Friday, 27 November 2015

National service for Murray in Davis Cup showdown

Flanders Expo, Ghent (indoor clay)

Friday (12.30 GMT)
David Goffin v Kyle Edmund
Ruben Bemelmans v Andy Murray
Saturday (14:00 GMT)
Kimmer Coppejans/Steve Darcis v Jamie Murray/Andy Murray
Sunday (12:00 GMT)
David Goffin v Andy Murray
Ruben Bemelmans v Kyle Edmund

ANDY MURRAY will aim to add another landmark title to his collection as he leads Great Britain into its first Davis Cup final for 37 years against Belgium in Ghent this weekend.

The reigning Olympic and two-time Grand Slam champion has insisted the focus in the British camp is on a team effort - but the truth is that, without Murray, Great Britain simply would not be at this event.

Indeed, the Dunblane man has featured in 15 of Britain's last 18 victorious rubbers, either in the singles or the doubles, going back to 2013.

And only Dan Evans' dead rubber win against Mate Pavic of Croatia in 2013, and James Ward's glorious double over United States pair Sam Querrey in 2014 and John Isner in 2015 have not featured Murray.

It would be entirely churlish, though, not to consider in any way the strides which the Great Britain Davis Cup team has made under the captaincy of Leon Smith.

Smith, after all, has not always had Murray to call upon, and he has done an excellent job with Britain, winning 11 out of 13 ties over a period of more than five years.

The first of those victories came in July 2010 against Turkey in a playoff to avoid being relegated to Europe/Africa zone Group III alongside the likes of Albania, Andorra, Malta and San Marino.

Thankfully, Britain won 5-0 - without the help of Murray - before a clean sweep of home wins over Tunisia, Luxembourg and Hungary in 2011 promoted the team to the second tier.

A third successive win in Glasgow, over Slovakia in 2012, gave rise to the hope that Britain might get the chance of a playoff to qualify for the World Group in 2013.

But those hopes were dashed - by Belgium, as it happens - as a Murray-less outfit went down to a 4-1 defeat.

Since then, though, there has only been one further set back, in last year's quarter final defeat against Italy in Naples - and Britain bounced back from that in style in March with their second win in just over a year against the Americans.

Murray inevitably set that tie up, beating Donald Young in four sets 6-1 6-1 4-6 6-2 before Ward's amazing comeback from two sets down to defeat Isner 15-13 in the fifth.

The Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, enjoyed their own dramatic doubles win, 9-7 in the fifth against Dom Inglot and Jamie Murray, to keep the tie alive for the United States.

But older brother Andy wrapped up victory with a straight sets win over Isner featuring two tie-breakers.

The Murrays were vital again in July against France in the quarter finals at Queen's in London.

Andy's straight sets victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and four-set win over Gilles Simon sandwiched the brothers' doubles win over Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut, after Simon had given the French an early lead in the tie against Ward.

Then, finally, in the semi finals in September, Australia were dispatched in a 3-2 success for Britain.

Andy opened proceedings with a straight sets win over Thanasi Kokkinakis before Evans lost to Bernard Tomic in four on the first day.

No fear - the Murray brothers delivered again, beating Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt in another five-setter, before Andy sealed Britain's place in the Final with another straight sets win, this time over Tomic.

Now that they are there, of course, the emphasis must be on victory. After all, it is not as if these opportunities come along too often for British tennis.

This is, in fact, Britain's first appearance in a Davis Cup final since 1978 when a John McEnroe-inspired American team prevailed 4-1 in California.

Furthermore, it is only Britain's second final appearance since the glory days of Fred Perry and Bunny Austin in the 1930s.

It should be noted that this has not been an easy week for the British team who delayed their flight to Ghent for 24 hours over security fears.

The Flemish town lies just 35 miles away from the Belgian capital Brussels which remains on a high state of alert amid the threat of a Paris-style terrorist attack.

Nevertheless, Andy Murray has described the team as "comfortable" ahead of the tie.

The final - to be played on an indoor clay court - begins today at 12.30pm GMT as 20-year-old Kyle Edmund remarkably becomes just the sixth man to make his Davis Cup debut in the showpiece event. The previous five, including Pete Sampras, all lost their first match.

Murray follows later in the afternoon and he will be strong favourite against world number 108, Ruben Bemelmans, before the doubles take place on Saturday.

Andy will feature again alongside Jamie against Belgian pair Kimmer Coppejans and Steve Darcis before the last - and likely decisive - day on Sunday when Andy will take on David Goffin and Edmund faces Bemelmans.

Harsh as it may sound on Edmund, it already looks at this stage as if Britain are gambling on Murray maintaining his form and fitness following another strong year for the world number two.

That would suggest match four between Murray and Goffin is being viewed as the likely finish line for Britain - and so it is worth pointing out that Murray beat his opponent 6-1 6-0 in the Paris Masters semi finals earlier this month.

Of course, in front of a crowd of 13,000 mostly Belgian supporters at the Flanders Expo, it may not be as straightforward.

Undoubtedly, though, Murray must win his matches if Britain is to prevail and he is to make history once again.

P17 W9 L8 F48 A35
1900 lost 0-3 v United States
1902 lost 2-3 v United States
1903 won 4-1 v United States
1904 won 5-0 v Belgium
1905 won 5-0 v United States
1906 won 5-0 v United States
1907 lost 2-3 v Australasia
1912 won 3-2 v Australasia
1913 lost 2-3 v United States
1919 lost 1-4 v Australasia
1931 lost 2-3 v France
1933 won 3-2 v France
1934 won 4-1 v United States
1935 won 5-0 v United States
1936 won 3-2 v Australia
1937 lost 1-4 v United States
1978 lost 1-4 v United States

How Britain has progressed from a relegation playoff to Europe/Africa III to the Davis Cup final in five years (bolded W = win featured Andy Murray (in singles or doubles))

2010Europe/Africa II, r1Vilnius (LTU)2-3v LithuaniaWLWLL

Europe/Africa II, p/oEastbourne (GBR)5-0v TurkeyWWWWW
2011Europe/Africa II, r1Bolton (GBR)4-1v TunisiaLWWWW

Europe/Africa II, r2Glasgow (GBR)4-1v LuxembourgLWWWW

Europe/Africa II, r3Glasgow (GBR)5-0v HungaryWWWWW
2012Europe/Africa I, r1Glasgow (GBR)3-2v SlovakiaWLWLW

Europe/Africa I, r2Glasgow (GBR)1-4v BelgiumLLWLL
2013Europe/Africa I, r2Coventry (GBR)3-2v RussiaLLWWW

World Group, p/oUmag (CRO)4-1v CroatiaWLWWW
2014World Group, r1San Diego (USA)3-1v United StatesWWLW

World Group, QFNapoli (ITA)2-3v ItalyLWWLL
2015World Group, r1Glasgow (GBR)3-2v United StatesWWLWL

World Group, QFLondon (GBR)3-1v FranceLWWW

World Group, SFGlasgow (GBR)3-2v AustraliaWLWWL

2015World Group, r1Liege (BEL)3-2v SwitzerlandLWWLW

World Group, QFMiddelkerke (BEL)5-0v CanadaWWWWW

World Group, SFBrussels (BEL)3-2v ArgentinaWLLWW

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Things haven't gone to plan so far

