Looking ahead to Week 2 at the World Cup (Part 2)
Following France’s laboured victory over Uruguay the other night, and New Zealand’s clash with Namibia yesterday, here’s a look at what else is going on at the World Cup this weekend.
Samoa v Chile, Saturday 16th September, 2pm
First up on Saturday, we have the monstrous forwards of Samoa against the pluckiness of newcomers Chile. This will be Samoa’s first game at this World Cup, and in their last warm-up clash they pushed Ireland mightily close. They have a pack that brings size and reputation to the table – our player to watch is Theo McFarland. The Saracens lock/flanker is 6’6” and 18st 2lb, and his versatility to pack down in the engine room alongside Bristol’s Chris Vui allows for the dynamic duo of Taleni Junior Agaese Seu and Fritz Lee to flank Steven Luatua.
Head coach Seilala Mapusua has named nine returnees from Rugby World Cup 2019, including Christian Leali’ifano, who was top points scorer for Australia at that tournament. Alongside Luatua, and another ex-All Black in Lima Sopoaga, Samoa have a trio of players who have switched nations under World Rugby’s eligibility laws. Toulon full back Duncan Paia’aua made his debut for Samoa earlier this year and is the only player to have played every minute for them this season – he’s also chipped in with a couple of tries including one against Ireland. He’s one of seven France-based players in the 23.
Chile head coach Pablo Lemoine has made four changes to his side for this week’s match, introducing a new lock pairing of Pablo Huete and Santiago Pedrero, but perhaps the most surprising of those changes being the demotion of hooker Diego Escobar (and brother Alfonso) to the replacements bench. Diego featured in our Rugby Inside Line team of the round for Round One, after topping the stats for dominant collisions with seven, and being joint second for turnovers won, with three steals at the breakdown. His replacement at hooker, Tomas Dussaillant will make his World Cup debut, seven years after his international debut against Brazil.
The other Chilean to feature in our team of the round was scrum half Marcelo Torrealba – not a household name in this part of the world but has represented Chile Sevens, Austin Gilgronis in the MLR, and most recently Chile’s Selknam in the Super Liga Americana de Rugby. His two linebreak assists against Japan caught the eye, but he also made a team-high 17 carries and the second most gainline metres with 59, while also beating 3 defenders.
Samoa: 1. James Lay, 2. Seilala Lam, 3. Michael Alaalatoa ©, 4. Chris Vui, 5. Theo McFarland, 6. Taleni Junior Agaese Seu, 7. Fritz Lee, 8. Steven Luatua, 9. Jonathan Taumateine, 10. Christian Leali’ifano, 11. Nigel Ah-Wong, 12. Tumua Manu, 13. Ulupano Junior Seuteni, 14. Danny Toala, 15. Duncan Paia’aua.
Replacements: 16. Sama Malolo, 17. Jordan Lay, 18. Paul Alo-Emile, 19. Sam Slade, 20. Jordan Taufua, 21. Ereatara Enari, 22. Lima Sopoaga, 23. Ed Fidow
Chile: 1. Javier Carrasco, 2. Tomas Dussaillant, 3. Matias Dittus, 4. Pablo Huete, 5. Santiago Pedrero, 6. Martin Sigren ©, 7. Clemente Saavedra, 8. Raimundo Martinez, 9. Marcelo Torrealba, 10. Rodrigo Fernandez, 11. Jose Ignacio Larenas, 12. Matias Garafulic, 13. Domingo Saavedra, 14. Santiago Videla, 15. Inaki Ayarza.
Replacements: 16. Diego Escobar, 17. Salvador Lues, 18. Esteban Inostroza, 19. Javier Eissmann, 20. Alfonso Escobar, 21. Ignacio Silva, 22. Benjamin Videla, 23. Pablo Casas
Wales v Portugal, Saturday 16th September, 4.45pm
Wales looked like a troubled team on Sunday night, racing into a lead against Fiji then imploding. Some would say they were lucky to only get one yellow card for multiple infringements on their own try line, and had a late Fijian pass gone to hands, it could have been a very different result indeed. Add this to Wales’s poor recent form, and Dan Biggar’s foul-mouthed rant at his team-mates and the signs don’t look good.
