Dan Cole hopes England will be able to immerse themselves in Japanese culture while launching a meaningful challenge for the World Cup.
Eddie Jones’ men open their quest to claim New Zealand’s title against Tonga on September 22 but by that point they will already have been in the host nation for a fortnight after opting to stage a training camp in Fukuoka.
Cole is a strong contender to be present as one of the travelling tighthead props when Jones names his final 31-man squad on Monday and if selected to go, he will value more than just rugby.
“The balance for us is that we are there to win games, but we are also probably going to be there once in our lifetimes so we want to enjoy the experience,” Cole said.
“We want to enjoy the culture, accept that and be part of it. Hopefully we’re not going to be quarantined and we can get out and see what’s going on because that’s part of the reason why we are there.
“It is not like we are there on a tourist trip. But if you look at Japan’s history from the Shogunates, then it is an interesting place.
“You hear about Tokyo and it being 24/7, flat out, but then you have your Buddhist zen gardens and quiet places.
“I think everybody is probably looking at it and going: ‘Oh Japan, I’d love to go visit Japan’. You’d put it on your bucket list but very few actually get to go there and do it.”
To aid their adjustment to a country that is an infrequent destination on the rugby circuit, England’s players have had culture lessons with the Japan Foundation.
“We’ve had one with the ins and outs of travelling on public transport, greetings and all that type of stuff so we’re getting there. (Fly-half) George Ford was good at bowing – he’s very respectful,” Cole said.
The tighthead pecking order has seen Cole drop below Kyle Sinckler and if Jones opts to take only five props to Japan, then either the Leicester front row or Harry Williams will miss out.
At 32-years-old and a veteran of England’s dreadful showings at the previous two World Cups, Cole would relish one more shot at the sport’s greatest prize.
“I would love to go. I’m not going to get another one, put it that way,” he said.
“You want to be successful with England. For the past four years Eddie has come in and the team has built.
“The goal every week is to win the games and win as many games as possible, but Eddie’s goal has also been the World Cup.
The balance for us is that we are there to win games, but we are also probably going to be there once in our lifetimes so we want to enjoy the experience
“Seeing how this team has evolved since 2015 you want to see it through and be part of that because it’s a very good squad.
“It’s one of the best squads I’ve been involved in, one of the best teams I’ve been involved in. You want to see that through.
“The squad’s being announced on Monday and no matter what part you play you want to go.
“If my part is to push the team as hard as I can and get them best prepared for Japan that’s my part. You want to do that because you want to see England win the World Cup.”
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Argentina’s lowly 10th place in the world rankings belies their World Cup credentials but the Pumas should be eyeing a spot in the knock-out stages in Japan.
The Pumas have reached the semi-final stage in two of the last three editions of the competition and Ireland fans will certainly remember how they destroyed the boys in green in their 2015 quarter-final encounter in Cardiff.
Recent form may suggest an Argentina side off the pace compared to those dazzling heights they scaled four years ago, but the South American outfit have proved not to be overlooked come the grand stage.
Since reaching the last four in 2015, Argentina have won just eight of 39 matches, which is a meagre 20 per cent success rate. To break that down even further, they have won an average of just three games a year out of possible 13 fixtures.
And despite sealing just two victories out of a possible 12 last season, Mario Ledesma’s side recorded their best ever Rugby Championship performance before losing three games in a row against Ireland, France and Scotland in November.
There is no shame in losing to Ireland, but defeats by France and Scotland cast doubts on their chances ahead of the World Cup, where they have been drawn in a competitive pool with England, France, the United States and Tonga.
They have shown they can go toe-to-toe with the elite sides in the world but recent narrow losses against New Zealand and Australia in June leave them with little time to gain momentum going into a tough World Cup group.
With a final Rugby Championship encounter against South Africa at home this weekend, Ledesma’s men need to fire at setpiece time, where they have struggled in recent weeks, or they risk losing more confidence ahead of their crucial pool opener against France in six weeks time.
It’s likely the winner of that opening fixture will take runner-up spot in Pool C behind England.
A recall of experienced European-based players could be the difference between winning and losing against the big boys in Japan.