Thing haven't gone to plan so far
Peter Wood ♦ Winlaton, Gateshead ♦ 2015

And all the things I want in life
They seem slowly to drift away from me
Like grains of sand between my fingers
Like embers from a bonfire suffocated by the cool autumn air
It all feels rather hopeless

And some people have their perfect job
And some people are getting married
And some people are having babies
And some people have all of this
And some people have none of this
And yeah I'm jealous

Yet why should I even try any more
I know I'll never be like them
I throw obstacles in my way
And it's hard to be a happy shiny person
When you're constantly hurdling
And falling

So here I find myself again
Three pints under
Or rather I don't find myself
For I already know that there are no answers
At the bottom of the pint glass
However much I squint
However much I hope sometimes
You see, somebody told me that once

Somebody needs to help me sometimes
The scariest thing is
That person is always me

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Wearing the poppy

Poppies at Woodhorn Colliery museum in Northumberland in 2015
I Am Not A Badge Of Honour
Paul Hunter ♦ Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne ♦ 2014

I am not a badge of honour,
I am not a racist smear,
I am not a fashion statement,
To be worn but once a year,
I am not glorification
Of conflict or of war.
I am not a paper ornament
A token,
I am more.

I am a loving memory,
Of a father or a son,
A permanent reminder
Of each and every one.

I'm paper or enamel
I'm old or shining new,
I'm a way of saying thank you,
To every one of you.

I am a simple poppy
A Reminder to you all,
That courage faith and honour,
Will stand where heroes fall.

Royal British Legion Website - Facebook - Twitter

Saturday, 31 October 2015

RWC15 Final: McCaw and Carter ensure stunning All Blacks make history


New Zealand 34
T: Milner-Skudder, Nonu, Barrett. P: Carter 4. C: Carter 2. DG: Carter
Australia 17
T: Pocock, Kuridrani. P: Foley. C: Foley 2

New Zealand Ben Smith; Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c), Kieran Read.
Replacements Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.
Australia Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (c), Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, David Pocock.
Replacements Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Dean Mumm, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale.
Attendance 80,125 at Twickenham Referee Nigel Owens (Wales)
Kick-off 4pm GMT. Live on ITV1.

NEW ZEALAND captain Richie McCaw and legendary fly-half Dan Carter capped their splendid careers as the All Blacks became the first team ever to retain the Rugby World Cup.

Man of the match Carter was sublime, producing a near-perfect display with the boot as the New Zealanders won the William Webb Ellis trophy outside of their own country for the first time.

But, much more than that, the victory over Australia at Twickenham confirmed this All Blacks generation as easily the best team of its era.

Indeed, with little debate, they can be considered one of the greatest sporting outfits of all time.

Of course, for the 33-year-old Carter personally, this Final was one of those truly wonderful moments of sporting redemption after he had cruelly missed nearly all of the 2011 tournament through injury.

Not that this success came in as straightforward a fashion as the final scoreline perhaps suggests.

Yes, the first half at Twickenham was, in fact, a largely cagey affair with Carter striking three penalties in the first 36 minutes to one from his Aussie counterpart Bernard Foley.

It looked then as if the All Blacks would hold a no-more-than-handy 9-3 interval lead - but, as half-time neared, winger Nehe Milner-Skudder had other ideas.

An appropriate scorer in a match which waved goodbye to so many All Blacks legends, the 24-year-old, in many ways, is a representative of the next generation of New Zealand players to come through their awesome system.

If he is indeed the standard-bearer for the new era, then it would be fair to say that New Zealand rugby is clearly in safe hands.

Coincidentally, that is exactly what he showed when collecting a pass from McCaw to complete a fine, flowing move - and, following Carter's conversion, the half-time lead was a much more comfortable looking 16-3.

Early in the second period, it got even better for New Zealand as they extended their advantage to 21-3 following a virtuoso individual effort from another retiree Ma'a Nonu.

Starting from just inside the Australians' half, Nonu burst through the game line before out-sprinting three forlorn tacklers to complete a magnificent moment. What a way for him to finish.

The only question at that stage was whether the game was also finished as a contest - but, thankfully for the sake of the Final as a showpiece, the Wallabies were in no mood for giving up.

Their first proper breakthrough came 10 minutes after Nonu's try when full-back Ben Smith was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle deep inside his own 22.

From the resultant line-out, Australia made their numerical advantage count - and David Pocock, the best forward of the tournament, forced his way over.

Still, Australia needed more if they were going to truly threaten an amazing comeback - but still they would not give up - and, indeed, they made it two tries apiece with just over 15 minutes left.

Tevita Kuridrani was the scorer of the Wallabies' second, receiving a pass inside from Foley after Will Genia had kicked the ball from the back of a ruck down the right hand side.

New Zealand looked completely caught out by the Aussie resurgence - and, with just four points in it, there was a general feeling that somehow the contest was slipping away from them.

The mark of true champions, though, is to react quickly to adversity - and, within five minutes of getting a fright on Hallowe'en, the All Blacks could begin to breathe more easily again.

For, with only 10 minutes left on the clock, Carter executed only his eighth-ever international drop goal - and, as rare as they are, this was nevertheless a gorgeous kick from all of  40 metres out.

Of course, at a difference of seven points, Australia were still very much in the match, requiring only a converted try to tie.

So it was only when Carter knocked over a outstanding straight penalty from the half-way line with five minutes left that New Zealand were home and hosed.

Finally, it seemed they could relax a little - and, better still, they produced one more party trick, one more act to enjoy after the panicked Australians lost the ball in the New Zealand 22.

Ben Smith rushed forward and dinked a neat kick forward into the totally unoccupied opposition territory for Beauden Barrett to run onto.

Barrett himself kicked the ball forward towards the line before a kind bounce allowed him to collect and complete the job.

Notably, that try meant that, at an aggregate of 51 points, this was the highest scoring Rugby World Cup Final in history, a testament to the flowing nature of the second half.

As already pointed out on this blog, the north still has much to learn from the south about how to play this game even if Australia, of course, will take little comfort from that right now.

This was, after all, the All Blacks' day and the All Blacks' tournament - a World Cup for the glorious generation of McCaw, Carter, Nonu, Conrad Smith and others.

It seems only fair, though, to give the final word to match-winner Carter who summed up his emotions brilliantly in his post-tournament comments.

“It is a great way to finish my Test career,” he said. “I am pretty grateful to be where I am considering what happened four years ago. I’m so proud of the team.

"To win back-to-back World Cups is a dream come true. It’s a pretty strong group of guys. We try to do things no other team has done before. It’s a special feeling to be part of such a great team.”
New Zealand Champions 1987, 2011, 2015. Runners-up 1995
Australia Champions 1991, 1999. Runners-up 2003, 2015.

1991 SFDublinNew Zealand6-16Australia
2003 SFSydneyNew Zealand10-22Australia
2011 SFAucklandNew Zealand20-6Australia
2015 FLondonNew Zealand34-17Australia

New Zealand 106
Australia 42
Draws 7

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Can Newcastle United banish their derby woes?

