Willi Heinz set for England debut in World Cup warm-up against Wales

Press Association Sport 14:42 09/08/2019
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Willi Heinz will make his England debut against Wales on Sunday and is immediately installed as vice-captain despite his lack of Test experience.

The New Zealand-born 32-year-old has been given the stage to prove he deserves a place at this autumn’s World Cup after being picked as the starting scrum-half for the warm-up Test at Twickenham.

Ben Youngs, England’s first choice in the position, is included on the bench for a game that takes place 24 hours before Eddie Jones finalises his 31-man squad for Japan 2019.

Also winning his first cap is Ruaridh McConnochie, the Bath wing who followed up a fine spell in sevens with a strong finish to the 2018-19 Gallagher Premiership season.

Lining up the other wing is Test Lion Anthony Watson, who will be making his first appearance for England since damaging his Achilles at the end of the 2018 Six Nations.

Owen Farrell misses out altogether so George Ford starts at fly-half and is also named captain of a side that contains 377 caps.

Piers Francis profits from Ben Te’o’s unexpected absence from the training squad for Wales by winning his fourth cap in a centre partnership alongside Henry Slade.

For the first time, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry start in the same back row despite being specialist opensides with Curry packing down at six.

The first of back-to-back matches against Wales sees prop Dan Cole and locks Joe Launchbury and Charlie Ewels presented with their last chance to secure their World Cup places.

England’s build-up to the World Cup begins in earnest on Sunday and Jones re-iterated his determination to seize New Zealand’s crown as world champions.

Elsewhere, Alun Wyn Jones will become Wales’ most capped player when he leads a powerful team into Sunday’s World Cup warm-up clash against England.

It will be lock Jones’ 135th Test match appearance – 126 for Wales and nine in British and Irish Lions colours – to overtake prop Gethin Jenkins.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named a team that includes 13 starters from the Six Nations title and Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland in March.

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Dan Cole urges England to embrace World Cup in Japan

Press Association Sport 09:25 09/08/2019
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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

Dan Cole
“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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Rugby World Cup 2019 Profile: Argentina - Passionate Pumas aim to fire on grand stage

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With the Rugby World Cup just six weeks away, we take a closer look at each of the competing nations. After profiling 13 teams, we continue our series with Argentina.

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.

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