Dan Cole, Ellis Genge, Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Theo Dan, Jamie George, Jack Walker, Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Martin, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Lewis Ludlam, David Ribbans, Billy Vunipola, Jack Willis. Backs: Danny Care, Alex Mitchell, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell (captain), George Ford, Marcus Smith, Elliot Daly, Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell, Max Malins, Freddie Steward.

SAMOA

World ranking: 12

Captain: Chris Vui and Michael Ala’alatoa. Both are going to their second World Cup. Vui preferred cricket to rugby until he was 18. By 24 in 2017, he was the Samoa captain. Ala’alatoa has appeared in the last two European Cup finals for Leinster. He’s the older brother of Australia prop Allan, who was ruled out of the World Cup by an Achilles injury in July.

Coach: Seilala Mapusua. Felt ready for the job after coaching Otago Under-19s and playing at two World Cups. But the pandemic prevented the former center from guiding Samoa until mid-2021. He’s won eight of 11 tests.

World Cup history

1991 Quarterfinal

1995 Quarterfinal

1999 Quarterfinal playoff

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Pool

Prospects: Since the 2019 World Cup, Samoa has played only 15 times, 11 of them tests, eight of them wins. That’s one year’s worth for some bigger teams. But Mapusua has packed in some notable results: 2022 Pacific Nations Cup champion and taking Ireland to the wire in the last World Cup warmup. That result has alerted their opponents in France. Samoa has an agreeable tournament schedule, starting a week later than most with Chile, then Argentina, Japan and England. Samoa was up for the Irish on a rainy night in Bayonne, fit and full of belief to the end, and reinforced by the reliability of former All Blacks and Wallabies backs such as Lima Sopoaga, Duncan Paia’aua and Christian Leali’ifano.

Keep eye on: Theo McFarland. The back-five forward had a sensational first season with England’s Saracens in 2021-22. His progress was halted by an ACL injury in December. He reappeared in August, just in time for Samoa.

World Cup high: Debut, 1991. Samoa was Western Samoa and motivated after being excluded from the 1987 tournament. Wales was taken aback at Cardiff Arms Park by ferocious tackling. Apollo Perelini sent three Welsh to hospital. Welsh hearts were broken, too: The Samoans won 16-13.

Squad: Forwards: Michael Ala’alatoa (co-captain), Paul Alo-Emile, Charlie Faumuina, James Lay, Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Sama Malolo, Luteru Tolai, Brian Alainuuese, Theo McFarland, Sam Slade, Chris Vui (co-captain), Sootala Faasoo, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Fritz Lee, Steven Luatua, Alamanda Motuga, Taleni Seu, Sa Jordan Taufua. Backs: Ere Enari, Melani Matavao, Jonathan Taumateine, Christian Leali’ifano, Lima Sopoaga, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Tumua Manu, Duncan Paia’aua, Ulupano Junior Seuteni, Nigel Ah Wong, Ed Fidow, Neria Foma’i, Benjamin Lam, Danny Toala.

JAPAN

World ranking: 14

Captain: Kazuki Himeno. Upgraded his world-class back-row skills at the Highlanders in 2021 and became a fan favorite for his workrate on both sides of the ball.

Coach: Jamie Joseph. Heading home after the World Cup to Super Rugby’s Highlanders with his status revered in Japanese rugby. But coming to the end of his second World Cup cycle, he looks like he’s run out of ideas.

World Cup history

1987 Pool

1991 Pool

1995 Pool

1999 Pool

2003 Pool

2007 Pool

2011 Pool

2015 Pool

2019 Quarterfinal

Prospects: Japan’s game doesn’t suggest it will make the quarterfinals again. Japan has lost five out of six fixtures this year, including the opening two against a New Zealand XV, and the problems have included a predictable attack, no quick-strike threat or ability, discipline and goalkicking. The back row of Michael Leitch — who is rolling back the clock at 38 — Shota Fukui and Kazuki Himeno has been outstanding. But Japan appears to be missing the unity the long-gone Sunwolves helped to develop before the 2019 World Cup. Completing this squad was messy. James Moore and Amato Fakatava were the locks in four of the first five games. Then Moore was cut over his ‘conditioning.’ Later, lock Uwe Helu and center Shogo Nakano were also dropped due to ‘conditioning issues.’ Fakatava recovered quickly from a foot injury and came back in, as did two-cap back-rower Kanji Shimokawa. Fakatava was a standout on debut in the Pacific Nations Cup so his availability was a relief. Remarkably, only one player from domestic champion Kubota Spears is in the squad, Pieter Labuschagne, who is suspended from the opening game against Chile.