PREMIER League stragglers Newcastle United and Sunderland face each other tomorrow at noon in the most important and eagerly anticipated Wear-Tyne derby in years.

The bottom-placed Black Cats, on three points, are without a league win all season while Steve McClaren's visiting Magpies are only slightly better off on six points.

Newcastle did get off the mark in some style last weekend, however - beating Norwich City 6-2 at St James Park thanks to four goals from Georginio Wijnaldum. Nevertheless, this derby match will surely be a different sort of game to that open encounter.

Undoubtedly adding further spice to the proceedings is the recent appointment to the hot-seat at the Stadium of Light of Sam Allardyce.

The self-styled Big Sam - who played on Wearside in the 1980-81 season - actually becomes Sunderland's fourth 'permanent' appointment in 30 months.

Previously, of course, Allardyce also managed Newcastle for an eighth-month period in 2007 and 2008.

But he was dismissed from Gallowgate when a run of poor results could no longer absolve his horrendous style of football - so it is fair to say there is plenty of recent history then.

Moreover, Allardyce would love to extend the bizarre sequence in this fixture which has seen Sunderland, despite all their instability, reel off their all-time best run of five wins in a row.

Most recently, the Mackems prevailed on Easter Sunday this year when Jermain Defoe scored the only goal with a fine volley just before half time.

Yes, that victory equalled the all-time record held by Newcastle when the black-and-whites had the fortune of taking on two embarrassingly poor teams from Wearside between 2002 and 2006.

This time, on home turf - and with a potential new manager bounce - bookmakers' favourites Sunderland will strongly favour themselves to break the record.

For there can be no doubt that a new manager has assisted the Black Cats in their recent run of derby success.

Incredibly, Allardyce's predecessors Paulo di Canio, Gus Poyet, and Dick Advocaat all beat Newcastle in only their second respective games in charge of Sunderland - and this will also be Allardyce's second match.

A proud man - though many would say an equally vainglorious one - he would dearly love to be added to that list, and use it as a springboard to guide Sunderland to safety.

After all, he has his own record to protect - that of having never been relegated in more than 20 years of management.

Indeed, he retains a very high opinion of himself, claiming he still envisages himself one day taking charge of England, a position which was denied to him in 2006.

Coincidentally, it was McClaren who got the nod as national team boss instead - though his reign ended in defeat and humiliation, with a failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

Now, McClaren - via Holland, Germany, Nottingham Forest, Holland again, and Derby County - has arrived at Newcastle and prepared for his first Wear-Tyne derby by sending an email to supporters.

"I don't need reminding that we have lost the last five derbies and for everyone associated with the club that is simply unbearable," McClaren wrote. 

"It wasn't so long ago that we won five in row and we are desperately keen and hugely motivated to turn the tide and bring the points back to Tyneside. 

"The atmosphere is always incredible and I think unique to the North East and we have to go there, stand up and be counted. There’s no question that our players understand what it means to win the derby."

Of course, McClaren has been able to approach the build-up to this match from an unfamiliar position of strength following the performance last Sunday.

For, while the three points against the Canaries did not take Newcastle out of the bottom three, the six goals tempered a swirling sense of discontent which a winless run inevitably brings. 

Additionally, McClaren seems to be settling on a more consistent selection, particularly up front where new signing Aleksandr Mitrovic and Spanish whizz-kid Ayoze Perez look a troublesome pairing. 

Indeed, Mitrovic could end up being the most important player on the pitch - but only provided he stays on it, of course. 

Unfortunately, for Newcastle, there can be no guarantee of that especially if the Serbian is as easily wound up in a hostile atmosphere as he was in his first few games in England which included a sending off against Arsenal

He has given his assurances, though - and so Sunderland may have to look elsewhere if they are to damage Newcastle 

That will likely mean targeting a shaky defence with Allardyce-style direct play - for, even in the fine win against Norwich, the Magpies' rearguard struggled at times. 

Also, Dutch keeper Tim Krul has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a severe knee injury sustained on international duty leaving Rob Elliott between the sticks. 

But, equally, Sunderland have struggled at the back this term, both teams having conceded 19 times in their nine games so far. 

Goals should be expected then - however, this will surely be a tighter, scrappier affair with the winning team, if there is one, succeeding only by a single goal.

It promises, as ever, to be a tense - though hopefully trouble-free - couple of hours.

224Sunderland 504953 Newcastle United222

104Sunderland 252821 Newcastle United97



14-Apr-2013won 3-0 (a) (Sessegnon, Johnson, Vaughan)

   24-Feb-2002won 1-0 (a) (Dabizas)

27-Oct-2013won 2-1 (h) (Fletcher, Borini)

21-Sep-2002won 2-0 (h) (Bellamy, Shearer)

01-Feb-2014won 3-0 (a) (Borini (p), Johnson, Colback)

26-Apr-2003won 1-0 (a) (Solano (p))

21-Dec-2014won 1-0 (a) (Johnson)

23-Oct-2005won 3-2 (h) (Ameobi 2, Emre)

05-Apr-2015won 1-0 (h) (Defoe)

17-Apr-2006won 4-1 (a) (Chopra, Shearer (p), N'Zgobia, Luque)

SEASON 2015/2016 SO FAR

P9 W0 D3 L6 F8 A19 Pts 3
Top scorer: Defoe, Fletcher, Lens (2) 

P9 W1 D3 L5 F12 A19 Pts 6
Top scorer: Wijnaldum (6) 

08-AugLeicester City (A)2-419th   09-AugSouthampton (H)2-27th
15-AugNorwich City (H)1-320th15-AugSwansea City (A)0-215th
22-AugSwansea City (H)1-120th
22-AugManchester United (A)0-016th
29-AugAston Villa (A)2-220th
29-AugArsenal (H)0-118th
13-SepTottenham Hotspur (H)0-120th
14-SepWest Ham United (A)0-220th
19-SepAFC Bournemouth (A)0-220th
19-SepWatford (H)1-219th
26-SepManchester United (A)0-320th
26-SepChelsea (H)2-219th
03-OctWest Ham United (H)2-219th
03-OctManchester City (A)1-620th
17-OctWest Bromwich Albion (A)0-120th
18-OctNorwich City (H)6-218th

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

RWC15: Grim up north, glorious down south


Sat 17-OctSOUTH AFRICA23-19WALESTwickenham
4pmT: du Preez
P: Pollard 6

T: G Davies
P: Biggar 3
C: Biggar
DG: Biggar

Sat 17-Oct NEW ZEALAND62-13FRANCECardiff
8pm T: Retallick, Milner-Skudder,
Savea 3, Kaino, Read, Kerr-Barlow 2
P: Carter
C: Carter 7

T: Picamoles
P: Spedding, Parra
C: Parra

Sun 18-OctIRELAND20-43ARGENTINACardiff
1pmT: Fitzgerald, Murphy
P: Madigan 2
C: Madigan 2

T: Moroni, Imhoff 2, Tuculet
P: Sanchez 5
C: Sanchez 4

Sun 18-OctAUSTRALIA35-34SCOTLANDTwickenham
4pmT: Ashley-Cooper, Mitchell 2,
Hooper, Kuridrani
P: Foley 2
C: Foley 2

T: Horne, Seymour, Bennett
P: Laidlaw 5
C: Laidlaw

SCOTLAND suffered Rugby World Cup heartbreak as a controversial late Australia penalty confirmed an all-southern hemisphere semi final line-up for the first time ever.