Warren Gatland has rung the changes with only Taulupe Faletau and Louis Rees-Zammit retaining their places in the starting 15. Dewi Lake is named captain for the second time in just his third start for Wales, while at the other end of the experience scale, Leigh Halfpenny plays at his third World Cup, having previously appeared in 2011 and 2019. He becomes the oldest backline player for Wales at the World Cup, surpassing legend Shane Williams.
The half-back pairing of Tomos Williams and Gareth Anscombe have only featured as a partnership on four previous occasions, and not at all since November of last year. If there’s any weakness for Portugal to target, it could be this potential lack of cohesion. That being said, Williams is earning his 50th cap since his debut in 2018.
Another new partnership, in the forwards this time, is lock pairing Christ Tshiunza and Dafydd Jenkins of Exeter Chiefs. As a young and relatively inexperienced pair, they’ll rely on their club relationship to transfer to the world stage. Tshiunza is one of four players making his World Cup debut alongside Johnny Williams, Mason Grady and Dewi Lake.
Portugal return to the World Cup for the first time since 2007, and they are relying heavily on the players who brought them here. There are 19 survivors in the matchday squad from the 16-16 draw against USA which sealed their qualification last November in Dubai. Thirteen of the starting line up play their club rugby in France, but only one plays in the Top 14 – Perpignan hooker Mike Tadjer. The French connection doesn’t end there though with four players having represented France at various age-grades – Anthony Alves, Joris Moura, Steevy Cerqueira and Vincent Pinto. Pinto won the U20 World Championship with Les Bleus in 2019.
Players to watch include centre Tomas Appleton, who leads from the front. He has 62 caps, and took over the captaincy in 2019, with 10 of his 16 tries at test level coming since he took over the leadership. Rodrigo Marta on the wing has 8 tries in just 5 games this season, including a quadruple against Poland in the Rugby Europe Championship.
Wales: 1. Nicky Smith, 2. Dewi Lake ©, 3. Dillon Lewis, 4. Christ Tshiunza, 5. Dafydd Jenkins, 6. Dan Lydiate, 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Taulupe Faletau, 9. Tomos Williams, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 11. Rio Dyer, 12. Johnny Williams, 13. Mason Grady, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 15. Leigh Halfpenny.
Replacements: 16. Ryan Elias, 17. Corey Domachowski, 18. Tomas Francis, 19. Adam Beard, 20. Taine Basham, 21. Gareth Davies, 22. Sam Costelow, 23. Josh Adams
Portugal: 1. Francisco Fernandes, 2. Mike Tadjer, 3. Anthony Alves, 4. Jose Madeira, 5. Steevy Cerqueira, 6. Joao Granate, 7. Nicolas Martins, 8. Rafael Simoes, 9. Samuel Marques, 10. Jeronimo Portela, 11. Rodrigo Marta, 12. Tomas Appleton ©, 13. Jose Lima, 14. Vincent Pinto, 15. Nuno Sousa Guedes.
Replacements: 16. David Costa, 17. Lionel Campergue, 18. Diogo Hasse Ferreira, 19. Martim Belo, 20. David Wallis, 21. Pedro Lucas, 22. Joris Moura, 23. Raffaele Storti
Ireland v Tonga, Saturday 16th September, 8pm
Ireland’s demolition of Romania will have raised no eyebrows – they’re ranked number one for a reason, but this game against Tonga could still make history. Johnny Sexton’s 24-point haul means he’s now within 9 points of Ronan O’Gara’s Irish points record and has now overtaken him to become Ireland’s top World Cup points scorer, ahead of his retirement after the tournament.