Keep eye on: Fullback Kotaro Matsushima. Preserved Japan’s first win in more than a year in July. He was flattened in a tackle in the 79th minute against Tonga and Japan appeared headed for a try, but Tonga intercepted. Matsushima got up and made a try-saving tackle on his 22.

World Cup high: Beating defending champion South Africa in 2015 was so unbelievable that a movie was made about it called ‘The Brighton Miracle.’

Squad: Forwards: Keita Inagaki, Craig Millar, Sione Halasili, Koo Ji-won, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shota Horie, Atsushi Sakate, Kosuke Horikoshi, Jack Cornelsen, Warner Dearns, Amanaki Saumaki, Pieter Labuschagne, Amato Fakatava, Shota Fukui, Kazuki Himeno, Michael Leitch, Ben Gunter, Kanji Shimokawa. Backs: Naoto Saito, Yutaka Nagare, Kenta Fukuda, Lee Seung-sin, Rikiya Matsuda, Jumpei Ogura, Ryoto Nakamura, Tomoki Osada, Dylan Riley, Siosaia Fifita, Semisi Masirewa, Jone Naikabula, Lomano Lemeki, Kotaro Matsushima.

CHILE

World ranking: 22

Captain: Martin Sigren. The flanker was invited to play last season for Doncaster Knights in north England. The Knights coach said, “He ticks all the boxes of what we’re after — young, hungry, ambitious — so we’re keen to help him better his career.”

Coach: Pablo Lemoine. Was Uruguay’s tighthead at two World Cups. Then, as coach, qualified Uruguay to the 2015 World Cup. Took over Chile in 2018 with the aim to qualify for the 2027 World Cup. Qualified four years early.

World Cup history

Debut

Prospects: Los Condores have never played in a stadium with 40,000 people, never played a tier one side or a top tier two side. They’re going to tick those boxes in the first two games against Japan and Samoa. England is third up and Argentina last, marking the first all-South American matchup in a World Cup. Chile doesn’t have a local competition, and the development pathway is limited. But the support is magnificent. Chile received a lights-flashing police escort in August to its home game against Namibia in Temuco, where 15,000 people were waiting. Since Chile qualified for the World Cup in July last year, it has lost all seven fixtures. Selknam, Chile’s professional club which plays in Super Rugby Americas, won four of 12 this year. Selknam provides 30 of the 33-man squad. Chile has four sets of brothers, one of them twins, which is unprecedented for a World Cup team. Despite recent results, coach Lemoine hopes the team plays positive, learns to reset after setbacks, and fights to the end. Chile has asked him to continue as coach and he wants to. He wants to increase the number of high performance players in the next World Cup cycle.

Keep eye on: Chile. The whole team. First time on the big stage.

World Cup high: July 16, 2022. Qualified for first Rugby World Cup. Late Santiago Videla penalty beat the United States 31-29 in Glendale and on two-leg aggregate by one point.

Squad: Forwards: Javier Carrasco, Salvador Lues, Vittorio Lastra, Matias Dittus, Iñaki Gurruchaga, Esteban Inostroza, Augusto Bohme, Tomas Dussaillant, Diego Escobar, Javier Eissmann, Pablo Huete, Santiago Pedrero, Augusto Sarmiento, Alfonso Escobar, Raimundo Martinez, Thomas Orchard, Clemente Saavedra, Martin Sigren (captain), Ignacio Silva. Backs: Lukas Carvallo, Nicolas Herreros, Marcelo Torrealba, Benjamín Videla, Rodrigo Fernandez, Santiago Videla, Pablo Casas, Matias Garafulic, Jose Ignacio Larenas, Domingo Saavedra, Franco Velarde, Nicolas Garafulic, Iñaki Ayarza, Francisco Urroz.



Credit To Onwer

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