Bernard Foley kicked the three points to give the Wallabies a 34-32 victory - but, in a rare move, governing body World Rugby has since admitted South African referee Craig Joubert got his decision wrong.

Originally, Joubert gave the penalty after ruling Scottish prop Jon Welsh was ruled deliberately offside for playing the ball after a knock-on by a team-mate.

Instead, though, Australia should have only had a scrum for the knock-on as their scrum-half Nick Phipps had also touched the ball before Welsh.

Unfortunately, the situation has now got rather messy with Joubert being somewhat hung out to dry despite the rules of the game preventing him from referring the incident to the television match official.

Indeed, it is a shame that such an unexpectedly thrilling close contest will now likely only be truly remembered for a single moment in it.

Elsewhere in the quarter finals, Wales fell similarly just short against South Africa, despite having led 13-12 at half time and 19-18 with five minutes left in a thriller at Twickenham.

But, just as it looked as if the Welsh might hold out against immense pressure from the Springboks, Fourie du Preez's ran off the back of a scrum to score a match-winning try.

Later that evening, France were humiliated by a rampant New Zealand performance featuring nine tries - before, on Sunday afternoon, Argentina shocked an Ireland team ravaged by injuries.

Undoubtedly, that defeat would have still come as a hell of a shock for an Irish outfit which had won the last two Six Nations Championships and were generally considered the north's best chance of deep progress in this competition.

Then again, the Pumas have now won three of their four World Cup matches against Ireland who themselves have never made it beyond the last eight.

By contrast, Sunday will see Argentina play their second World Cup semi final following 37-13 defeat to South Africa in 2007 after which the South Americans applied to join the Six Nations Championship.

The application was flatly rejected and, five years later, the Argentines instead joined up with the big three southern hemisphere giants in what is now called the Rugby Championship.

There, the Pumas have found it tough going at times, winning just twice and finishing bottom in three of the four years in which they have competed.

Nevertheless, the regular exposure to the highest level of rugby in the world certainly seems to have improved their game - as Joe Schmidt's Ireland found to their cost.

Of course, the biggest failure from the north still undoubtedly lies with the hosts England.

Hoping at the very least for a glorious Euro 96-style failure in the semi finals, which nevertheless won the heart of the nation, England instead fell to successive devastating defeats to Wales and Australia.

Consequently, they became the first ever host nation to go out of its own World Cup in the Pool stages.

Somehow, for now, head coach Stuart Lancaster remains in position ahead of an official review which has been requested by Rugby Football Union chief Bill Beaumont.

Already, though, the reputation of the whole of this coaching set-up surely cannot be recovered.

In terms of selection, there has been little consistency with the worst of the confusion in centre pairing as England reverted to conservatism over flair.

On top of this, there was also the decidedly ill-thought-out - and possibly even pig-headed - policy of refusing to pick players currently playing outside of England. It was something which left a world-class player in Steffon Armitage sitting in France.

And, indeed, it was amidst this mess that skipper Chris Robshaw demonstrated totally muddled thinking when he opted to kick to the corner rather than the posts in the dying minutes of the match against Wales.

Unflustered fly-half Owen Farrell had, after all, produced an infallible performance off the tee and those likely three points would have kept England in their own tournament at the expense of the Welsh.

So the only forgivable reasoning behind Robshaw's decision to head for the corner came from a misguided attempt to repeat Japan's thrilling win over South Africa on the opening weekend.

In that match, Japan - trailing by three points - somehow won their first Rugby World Cup game for 24 years after turning down the chance of a draw by kicking for the corner.

Instead, Karne Hesketh crossed the line off the line-out to give the Cherry Blossoms a win - and assure World Cup infamy for this group of Japanese players.

The difference between the two situations was pretty stark, however.

While England were expected to challenge strongly on home turf for a second lift of the William Webb Ellis Cup, Japan were merely expected to put up a respectable showing ahead of their hosting of the next tournament in 2019.

Therefore, even though they were obviously losing on the pitch with seconds left, the Japanese - by pushing the Springboks so close - had already achieved their pre-tournament aim. They were effectively in a no-lose situation.

By contrast, England surely needed to take a purely pragmatic long-term view by not reducing their chances to a death-or-glory match against Australia. Any romanticism could come later, flushed with success.

Ironically then, it was ultimately Japan - and not England - who captured the heart of the host nation - and they were indeed desperately unlucky to be eliminated in the Pool stages.

The victim of rotten scheduling - their match against Scotland came only four days after that momentous win over South Africa - Japan were, in fact, the first ever team to go out at the Pool stage having won three matches.

Undoubtedly, the scheduling in this competition has left a lot to be desired - and the draw, which took place way back in December 2012, was also ridiculously early.

Otherwise, though, the organisers can consider the tournament to be a success with capacity crowds and lively fan parks enjoying games featuring all 20 of the teams.

The competitiveness of the Tier II nations is much improved with every team crossing the try-line and only one complete shut-out by South Africa against United States.

Inevitably, there have still been a few one-sided games but none has threatened to be a repeat of Australia 142-0 Namibia in 2003 or New Zealand 145-17 Japan in 1995. Yes, the Japanese have certainly come along way since then.

Naturally, none of this anaesthetises the pain felt by England, the hurt felt by France or go some way to solving the mystery of why Ireland never perform to their best at a World Cup.

Nor will it shine further light on still utterly unconvincing Tier I status of Italy - or soften the blow for the disappointed Welsh and the dejected Scots.

Instead, the final two weeks of the 2015 Rugby World Cup belong to the stronger south. Now for the biggest games in the rugby union calendar:

Sat 24-OctSOUTH AFRICA18-20NEW ZEALANDTwickenham
4pmP: Pollard 5, Lambie
T: Kaino, Barrett
P: Carter
C: Carter 2
DG: Carter

Sun 25-Oct ARGENTINA15-29AUSTRALIATwickenham
4pm P: Sanchez 5
T: Simmons, Ashley-Cooper 3
P: Foley
C: Foley 3

Friday, 18 September 2015

RWC15 preview: World in Union


Fri 18-SepENGLANDvFIJITwickenham
Sun 20-Sep WALESvURUGUAYCardiff
Wed 23-Sep AUSTRALIAvFIJICardiff
Sat 26-SepENGLANDvWALESTwickenham
Thu 01-OctWALESvFIJICardiff
Tue 06-Oct FIJIvURUGUAYMilton Keynes
Sat 10-OctAUSTRALIAvWALESTwickenham
Sat 10-OctENGLANDvURUGUAYManchester

Hosts England landed a genuine Group of Death after the ludicrously early World Cup draw pitched them against both Australia and third-rung Wales. Even England's opening opponents - fourth-rung Fiji, the Pacific Nations champions - are ranked ninth, ahead of all of the Pool B teams except South Africa.
The quarter final places, though, will be fought over by the aforementioned trio - and England coach Stuart Lancaster can take heart from successive wins against both primary opponents. But Australia - following a rough period under previous coach Ewen McKenzie - have staged a grand resurgence under new man Michael Cheika, even winning the Rugby Championship for the first time in four years after beating New Zealand in Sydney.