There’s just four switches (plus two positional changes) for Ireland, when some may have expected more. Conor Murray comes in at scrum half alongside Sexton – it’s their 69th start together, extending their record. Mack Hansen returns in place of Keith Earls on the wing. In the forwards Ronan Kelleher comes in at hooker for Rob Herring while 2022 World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier comes into a back row with Peter O’Mahony and Caelan Doris. Tadhg Beirne goes back into the second row with the less experienced Joe McCarthy making way. Doris is the only player that has featured in every game for Ireland this year.
Bundee Aki remains in the centres after his rampage against Romania – 163 metres gained (including five line breaks) was just short of a new Irish record, after a joint record of 165m was set by Rob Kearney in 2011 and Geordan Murphy in 2007.
Perhaps the reason Ireland have fielded such a strong team is the fact Tonga will be no pushovers. Former New Zealand U20 prop Ben Tameifuna captains the side in a front row that also includes Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and hooker Paula Ngauamo. The trio packs down with a combined weight of 387kg. Tameifuna isn’t the only Tongan starter to have worn the black of New Zealand – number eight Vaea Fifita is a full All Black cap, alongside Augustine Pulu, Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa. Fekitoa could become just the second player to score for two nations at a World Cup, after Frank Bunce achieved that feat for Samoa and New Zealand.
Pulu’s inclusion at scrum half ahead of Sonatane Takulua may raise some eyebrows but it renews a partnership with William Havili that thrived on the 2022 tour of Romania. Takulua is on the bench though, bringing a wealth of experience with more than 50 caps, as well as having played the most minutes of any Tongan player this year. It’ll be his third World Cup. Also look out for another Fifita, Leva, in the second row.
Ireland: 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Ronan Kelleher, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Tadhg Beirne, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris, 9. Conor Murray, 10. Johnny Sexton, 11. James Lowe, 12. Bundee Aki, 13. Garry Ringrose, 14. Mack Hansen, 15. Hugo Keenan.
Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Dave Kilcoyne, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Craig Casey, 22. Ross Byrne, 23. Robbie Henshaw
Tonga: 1. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 2. Paula Ngauamo, 3. Ben Tameifuna ©, 4. Sam Lousi, 5. Leva Fifita, 6. Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7. Sione Talitui, 8. Vaea Fifita, 9. Augustine Pulu, 10. William Havili, 11. Solomone Kata, 12. Pita Ahki, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 14. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 15. Charles Piutau.
Replacements: 16. Sam Moli, 17. Tau Koloamatangi, 18. Sosefo Apikotoa, 19. Semisi Paea, 20. Solomone Funaki, 21. Sione Vailanu, 22. Sonatane Takulua, 23. Fine Inisi
South Africa v Romania, Sunday 17th September, 2pm
Against Scotland, South Africa showed why they are favourites to take home the trophy. Scotland weren’t anywhere near as bad as the scoreline suggests but the Springboks were just too physical, especially at scrum time. Scotland brought on a new front row in the second half and they were decimated time and time again. A big part of that scrum dominance, although Malcolm Marx will be missing as he was one of three big names ruled out of the World Cup through injury this week.
The big talking point in Jacques Nienaber’s team selection is the inclusion of four scrum halves. Cobus Reinach takes the 9 shirt from Faf de Klerk, who drops to the bench as fly half cover. Grant Williams starts on the wing, a position he has covered before in another showing of the versatility expected of modern players. Jaden Hendrikse is on the bench in a more familiar role – he’ll most likely bring fresh legs as Reinach’s replacement deep in the second half.
Damian Willemse is the only starter to remain from the Scotland clash, but features at fly half rather than full back this week, in a new partnership with Reinach at this level. Canan Moodie makes his World Cup debut alongside Harlequins’ Andre Esterhuizen in the centres. It will be just the second time Moodie has played at outside centre. Marvin Orie also makes his World Cup debut, packing down alongside Jean Kleyn in the absence of Eben Etzebeth.
Bongi Mbonambi starts at hooker with Marx injured, and his cover is Deon Fourie, ordinarily a back row but who played hooker in his younger years for the Springboks U19s. Fourie became South Africa’s oldest test debutant in the summer of 2022 at the age of 35, and is also in line for a World Cup debut if he comes on, along with Hendrikse.
