By Ryan Moran
- Twickenham hosts opening game.
- England name unchanged side from their win against Ireland.
- Previews for Ireland, Wales and Scotland’s fixtures.
LONDON, UK- The World Cup is finally upon us as England follow the opening ceremony with the opening match against Fiji. Ireland play on Saturday 19th September while Wales play on Sunday 20th September. Scotland start their campaign on Wednesday 23rd September.
Twickenham is the place to be on Friday 18th September as Fiji try to ruin the party by beating England in the opening fixture of this year’s Rugby World Cup. England go in as favourites but the Fijians aren’t an easy challenge with their recent results suggesting a team on the rise.
After a 21-13 win over Ireland in their last warm up game, Stuart Lancaster has named an unchanged starting XV to take on the flying Fijians, George Ford keeping his place over Owen Farrell at fly half. Having won their last seven games at Twickenham, many feel the game is theirs to lose. After a strong preparation to the tournament with two wins out of three fielding different sides, Lancaster has picked the 31 players he believes can win the trophy on their home turf.
With no win in their last five against England, Stuart McKee will be hoping to turn the tide as the Pacific Nation Cup holders come into the competition on the back their continental tournament win. Something that has been well documented is the threats that the challengers have in their ranks. Nemani Nadolo plays on the wing, a daunting figure whatever your size. Being 6ft 5in and weighing 20 stone, the winger will be hard to stop. Another key player is ex-military Leone Nakawara who ply’s his trade in Glasgow.
“There is not a second row like him on the planet. In the loose, he is more of a back row or wing but his set piece work is of the highest standard.” Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend talking to Telegraph sport.
Ireland are the next home nation to take to the field against Canada in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Robbie Henshaw has been ruled out with hamstring problems, Luke Fitzgerald benefits, replacing Henshaw at centre. Iain Henderson has been named in the 23 man match day squad, replacing Devin Toner. The second row has been a stand out player, noted by coach Joe Schmidt rewarded with a place in the side.
Wales face Uruguay on Sunday, in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium the day after Ireland. Games against the other sides in Pool A are deemed as crucial games with England and Australia in their group. However points still need to be picked up against Uruguay to aid their progression in the World Cup. Wales injury woes were a key talking point, risking players in their last warm up match against Italy. A decision Warren Gatland may have regretted with Rhys Webb and now Leigh Halfpenny. Eli Walker was called in as a replacement who also dropped out through injury and now Ross Moriarty joins the squad.
Scotland have to wait until Wednesday to make their appearance in the competition when they start against Japan at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester. The home nation feel this tournament is their chance to prove themselves. The blues have fallen short in previous international competitions and are trying to right that wrong. Greg Laidlaw is taking the tournament seriously, seeking psychological help to control his emotions in the right way for his nation, with the first game suiting the captain as they play on his club’s turf.
“To kick at the grounds that you’ve kicked at before makes you comfortable. I saw the pitch a couple of weeks ago and it looks tremendous. I’m looking forward to playing there.” Laidlaw said to the BBC on the conditions at the Gloucester based stadium.
The Rugby World Cup opening ceremony commences on Friday 18th September at 18:45 followed by England against Fiji at 20:00 with the game beig played at Twickenham.