Instead, it is Wales who begin the campaign in some difficulty after ruled-out pair Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny suffered serious injuries in an unconvincing warm-up win over Italy. In such a tight section as this, those pre-tournament blows could prove to be the difference.

PREDICTION Australia - runners-up + England - semi finals

AUSTRALIA World ranking 2
Coach Michael Cheika
Captain Stephen Moore
Rest of squad 
Forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau; Greg Holmes, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Toby Smith; Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton; Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock.
Backs Will Genia, Nick Phipps; Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley; Kurtley Beale, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane; Israel Folau
World Cup best Winners 1991, 1999

ENGLAND World ranking 4
Coach Stuart Lancaster
Captain Chris Robshaw
Rest of squad
Forwards Kieran Brookes (Northampton), Dan Cole (Leicester), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath); Jamie George (Saracens), Rob Webber (Bath), Tom Youngs (Leicester); George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Geoff Parling (Exeter); James Haskell (Wasps), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton).
Backs Danny Care (Harlequins), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester);
Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath); Brad Barritt (Saracens), Sam Burgess (Bath), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter); Jonny May (Gloucester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Anthony Watson (Bath); Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens).
World Cup best Winners 2003

WALES World ranking 5
Coach Warren Gatland
Captain Sam Warburton
Rest of squad
Forwards Tomas Francis (Exeter), Paul James (Ospreys), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Samson Lee (Scarlets); Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets); Jake Ball (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing 92), Dominic Day (Bath), Bradley Davies (Wasps), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys); Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), James King (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
Backs Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro) Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Matthew Morgan (Bristol), Rhys Priestland (Bath); Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins), Scott Williams (Scarlets); Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), George North (Northampton), Eli Walker (Ospreys); Liam Williams (Scarlets)
World Cup best Third place 1987

FIJI World ranking 9
Coach John McKee
Captain Akapusi Qera
Rest of squad
Forwards Sunia Koto, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Viliame Veikoso; Lee Roy Atalifo, Isei Colati, Campese Ma'afu, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo; Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Api Ratuniyarawa, Nemia Soqeta; Sakiusa Masi Matadigo, Malakai Ravulo, Netani Talei, Dom Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato.
Backs Nemia Kenatale, Nikola Matawalu, Henry Seniloli; Joshua Matavesi, Ben Volavola; Levani Botia, Vereniki Goneva, Gabiriele Lovobalavu; Nemani Nadolo, Waisea Nayacalevu, Asaeli Tikoirotuma; Kini Murimurivalu, Metuisela Talebula.
World Cup best Quarter finals 1987, 2007

URUGUAY World ranking 19
Coach Pablo Lemoine
Captain Nicolás Klappenbach
Rest of squad
Forwards German Kessler; Carlos Arboleya, Alejo Corral, Oscar Duran, Mario Sagario, Mateo Sanguinetti; Franco Lamanna, Mathias Palomeque, Santiago Vilaseca, Jorge Zerbino; Agustin Alonso, Fernando Bascou, Matias Beer, Juan de Freitas, Juan Manuel Gaminara, Diego Magno, Alejandro Nieto.
Backs Alejo Duran, Agustin Ormaechea; Felipe Berchesi, Manuel Blengio; Joaquin Prada, Alberto Roman, Andres Vilaseca; Francisco Bulanti, Jeronimo Etcheverry, Santiago Gibernau, Leandro Leivas, Gaston Mieres, Rodrigo Silva.
World Cup best Pool stage 1999, 2003

Wed 23-SepSCOTLANDvJAPANGloucester
Sat 26-SepSOUTH AFRICAvSAMOABirmingham
Sat 03-OctSAMOAvJAPANMilton Keynes
Sat 10-OctSAMOAvSCOTLANDNewcastle

South Africa should breeze through Pool B with Samoa and Scotland battling it out for second place. At the time of the draw, Samoa were actually ranked above the Scots - but, while Vern Cotter's men endured another dreadful Six Nations in the spring, picking up the wooden spoon, his men can be assured there will still be plenty of support for them in the game between the two teams just over the border in Newcastle.
Of course, another interest aspect of this section is the presence of Japan, with the Cherry Blossoms - who feature several naturalised players - having never breached the Pool stages despite being ever-present at the finals. It would be a massive surprise if that was to change this time - but the 2019 hosts, at least at the time of writing, will want to produce a competitive showing in all of their games.

PREDICTION South Africa - quarter finals + Scotland - quarter finals

SOUTH AFRICA World ranking 3
Coach Heyneke Meyer
Captain Jean de Villiers
Rest of squad
Forwards Schalk Brits, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss; Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen; Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield; Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs Fourie du Preez, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar; Pat Lambie, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn; Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel; Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen; Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux.
World Cup best Winners 1995, 2007

SAMOA World ranking 12
Coach Stephen Betham
Captain Ofisa Treviranus
Rest of squad
Forwards Ole Avei, Manu Leiataua, Motu Matu'u; Viliamu Afatia, Jake Grey, Logovi'i Mulipola, Anthony Perenise, Sakaria Taulafo; Fa'atiga Lemalu, Filo Paulo, Joe Tekori, Kane Thompson; Maurie Fa'asavalu, Alafoti Faosiliva, Jack Lam, TJ Ioane, Sanele Vavae Tuilagi.
Backs Vavao Afemai, Kahn Fotualii; Patrick Fa'apale, Tusi Pisi, Michael Stanley; Rey Lee-Lo, Johnny Leota, Paul Perez, George Pisi; Fa'atoina Autagavaia, Ken Pisi, Alesana Tuilagi; Tim Nanai-Williams
World Cup best Quarter finals 1991, 1995

SCOTLAND World ranking 10
Coach Vern Cotter
Captain Greig Laidlaw
Rest of squad
Forwards Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons); Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh); Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors); David Denton (Edinburgh), John Hardie (unattached), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors).
Backs Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors); Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors); Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors); Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (London Irish), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Harlequins); Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors).
World Cup best Fourth place 1991

JAPAN World ranking 13
Coach Eddie Jones
Captain Michael Leitch
Rest of squad
Forwards Justin Ives, Shoji Ito, Keita Inagaki, Hitoshi Ono, Takeshi Kizu, Hendrik Tui, Luke Thompson, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Michael Broadhurst, Ryu Holani, Shota Horie, Shinya Makabe, Amanaki Mafi, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hiroki Yuhara.
Backs Craig Wing, Kosei Ono, Ayumu Goromaru, Male Sau, Harumichi Tatekawa, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yu Tamura, Toshiaki Hirose, Atsushi Hiwasa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yoshikazu Fujita, Karne Hesketh, Kotaro Matsushima, Akihito Yamada
World Cup best Pool stage 1987-2011 (seven times)

