Looking ahead to Week 3 at the World Cup (Part 2)
This World Cup week started with the proverbial game of two halves on Wednesday between Italy and Uruguay. Uruguay had the upper hand in the first half before a yellow card led to an Italian resurgence as they kept Los Teros pointless in the second half. France were just shy of a century against Namibia but did lose Antoine Dupont to a horrific injury. In this preview, we will be reviewing the games taking place today.
Georgia v Portugal, Saturday 23rd September, 1pm
World Cup matches are the only time most rugby fans will get to watch nations that fall outside of the Tier 1 category, and it’s always interesting when two of those lesser-seen countries face off against each other. Despite this, there is a clear difference between Georgia and Portugal. Georgia are regularly mentioned in conversations as to whether their improving performances merit inclusion in the Six Nations, while this is Portugal’s first World Cup appearance in 16 years.
The Georgians put on a brave display but ultimately fell short against Australia, and head coach Levan Maisahvili has rung the changes with over half his starting squad from that match being rotated. Logic dictates this is a tactical rotation as he saves the first-choice players for upcoming games against Fiji and Wales. But it’s not a team to be underestimated.
Giorgi Kveseladze and Nodar Cheishvili are both set to win their 50th caps, while Akaki Tabutsadze is an ever-present in the Georgia lineup this year – it’s 10 tries in 9 tests for him so far. The changes are equally split between the forwards and backs at four apiece, including a new prop pairing of Mikheil Nariashvili and Beka Gigashvili, who both play their club rugby in the Top 14. Further back, we see Vladimer Chachanidze in the second row, and Beka Saginadze at openside. Into the backs come Kveseladze and Alexander Todua but eyes will be on the relatively untested half-back partnership of Gela Aprasidze and Tedo Abzhanadze. They’ve played together on just seven previous occasions, and only once this year in a 40-8 victory over the Netherlands. Portugal will prove sterner opposition.
That being said, these two did meet in the final of the Rugby Europe Championship this year, and Georgia triumphed 38-11, with four of their five try scorers from that day being included this time around.
For Portugal, spirits will be high after Nicolas Martins scored Portugal’s first World Cup try since 2007 from an amazing no-look lineout move. There’s just four changes from what was a stout display against Wales. Diogo Hasse Ferreira and Jose Madeira come into the forward pack while Pedro Bettencourt starts at outside centre, and Raffaele Storti appears on the right wing instead of the banned Vincent Pinto.
After Martins’ try, there has still only been one back to ever score for Portugal at a World Cup. If there’s any chance of breaking that, it will surely be full-back Nuno Sousa Guedes who was dangerous with ball in hand against the Welsh and made the most metres in the Portugal squad.
Speaking of try scorers, Tomas Appleton scored Portugal’s only effort against Georgia in that defeat back in March, but 15 of the 23-man squad remain from that day.
Georgia: 1. Mikheil Nariashvili, 2. Shalva Mamukashvili, 3. Beka Gigashvili, 4. Vladimer Chachanidze, 5. Konstantine Mikautadze, 6. Tornike Jalagonia, 7. Beka Saginadze, 8. Beka Gorgadze, 9. Gela Aprasidze, 10. Tedo Abzhanadze, 11. Alexander Todua, 12. Merab Sharikadze ©, 13. Giorgi Kveseladze, 14. Akaki Tabutsadze, 15. Davit Niniashvili.
Replacements: 16. Tengizi Zamtaradze, 17. Guram Gogichashvili, 18. Guram Papidze, 19. Nodar Cheishvili, 20. Giorgi Tsutskiridze, 21. Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22. Luka Matkava, 23. Demur Tapladze
Portugal: 1. Francisco Fernandes, 2. Mike Tadjer, 3. Diogo Hasse Ferreira, 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. Pedro Bettencourt, 14. Raffaele Storti, 15. Nuno Sousa Guedes.
Replacements: 16. David Costa, 17. Lionel Campergue, 18. Anthony Alves, 19. Martim Belo, 20. David Wallis, 21. Thibault de Freitas, 22. Pedro Lucas, 23. Manuel Cardoso Pinto
England v Chile, Saturday 23rd September, 4.45pm
The big talking-point for England is the return of Owen Farrell from his ban – he starts at fly-half with George Ford, who has deputised brilliantly, dropping down to the bench. There is some debate over Borthwick’s decision but personally, it makes sense. Farrell gets game time against the easiest opposition in the group (on paper at least), while Ford gets a deserved rest ahead of tougher matches ahead. This match will be Farrell’s 44th as captain, meaning he moves to second in that particular list, behind Will Carling who led England on 59 occasions, and ahead of Chris Robshaw.
There are a number of World Cup debuts in the England squad this weekend, with Bevan Rodd, David Ribbans, Jack Willis, Max Malins, Henry Arundell and Jack Walker all set to play a part. Nobody can argue that these players deserve a chance, and it bodes well for the future of English rugby as they look towards 2027. Borthwick experiments too, with Marcus Smith starting at full-back for the first time after 19 tests at fly-half. It also displaces Freddie Steward who was building a long streak as starting full-back.