Romania head coach Eugen Apjok has opted for experience once again with just three changes to the squad that were demolished by Ireland. Marius Iftimiciuc comes into the second row for Stefan Iancu, Taylor Gontineac replaces Fonovai Tangimana in the centres, while Andre Gorin becomes the 24th Romania player to make their World Cup debut in just over a week.
The highest capped players are prop Alexandru Gordas and number 8 Cristian Chirica who captains the side – they have 35 caps apiece but there are 323 caps amongst the starters. Florin Surugiu, Romania’s oldest and most experienced player at the World Cup is still not fit, so Gabriel Rupanu keeps his place at scrum half after scoring the nation’s fastest ever World Cup try last week. Hinckley Vaovasa also keeps his place outside Rupanu at fly half after beating eight defenders last week, which a joint high of the round.
South Africa: 1. Ox Nche, 2. Bongi Mbonambi ©, 3. Vincent Koch, 4. Jean Kleyn, 5. Marvin Orie, 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Kwagga Smith, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. Cobus Reinach, 10. Damian Willemse, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 13. Canan Moodie, 14. Grant Williams, 15. Willie Le Roux.
Replacements: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Trevor Nyakane, 19. RG Snyman, 20. Jasper Wiese, 21. Jaden Hendrikse, 22. Faf de Klerk, 23. Jesse Kriel
Romania: 1. Iulian Hartig, 2. Ovidiu Cojocaru, 3. Alexandru Gordas, 4. Adrian Motoc, 5. Marius Iftimiciuc, 6. Andre Gorin, 7. Vlad Neculau, 8. Cristian Chirica ©, 9. Gabriel Rupanu, 10. Hinckley Vaovasa, 11. Nicholas Onutu, 12. Taylor Gontineac, 13. Jason Tomane, 14. Tevita Manumua, 15. Marius Simionescu.
Replacements: 16. Robert Irimescu, 17. Alexandru Savin, 18. Thomas Cretu, 19. Stefan Iancu, 20. Damian Stratila, 21. Cristi Boboc, 22. Alin Conache, 23. Gabriel Pop
Australia v Fiji, Sunday 17th September, 4.45pm
Australia got the win against Georgia, but it wasn’t as convincing as the scoreline suggests. Before the tournament, I spoke about Ben Donaldson as being the only cover for Carter Gordon at fly half – Eddie Jones started both, and it could be the regular 10/15 axis for the Wallabies going forward. With 26 kicks from hand between them, they marshalled their team around the park, but they passed plenty too, only behind the two scrum halves for passes made. Donaldson also weighed in with 25 of the 35 points.
Jones is obviously cautious after Fiji almost overturned a huge deficit to steal a win against Wales, having only made three changes for this fixture. Taniela Tupou was another big name injury this week, he is replaced by the vastly experienced James Slipper. Slipper will be playing tighthead this week for just the third time in a Wallabies shirt, and the first since 2021. 75 of his caps have been on the opposite side of the scrum. Nic White is in at scrum half for Tate McDermott who suffered a head knock, meaning a White/Gordon partnership for the first time and Nick Frost comes into the second row.
There are five survivors from the 2019 meeting between these two sides at the World Cup. Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete and Jordan Uelese all played that day along with Slipper and White. Richie Arnold’s twin brother Rory also featured. Watch out for openside Fraser McReight who won two turnovers in Round One.
Fiji were perhaps the unluckiest of all on matchday one, falling short of Wales by just six points and having the opportunity to pull off a smash and grab in the last ten minutes, a knock on putting an end to their hopes as the clock went red. Some will say the Flying Fijians fell victim to some questionable refereeing, but while the inconsistencies across the weekend will certainly draw headlines, they had plenty of chances to put the game to bed. If Fiji can iron out the errors, this could be a huge banana skin for Australia.
The big name to watch out for is Levani Botia who slots in at flanker, with Albert Tuisue dropping to the bench.