Los Pumas’ had previously been made up of players solely from the Jaguares’ team, who reached the Super Rugby final for the first time this year, but those rules have relaxed over recent times.
Pablo Matera, Emiliano Boffelli, Tomas Lavanini, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Matias Orlando, Matias Moroni and Guido Petti all starred for the Buenos Aires-based side this year, as they defeated three of the five Kiwi franchises and topped the South African conference en route to the league decider.
The evolution of the Jaguares is symbolic of how the international squad has improved and adapted to the rigours of southern hemisphere rugby over the years. What is also significant is how previously underrated players have developed into stars of the competition.
Captain Matera, for example, has blossomed into one of the competition’s best flankers, and rarely has a bad game whether its in the black and orange of Jaguares or sky blue of Argentina.
Of the European-based players, Juan Figallo (Saracens), Ramiro Herrera (Stade Francais), Facundo Isa (Toulon), Nicolas Sanchez (Stade Francais) and Benjamin Urdapilleta (Castres) are some of the names that add experience and class to Ledesma’s squad.
Widely regarded for their prowess up front, Argentina have developed a more open style of play in recent years, with record points scorer Sanchez pulling the strings from No10. His fast hands, clever kicking and ability to exploit space will be pivotal to how their elusive back-line fare.
Backed by a new spirit instilled by coach Ledesma, the Argies should hopefully hit performances of the right note come their September 20 showdown against Les Bleus.
A lot will rest on that opening game, and if the sky blue and whites can prevail, then a fifth quarter-final in six tournaments should be viewed as a positive campaign.
Rory Best has challenged Ireland to justify their 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam at this year’s World Cup.
The Ireland captain believes Joe Schmidt’s men must seize the “reality check” of turning last term’s Grand Slam into a third-place finish this year.
The 36-year-old hooker insisted Ireland are the hungriest he has seen them under head coach Schmidt, ahead of Saturday’s opening World Cup warm-up match against Italy in Dublin.
“When Joe first came in the big question was ‘how do we perceive ourselves?’, and the big answer was ‘inconsistent’,” said Best.
“And what we’ve worked hard to do is to prepare the same whoever we play and whatever we do.
“That’s how it’s always been under Joe and we certainly won’t go away from that now.
“It sometimes takes a reality check, and finishing third was bitterly disappointing.
“So coming in at the start of this pre-season everyone is as hungry as I have ever seen them.
“We’ve had a group of players that want to prove that the 2019 Six Nations was the blip, not 2018.”
Ireland host Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday to kick-start their build-up to the World Cup in Japan.
Schmidt’s side will launch their World Cup bid by taking on Scotland on September 22, with confidence still riding high among Irish fans of a Best-ever tournament.
Best and company will face Wales twice and England in completing their warm-up matches before jetting out to Japan.
The long-serving Ulster hooker will be 37 by the time the tournament kicks off but admitted feeling as good as ever amid a gruelling pre-season.
Schmidt’s men are once again bidding to move beyond the quarter-finals for first time, but the Irish public have high confidence their side could even lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
New Zealand are seeking a hat-trick of World Cup titles on the run, with Best admitting the All Blacks are still favourites for yet another crown.
But Best also predicted the most open World Cup yet, with Grand Slam champions Wales and a burgeoning England and South Africa also in contention.
Asked if the Irish public confidence adds pressure or belief, Best replied: “It’s probably a bit of extra belief. Our biggest pressure comes internally.
“New Zealand are the Best team in the world and they are the favourites. But I also think this will be one of the most open World Cups.
“Anyone will feel they can beat anyone on their day. And it’s great that Ireland can be one of those teams.
“But we also know that, look at Wales and England in the Six Nations, we can lose to those teams too.”
Best believes Ireland’s maiden two victories over back-to-back world champions New Zealand, in Chicago in 2016 and Dublin in autumn 2018, have offered significant confidence boosts.
“That first victory against New Zealand, in Chicago, it felt like we pushed through a ceiling,” said Best, speaking as a FloGas ambassador.
“But it was hugely important to get the second one, to prove again that we can do it.
“We want to be a team that can prove we can beat anyone and we’ve not just shown it once, we’ve shown it twice now.”
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