UNITED STATES World ranking 15
Coach Mike Tolkin
Captain Chris Wyles
Rest of squad
Forwards Danny Barrett, Chris Baumann, Cameron Dolan, Andrew Durutalo, Zach Fenoglio, Eric Fry, Olive Kilifi, Titi Lamositele, Scott LaValla, Samu Manoa, Al McFarland, Matekitonga Moeakiola, Greg Peterson, John Quill, Louis Stanfill, Joe Taufete'e, Phil Thiel, Hayden Smith.
Backs Seamus Kelly, Niko Kruger, AJ MacGinty, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Folau Niua, Thretton Palamo, Mike Petri, Blaine Scully, Andrew Suniula, Shalom Suniula, Zack Test, Brett Thompson
World Cup best Pool stage 1987-1991, 1999-2011 (six times)

Sat 19-SepTONGAvGEORGIAGloucester
Thu 24-SepNEW ZEALANDvNAMIBIAOlympic Stadium
Sun 04-OctARGENTINAvTONGALeicester
Fri 09-OctNEW ZEALANDvTONGANewcastle

Defending champions New Zealand could not have hand-picked a better Pool draw with their main opponents Argentina having never come close to beating them since they turned the Tri Nations into the Rugby Championship in 2012. Indeed, Pool C will surely simply give Kiwi winger Julian Savea the perfect opportunity to add to his amazing record of 30 international tries in only 35 caps.
Argentina should still make it through to the last eight ahead of Tonga, Georgia and Namibia who, over the years, have made a combined 13 previous attempts of getting through the Pool Stage - all without success. Namibia, in fact, have lost all 15 of their finals games - but, while the Africans worry about the margin of their defeats, the awesome All Blacks' only concern will be the lack of a top class opponent ahead of the knockout stage.

PREDICTION New Zealand - champions + Argentina - quarter finals

NEW ZEALAND World ranking 1
Coach Steve Hansen
Captain Richie McCaw
Rest of squad
Forwards Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor.
Backs Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow
World Cup best Winners 1987, 2011

ARGENTINA World ranking 8
Coach Daniel Hourcade
Captain Agustín Creevy
Rest of squad
Forwards Julian Montoya; Marcos Ayerza, Matias Diaz, Ramiro Herrera, Lucas Noguera Paz, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro; Matias Alemanno, Mariano Galarza, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti; Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Facundo Isa, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega, Leonardo Senatore.
Backs Tomas Cubelli, Martin Landajo; Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Nicolas Sanchez; Marcelo Bosch, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Juan Martin Hernandez, Matias Moroni, Juan Pablo Socino; Horacio Agulla, Santiago Cordero, Juan Imhoff; Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Joaquin Tuculet.
World Cup best Third place 2007

TONGA World ranking 11
Coach Mana Otai
Captain Nili Latu
Rest of squad
Forwards Tevita Mailau, Alisona Taumalolo, Soane Tonga'uiha, Halani Aulika, Sila Puafisi, Elvis Taione, Paula Ngauamo, Aleki Lutui, Tukulua Lokotui, Joseph Tuineau, Steve Mafi, Opeti Fonua, Hale T-Pole, Jack Ram, Viliami Ma'afu, Sione Kalamafoni, Uili Kolo'ofai.
Backs Sonatane Takulua, Samisoni Fisilau, Sosefo Ma'ake, Kurt Morath, Latiume Fosita, Sione Piukala, Siale Piutau, Viliame Tahitu'a, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Telusa Veainu, Tevita Halaifonua, William Helu, Vungakoto Lilo.
World Cup best Pool stage 1987, 1995-2011 (six times)

GEORGIA World ranking 16
Coach Milton Haig
Captain Mamuka Gorgodze
Rest of squad
Forwards Mikheil Nariashvili, Kakha Asieshvili, Simon Maisuradze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, David Zirakashvili, Dudu Kubriashvili, Levan Chilachava, Giorgi Chkhaidze, Levan Datunashvili, Giorgi Nemsadze, Kote Mikautadze, Shalva Sutiashvili, Vito Kolelishvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Lasha Lomidze.
Backs Merab Kvirikashvili, Beka Tsiklauri, Giorgi Aptsiauri, Sandro Todua, Tamaz Mtchedlidze, Muraz Giorgadze, Giorgi Pruidze, David Katcharava, Merab Sharikadze, Lasha Malaghuradze, Lasha Khmaladze, Giorgi Begadze, Vazha Khutsishvili, Vasil Lobzhanidze.
World Cup best Pool stage 2003, 2007, 2011

NAMIBIA World ranking 20
Coach Phil Davies
Captain Jacques Burger
Rest of squad
Forwards Johannes Coetzee, AJ de Klerk, Jaco Engels, Raoul Larson, Johnnie Redelinghuys, Casper Viviers, Louis van der Westhuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Janco Venter, Tjiuee Uanivi, Renaldo Bothma, Wian Conradie, Leneve Damens, Tinus du Plessis, Rohan Kitshoff, PJ van Lill.
Backs Eneill Buitendag, Eugene Jantjies, Damien Stevens, Theuns Kotzè, Darryl de La Harpe, Johan Deysel, JC Greyling, Danie van Wyk, Conrad Marais, David Philander, Heinrich Smith, Russell van Wyk, Chrysander Botha, Johan Tromp.
World Cup best Pool stage 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011

Sat 19-Sep FRANCEvITALYTwickenham
Wed 23-SepFRANCEvROMANIAOlympic Stadium
Thu 01-OctFRANCEvCANADAMilton Keynes
Sun 04-OctIRELANDvITALYOlympic Stadium
Tue 06-Oct CANADAvROMANIALeicester

Winning Pool D is paramount as the runner-up is likely to be eliminated in the quarter finals anyway against New Zealand. As such, this section looks pretty much like a straight playoff between Ireland and France - with their match held on the final day of the group matches at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The French have more World Cup pedigree, despite never having won the tournament - in fact, with the unenviable record of having finished runners-up on three separate occasions, France (along with the All Blacks) have played more World Cup games than any other team. By contrast, Ireland, who have never gone beyond the last eight, have what perhaps really matters now, however - and that is the best form from the Northern Hemisphere over the past two years. That form has brought the Irish successive Six Nations titles while Les Bleus have floundered in the bottom half of the table for the last four years.
Another Six Nations competitor, Italy, will still be some way off the pace - indeed, with their ranking now down to 14th, the Azzurri will simply be hoping to avoid an upset against Canada or Romania.