From looking to the future, to rekindling a long lost spark – Owen Farrell and Danny Care form a starting half-back partnership for the first time since 2014.
There are nine changes for Chile as head coach Pablo Lemoine looks to ensure his full squad gets to enjoy playing on the world’s biggest stage. Francisco Urroz will start at full-back eight years after making his international debut, while sevens star Benjamin Videla will make his first test start in the 15-a-side game after a replacement appearance against Samoa.
We should all be familiar with talented fly-half Rodrigo Fernandez by now, but look out for captain Martin Sigren, who plays his club rugby for Doncaster Knights, and outside centre Domingo Saavedra who has made the most dominant tackles for Chile at this World Cup.
England: 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Theo Dan, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. David Ribbans, 5. George Martin, 6. Lewis Ludlam, 7. Jack Willis, 8. Billy Vunipola, 9. Danny Care, 10. Owen Farrell ©, 11. Max Malins, 12. Ollie Lawrence, 13. Elliot Daly, 14. Henry Arundell, 15. Marcus Smith.
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Ollie Chessum, 20. Ben Earl, 21. Ben Youngs, 22. George Ford, 23. Joe Marchant
Chile: 1. Salvador Lues, 2. Augusto Bohme, 3. Matias Dittus, 4. Clemente Saavedra, 5. Javier Eissmann, 6. Martin Sigren ©, 7. Ignacio Silva, 8. Alfonso Escobar, 9. Benjamin Videla, 10. Rodrigo Fernandez, 11. Franco Velarde, 12. Matias Garafulic, 13. Domingo Saavedra, 14. Cristobal Game, 15. Francisco Urroz.
Replacements: 16. Tomas Dussaillant, 17. Vittorio Lastra, 18. Inaki Gurruchaga, 19. Pablo Huete, 20. Thomas Orchard, 21. Raimundo Martinez, 22. Lukas Carvallo, 23. Inaki Ayarza
South Africa v Ireland, Saturday 23rd September, 8pm
This is definitely the clash of the weekend – two heavyweights, two favourites for the trophy, two teams who have started the pool stage with a 100% record. If you can’t get excited for this, rugby isn’t the sport for you.
Jacques Nienaber has reverted to the same starting fifteen who played on the opening weekend against Scotland, except for the injured Malcolm Marx being replaced at hooker by Bongi Mbonambi. It’s the bench that has people talking, with the infamous 7-1 split returning. The only out and out back is scrum-half Cobus Reinach, who is perhaps unlucky to be dropped following his hat-trick against Romania, which was the second-fastest in World Cup history, behind the one Reinach himself scored against Canada in 2019.
Eleven of the starting line-up played in the closely fought match between these two in Dublin last year, a game that Ireland edged 19-16. Kurt-Lee Arendse scored on that occasion, during a seven game try-scoring streak, a feat with no other Springbok has ever matched.
It’s expected to be an attritional encounter, dominated by the physicality of both teams’ forward packs, but if anyone can provide a spark in the South African backline it’s Cheslin Kolbe, who leads the stats for line breaks in 2023 amongst his team mates.
A lot was made of the strength of Ireland’s lineup against Tonga, and it’s perhaps no surprise that Andy Farrell has made just one change to that squad for this weekend. Jamison Gibson-Park returns in the place of veteran scrum-half Conor Murray.
Experience is the name of the game though with Peter O’Mahony set to win his 100th international cap, and Bundee Aki his 50th. Aki is fast becoming a vital cog in the Irish machine, if he carries on the form he has started the World Cup with, he could become the first centre to finish top try-scorer at the tournament. Add this to the fact that he and Garry Ringrose have won 18 of 22 matches they’ve started together, and you have the recipe for success.
Johnny Sexton did eclipse Ronan O’Gara’s Irish points record against Tonga, and he’ll look to get more points on the board to protect that record now, before his retirement in a few weeks time. He once again captains the team from fly-half.
South Africa: 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Siya Kolisi ©, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8. Jasper Wiese, 9. Faf de Klerk, 10. Manie Libbok, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 12. Damian de Allende, 13. Jesse Kriel, 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse, 15. Damian Willemse.
Replacements: 16. Deon Fourie, 17. Ox Nche, 18. Trevor Nyakane, 19. Jean Kleyn, 20. RG Snyman, 21. Marco van Staden, 22. Kwagga Smith, 23. Cobus Reinach
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. Jamison Gibson-Park, 10. Johnny Sexton ©, 11. James Lowe, 12. Bundee Aki, 13. Garry Ringrose, 14. Mack Hansen, 15. Hugo Keenan.
Replacements: 16. Dan Sheehan, 17. Dave Kilcoyne, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Conor Murray, 22. Jack Crowley, 23. Robbie Henshaw