Australia: 1. Angus Bell, 2. Dave Porecki, 3. James Slipper, 4. Nick Frost, 5. Will Skelton ©, 6. Tom Hooper, 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Nic White, 10. Carter Gordon, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. Jordan Petaia, 14. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 15. Ben Donaldson.
Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Blake Schoupp, 18. Zane Nonggorr, 19. Richie Arnold, 20. Rob Leota, 21. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 22. Lalakai Foketi, 23. Suliasi Vunivalu
Fiji: 1. Eroni Mawi, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Luke Tagi, 4. Isoa Nasilasila, 5. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 6. Lekima Tagitagivalu, 7. Levani Botia, 8. Viliame Mata, 9. Simione Kuruvoli, 10, Teti Tela, 11. Semi Radradra, 12. Josua Tuisova, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu ©, 14. Jiuta Wainiqolo, 15. Ilaisa Droasese.
Replacements: 16. Tevita Ikanivere, 17. Peni Ravai, 18. Mesake Doge, 19. Temo Mayanavanua, 20. Albert Tuisue, 21. Frank Lomani, 22. Vilimoni Botitu, 23. Vinaya Habosi
England v Japan, Sunday 17th September, 8pm
The final match of ‘Super Sunday’ sees two of Eddie Jones’s former teams face off. English media seemed to get a bit carried away after the win against Argentina, but we need to accept it was a below-par Pumas performance, and despite George Ford’s divine performance with the boot), realistically England posed little threat to the try line. Ford’s tally of drop goals matched an England record previously set by Jonny Wilkinson. Defensively they were solid though, with Ben Earl alone winning a turnover at the breakdown having hit ten defensive rucks. He’s now started five consecutive tests following his 15 caps from the bench.
Tom Curry misses out following his red card against Argentina which means a reshuffle in the back row. Ben Earl switches to openside with Lewis Ludlam at 8. Billy Vunipola, returning from his own ban, only makes the bench. It’s a double change for the props as well with Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler in for Ellis Genge and Dan Cole. While it’s changes up front, there’s consistency in the full back spot where Freddie Steward has started all 10 matches for England this year.
Jamie Joseph brings in his experienced guns with Shota Horie, Pieter Labuschagne, and captain Kazuki Himeno all returning after missing out against Chile. Tomoki Osada returns in the backs. A lot of this team featured against England in 2022 at Twickenham, a game England won comfortably, though Naoto Saito (Japan’s try scorer on that day) is only on the bench.
Michael Leitch is set to become Japan’s most capped World Cup player on 15 appearances, surpassing Luke Thompson. He was fantastic in defence against Chile, completing 15 of 16 tackle attempts, along with one breakdown steal, one tackle turnover and one lineout steal. He’ll play a big part if the Cherry Blossoms are to get anything against England.
England: 1. Joe Marler, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Ollie Chessum, 6. Courtney Lawes ©, 7. Ben Earl, 8. Lewis Ludlam, 9. Alex Mitchell, 10. George Ford, 11. Elliot Daly, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 13. Joe Marchant, 14. Jonny May, 15. Freddie Steward.
Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Ellis Genge, 18. Will Stuart, 19. George Martin, 20. Billy Vunipola, 21. Ben Youngs, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Ollie Lawrence
Japan: 1. Keita Inagaki, 2. Shota Horie, 3. Jiwon Gu, 4. Jack Cornelsen, 5. Amato Fakatava, 6. Michael Leitch, 7. Pieter Labuschagne, 8. Kazuki Himeno ©, 9. Yutaka Nagare, 10. Rikiya Matsuda, 11. Jone Naikabula, 12. Ryoto Nakamura, 13. Tomoki Osada, 14. Kotaro Matsushima, 15. Semisi Masirewa.
Replacements: 16. Atsushi Sakate, 17. Craig Millar, 18. Asaeli Ai Valu, 19. Warner Dearns, 20. Kanji Shimokawa, 21. Naoto Saito, 22. Dylan Riley, 23. Lomano Lemeki