PREDICTION France - quarter finals + Ireland - semi finals

FRANCE World ranking 7
Coach Phillipe Saint-Andre
Captain Thierry Dusautoir
Rest of squad
Forwards Guilhem Guirado, Benjamin Kayser, Dimitri Szarzewski; Uini Atonio, Eddy Ben Arous, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Rabah Slimani; Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape; Damien Chouly, Bernard le Roux, Yannick Nyanga, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles.
Backs Rory Kockott, Morgan Parra, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Frederic Michalak, Remi Tales; Mathieu Bastareaud, Alexandre Dumoulin, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana; Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget, Noa Nakaitaci; Brice Dulin, Scott Spedding.
World Cup best Runners-up 1987, 1999, 2011

IRELAND World ranking 6
Coach Joe Schmidt
Captain Paul O'Connell (Munster)
Rest of squad
Forwards Tadgh Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht); Rory Best (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster); Iain Henderson (Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster); Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster).
Back Conor Murray (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster); Darren Cave (Ulster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jared Payne (Ulster); Tommy Bowe (Ulster), Keith Earls (Munster), Dave Kearney (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster); Rob Kearney (Leinster).
World Cup best Quarter finals 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011

ITALY World ranking 14
Coach Jacques Brunel
Captain Sergio Parisse
Rest of squad
Forwards Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Andrea Manici; Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dario Chistolini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo; Valerio Bernabo, Joshua Furno, Marco Fuser, Quintin Geldenhuys; Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto, Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni.
Backs Edoardo Gori, Guglielmo Palazzani, Marcello Violi; Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna; Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Garcia; Angelo Esposito, Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti; Andrea Masi, Luke McLean.
World Cup best Pool stage 1987-2011 (seven times)

CANADA World ranking 18
Coach Kieran Crowley
Captain Tyler Ardron
Rest of squad
Forwards Ray Barkwill. Aaron Carpenter, Benoit Piffero; Hubert Buydens, Jason Marshall, Djustice Sears-Duru, Andrew Tiedemann, Doug Wooldridge; Brett Beukeboom, Jamie Cudmore, Evan Olmstead; Nanyak Dala, Kyle Gilmour, John Moonlight, Jebb Sinclair, Richard Thorpe.
Backs Phil Mack, Jamie Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie; Nathan Hirayama, Liam Underwood; Nick Blevins, Connor Braid, Ciaran Hearn, Conor Trainor; Jeff Hassler, Phil Mackenzie, DTH van der Merwe; Matt Evans, Harry Jones.
World Cup best Quarter finals 1991

ROMANIA World ranking 17
Coach Lynn Howells
Captain Mihai Macovei
Rest of squad
Forwards Paulica Ion, Mihaita Lazar, Andrei Ursache, Alexandru Tarus, Horatiu Pungea, Andrei Radoi, Otar Turashvili, Eugen Capatana, Valentin Popirlan, Johannes van Heerden, Marius Antonescu, Valentin Ursache, Viorel Lucaci, Stelian Burcea, Ovidiu Tonita, Daniel Carpo.
Backs Florin Surugiu, Valentin Calafeteanu, Tudorel Bratu, Danut Dumbrava, Michael Wiringi, Paula Kinikilau, Florin Vlaicu, Csaba Gal, Adrian Apostol, Ionut Botezatu, Florin Ionita, Madalin Lemnaru, Catalin Fercu, Sabin Stratila.
World Cup best Pool stage 1987-2011 (seven times)

RWC15: Results sheet



(Q) AUSTRALIA40141351717
(Q) WALES31111621113

Fri 18-SepENGLAND35-11FIJITwickenham
8pmT: pen, Brown 2, B Vunipola
P: Ford 2, Farrell
C: Ford, Farrell 2

T: Nadolo
P: Nadolo, Volavola

Sun 20-Sep WALES54-9URUGUAYCardiff
2.30pm T: Allen 3, Lee, Amos,
Davies 2, Tipuric
C: Priestland 7

P: Berchesi 3
Wed 23-SepAUSTRALIA28-13FIJICardiff
4.45pmT: Pocock 2, Kepu
P: Foley 3
C: Foley 2

T: Volavola
P: Nadolo 2
C: Nadolo

Sat 26-SepENGLAND25-28WALESTwickenham
8pmT: May
P: Farrell 5
C: Farrell
DG: Farrell

T: G Davies
P: Biggar 7

C: Biggar

Sun 27-SepAUSTRALIA65-3URUGUAYBirmingham
12noonT: McMahon 2, Tomane, Mumm, Speight,
McCalman 2, Mitchell 2, Toomua,
C: Cooper 5

P: Berchesi 3
Thu 01-OctWALES23-13FIJICardiff
4.45pmT: G Davies, Baldwin
P: Biggar 3
C: Biggar 2

T: Goneva
P: Volavola 2
C: Volavola
Sat 03-OctENGLAND13-33AUSTRALIATwickenham
8pmT: Watson
P: Farrell 2
C: Farrell

T: Foley 2, Giteau
P: Foley 4
C: Foley 3

Tue 06-Oct FIJI47-15URUGUAYMilton Keynes
8pmT: pen 2, Kenatale, Nakarawa,
Cavubati, Murimurivalu, Nadolo
C: Nadolo 6

T: Arboleya, Ormaechea
P: Duran
C: Ormaechea

Sat 10-OctAUSTRALIA15-6WALESTwickenham
4.45pmP: Foley 5
P: Biggar 2
Sat 10-OctENGLAND60-3URUGUAYManchester
8pmT: Watson 2, Easter 3, Slade,
Nowell 3, pen
C: Ford 2, Farrell 3

P: Berchesi


(Q) SOUTH AFRICA31176562316
(Q) SCOTLAND31136931414

Sat 19-SepSOUTH AFRICA32-34JAPANBrighton
4.45pmT: Louw, du Plessis,
de Jager, Strauss
P: Lambie, Pollard
C: Lambie 2, Pollard

T: Leitch, Goromaru, Hesketh
Goromaru 5

C: Goromaru 2 

Sun 20-Sep SAMOA25-16UNITED STATESBrighton
12noon T: Nanai-Williams, Treviranus
Pisi 4, Stanley

T: Wyles, Baumann
P: MacGinty 2

Wed 23-SepSCOTLAND45-10JAPANGloucester
2.30pmT: Hardie, Bennett 2, Seymour,
P: Laidlaw 4
C: Laidlaw 4

T: Mafi
P: Goromaru
C: Goromaru

Sat 26-SepSOUTH AFRICA46-6SAMOABirmingham
4.45pmT: Pietersen 3, Burger, Brits, Habana
P: Pollard 4
C: Pollard, Lambie

P: Stanley 2
2.30pmT: Visser, Maitland, Nel,
Scott, Weir
P: Hogg, Russell
C: Russell, Laidlaw 3

T: Lamositele
P: MacGinty 3
C: MacGinty

Sat 03-OctSAMOA5-26JAPANMilton Keynes
2.30pmT: Perez
T: pen, Yamada
P: Goromaru 4
C: Goromaru 2

Sat 03-OctSOUTH AFRICA34-16SCOTLANDNewcastle
4.45pmT: Burger, Pietersen, Habana
P: Pollard 4
C: Pollard 2
DG: Pollard

T: Seymour
P: Laidlaw 2, Weir
C: Laidlaw

Wed 07-Oct SOUTH AFRICA64-0UNITED STATESOlympic Stadium
4.45pmT: De Allende, pen, Habana 3,
Du Plessis, Louw 2, Kriel, Mvovo
C: Pollard 4, Steyn 3

Sat 10-OctSAMOA33-36SCOTLANDNewcastle
2.30pmT: T Pisi, Leiataua, Lee-Lo, Matu'u 
P: T Pisi 3
C: T Pisi, Faapale 

T: Seymour, Hardie, Laidlaw
P: Laidlaw 5
C: Laidlaw 3

Sun 11-OctUNITED STATES18-28JAPANGloucester
8pmT: Ngwenya, Wyles
P: MacGinty 2

C: MacGinty

T: Matsushima, Fujita, Mafi
P: Goromaru 3
C: Goromaru 2


(Q) NEW ZEALAND40174492519
(Q) ARGENTINA31179702215

Sat 19-SepTONGA10-17GEORGIAGloucester
12noonT: Vainikolo
P: Morath
C: Morath

T: Gorgodze, Tkhilaishvili 
P: Kvirikashvili
C: Kvirikashvili 2

4.45pm T: A Smith, Cane
P: Carter 4
C: Carter 2

T: Petti
P: Sanchez 3
C: Sanchez

Thu 24-SepNEW ZEALAND58-14NAMIBIAOlympic Stadium
8pmT: Vito, Milner-Skudder 2, Fekitoa,
Barrett, Savea 2, B Smith, Taylor
P: Barrett
C: Barrett 5

T: Deysel
P: Kotze 3

Fri 25-SepARGENTINA54-9GEORGIAGloucester
4.45pmT: Lavanini, Cubelli, Imhoff 2,
Cordero 2, Landajo
P: Sanchez 2
C: Sanchez 3, Bosch 2
DG: Sanchez

P: Kvirikashvili 3
Tue 29-SepTONGA35-21NAMIBIAExeter
4.45pmT: Veainu 2, Ram 2, Fosita
P: Lilo, Morath
C: Lilo 2

T: Tromp, Burger 2
C: Kotze 3

Fri 02-OctNEW ZEALAND43-10GEORGIACardiff
8pmT: Naholo, Savea 3, Coles, Read,
C: Carter 4
T: Tsiklauri
P: Malaghuradze
C: Malaghuradze

Sun 04-OctARGENTINA45-16TONGALeicester
2.30pmT: Tuculet, Imhoff, Sanchez,
Montoya, Cordero
P: Sanchez
C: Sanchez

T: Morath, Tonga'uiha
P: Morath 2

Wed 07-OctNAMIBIA16-17GEORGIAExeter
8pmT: Kotze
P: Kotze 3
C: Kotze

T: Gorgodze, Malaguradze
P: Kvirikashvili 2
C: Kvirikashvili 

Fri 09-OctNEW ZEALAND47-9TONGANewcastle
8pmT: B Smith, Woodcock, Milner-Skudder 2
Williams, Cane, Nonu
C: Carter 6

P: Morath 3
Sun 11-OctARGENTINA64-19NAMIBIALeicester
12noonT: Hernandez, Moroni,
Agulla, Matera, Noguera,
Alemanno, Senatore, Montoya, Cubelli
P: Gonzalez Iglesias
C: Gonzalez Iglesias 4, Socino 4

T: Tromp, Greyling, Jantjies
C: Kotze 2


(Q) IRELAND40134351618
(Q) FRANCE31120631214

Sat 19-SepIRELAND50-7CANADACardiff
2.30pmT: O'Brien, Henderson, Sexton,
Kearney 2, Cronin, Payne
P: Sexton
C: Sexton 3, Madigan 3

T: van der Merwe
C: Hirayama

Sat 19-Sep FRANCE32-10ITALYTwickenham
8pm T: Slimani, Mas
P: Michalak 5, Spedding
C: Michalak 2

T: Venditti
P: Allan
C: Allan 

Wed 23-SepFRANCE38-11ROMANIAOlympic Stadium
8pmT: Guitoune 2, Nyanga, Fofana,
P: Parra
C: Parra 3, Kockott 2

T: Radoi
P: Vlaicu 2

Sat 26-SepITALY23-18CANADALeeds
2.30pmT: Rizzo, Garcia
P: Allan 3
C: Allan 2

T: van der Merwe, Evans
P: Hirayama 2
C: Hirayama

Sun 27-SepIRELAND44-10ROMANIAWembley
4.45pmT: Bowe 2, Earls 2,
R Kearney, Henry
P: Madigan 2
C: Madigan 4

T: Tonita
P: Calafeteanu
C: Vlaicu

Thu 01-OctFRANCE41-18CANADAMilton Keynes
8pmT: Fofana, Guirado, Slimani,
Pape, Grosso
P: Michalak 2
C: Michalak 4, Para

T: van der Merwe, Carpenter
P: Hirayama 2
C: Hirayama
Sun 04-OctIRELAND16-9ITALYOlympic Stadium
4.45pmT: Earls
P: Sexton 3

P: Allan 3
Tue 06-Oct CANADA15-17ROMANIALeicester
4.45pmT: van der Merwe, Hassler
P: McRorie
C: Hirayama

T: Macovei 2
P: Vlaicu
C: Vlaicu 2

Sun 11-OctITALY32-22ROMANIAExeter
2.30pmT: Sarto, Gori, Allan, Zanni
P: Allan 2
C: Allan 3

T: Apostol 2, Popirlan
P: Vlaicu
C: Vlaicu 2

Sun 11-OctFRANCE9-24IRELANDCardiff
4.45pmP: Spedding 2, Parra
T: R Kearney, Murray
P: Sexton 2, Madigan 2
C: Madigan

Sat 17-OctSOUTH AFRICA23-19WALESTwickenham
4pmT: du Preez
P: Pollard 6

T: G Davies
P: Biggar 3
C: Biggar
DG: Biggar

Sat 17-Oct NEW ZEALAND62-13FRANCECardiff
8pm T: Retallick, Milner-Skudder,
Savea 3, Kaino, Read, Kerr-Barlow 2
P: Carter
C: Carter 7

T: Picamoles
P: Spedding, Parra
C: Parra

Sun 18-OctIRELAND20-43ARGENTINACardiff
1pmT: Fitzgerald, Murphy
P: Madigan 2
C: Madigan 2

T: Moroni, Imhoff 2, Tuculet
P: Sanchez 5
C: Sanchez 4

Sun 18-OctAUSTRALIA35-34SCOTLANDTwickenham
4pmT: Ashley-Cooper, Mitchell 2,
Hooper, Kuridrani
P: Foley 2
C: Foley 2

T: Horne, Seymour, Bennett
P: Laidlaw 5
C: Laidlaw

Sat 24-OctSOUTH AFRICA18-20NEW ZEALANDTwickenham
4pmP: Pollard 5, Lambie
T: Kaino, Barrett
P: Carter
C: Carter 2

DG: Carter

Sun 25-Oct ARGENTINA15-29AUSTRALIATwickenham
4pm P: Sanchez 5
T: Simmons, Ashley-Cooper 3
P: Foley
C: Foley 3

Fri 30-OctSOUTH AFRICA24-13ARGENTINAOlympic Stadium
8pmT: Pietersen, Etzebeth
P: Pollard 4
C: Pollard

T: Orlandi
P: Sanchez
C: Sanchez
DG: Sanchez

Sat 31-OctNEW ZEALAND34-17AUSTRALIATwickenham
4pmT: Milner-Skudder, Nonu, Barrett
P: Carter 4
C: Carter 2

T: Pocock, Kuridrani
P: Foley
C: Foley 2