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International

England vs Wales; Both Name Strong Teams

England and Wales have announced their teams for their opening World Cup warm-up game

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(Photo by David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England and Wales have named their teams for their opening World Cup warm-up game at Twickenham this Sunday.

With the World Cup just around the corner neither team has held back and have both confirmed strong starting line-ups.

The hosts start the game with a front-row of Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dan Cole, with Joe Launchbury and Charlie Ewels just behind them in the second-row.

Tom Curry comes in at blind-side flanker, alongside Sam Underhill who is one of two vice-captains in the team, while Billy Vunipola completes the pack from No 8.

Willi Heinz partners George Ford in the half-backs, and have been named vice-captain and captain respectively, with Heinz also making his debut.

Piers Francis and Henry Slade team-up in the centre, with Anthony Watson making his first test start since March 2018 on the left-wing. Ruaridh McConnochie debuts on the right-wing as Elliot Daly comes in at full-back.

Speaking ahead of the game England head coach Eddie Jones is hoping that over the next few weeks his team will develop and set themselves up to win the World Cup.

“Our team selection and tactics in our next four games are all about developing a team capable of winning in Japan and our overarching target of being ready when we get on the plane on the 8th of September to win the World Cup. We are looking forward to playing at Twickenham and giving the home crowd something to smile about,” he said.

Meanwhile Wales have named a star-studded team as they bid to win their 15th consecutive test match.

Nicky Smith, Ken Owen and Tomas Francis open the game in the front-three, with Adam Beard joining captain Alun Wyn Jones in the engine room as he is also set to become Wales’ all-time cap holder on Sunday.

In the back-row Aaron Wainwright starting at blind-side flanker, with Justin Tipuric at open-side flanker and Ross Moriarty at No 8.

Gareth Davies and Gareth Anscombe link-up once more in the half-backs, with Hadleigh Parkes partnering Jonathan Davies in the centre, while Josh Adams and George North occupy the wings, with Liam Williams completing the starting XV from full-back.

The team’s will meet again before they head to the World Cup, however, England name their final 31-man squad on Monday meaning this is the final chance to impress for the men in white as both look to build momentum ahead of the tournament in Japan.

Check Out Both 23-Man Squads Below.

England:

15 Elliot Daly (Saracens, 30 caps)

14 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby, uncapped)

13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 22 caps)

12 Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, 4 caps)

11 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 33 caps)

10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 55 caps) C

9 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped) VC

1 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 9 caps)

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 11 caps)

3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 85 caps)

4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 58 caps)

5 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)

6 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 10 caps)

7 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 9 caps) VC

8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 41 caps)

Replacements:

16 Jack Singleton (Saracens, uncapped)

17 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 59 caps)

18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 17 caps)

19 George Kruis (Saracens, 32 caps)

20 Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

21 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 85 caps)

22 Joe Marchant (Harlequins, uncapped)

23 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 4 caps)

Wales:

15. Liam Williams (Saracens) (55 Caps)

14. George North (Ospreys) (83 Caps)

13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (73 Caps)

12. Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (15 Caps)

11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues) (10 Caps)

10. Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys) (26 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (41 Caps)

1. Nicky Smith (Ospreys) (28 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (Scarlets) (64 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (40 Caps)

4. Adam Beard (Ospreys) (13 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (C) (Ospreys) (125 Caps)

6. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) (8 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (64 Caps)

8. Ross Moriarty (Dragons) (31 Caps)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (Dragons) (18 Caps)

17. Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (12 Caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues) (12 Caps)

19. Jake Ball (Scarlets) (32 Caps)

20. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (17 Caps)

21. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues) (7 Caps)

22. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints) (70 Caps)

23. Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (13 Caps)

International

This Weekend’s Guide to Key Games

There are three key internationals taking place this weekend and here’s all you need to know about them

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

The World Cup warm-up games are well and truly underway and while the Rugby Championship may have ended last weekend the Southern Hemispheres top sides are in action.

Although all the games are indeed World Cup warm-up games, they could have a serious bearing on who heads into the tournament in Japan as the top ranked team in the world. So, here’s what you need to know.

New Zealand vs Australia (KO 08 35, Sky Sports Action)

The All Blacks are in desperate need of a win following last weekend’s record loss to the Wallabies and have cut some key members of their team in order to get a reaction.

As well as gaining some revenge and hoping to retain their Bledisloe Cup title on Saturday, the All Blacks know that they must win to have any chance of holding onto the No 1 spot in the World Rankings, where they have been for nearly 10 years.

On the other hand, the Wallabies will be hoping to secure a first Bledisloe Cup title since 2002, while also ending a 33-year draught for a win in Eden Park. Both team’s have everything to gain with a win, this could be another cracker of a game with both expected to go all out to win.

Wales vs England (KO 14 15, Sky Sports Action)

England ended Wales’ 14-game winning streak last weekend and now head to the Principality for the reverse fixture so expect a Welsh backlash.

The visitors have added experience to their squad from last week which will worry the hosts, while the host have tweaked their side slightly in a bid to overturn the opposition.

Both go into the game knowing they could potentially overtake the All Blacks at the top of the World Rankings with a win. For the home side it is simple, win and they reach the summit. An old rivalry with even more edge, what more could you want?

South Africa vs Argentina (KO 16 05, Sky Sports Action)

Last weekend these two played and the Springboks blitzed the Pumas 46-13 to claim their first Rugby Championship crown in a decade.

This time around there is no silverware on the line and both teams have made vast changes to their sides to give players a chance to earn a place on the plane to Japan.

However, despite the changes there is still motivation for both as this is their final game before heading to Japan and Argentina are currently on a losing streak they will want to end before the start of the tournament. Expect big hits and a powerful display from both packs with key men out to prove a point.

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Who is Ruaridh McConnochie?

The Bath winger has never played for England, but was included in Eddie Jones’ 31-man squad for the World Cup

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Four years ago, as England crashed out of their home World Cup in the group stages, Ruaridh McConnochie was turning out for National Division Three side Nuneaton.

This week, he was named in Eddie Jones’ 31-man England squad for the 2019 World Cup, after just one season in the professional game.

It has been meteoric rise for the winger from Kent, but how did McConnochie make the transition from amateur rugby in such a short time?

As a youngster, McConnochie was never involved with any professional academies. Instead, he plied his trade with amateur side Cranbrook, in the sixth tier of the English rugby pyramid.

Then, after beginning his teaching degree at Gloucester University, McConnochie joined Nuneaton ahead of the 2012-13 season.

So much was his love for the game, McConnochie made the 146-mile round trip from Gloucester as much as three times a week.

Elliott Brown has been Nuneaton’s captain since the 2012-13 season, and described McConnochie as a “gangly, scrawny, super skinny lad.”

His ability was immediately apparent though, as he ran in 24 tries across two seasons for the club.

“He could see things other players couldn’t, whether he took a gap himself or put someone into it. He had an exceptional ability to beat the first man, you could almost guarantee it,”said Brown.

McConnochie then made the step up to Hartpury College, where after a short spell, he was called up to the England Sevens circuit.

With Sevens being introduced to the Olympics in 2016, McConnochie had the chance to make a name for himself on the big stage.

Sevens head coach Simon Amor, unlike Jones this week, overlooked McConnochie though, naming the man from Tenterden as a reserve.

Shortly after selection though, injuries meant McConnochie was called up, and he went on to play his part for a team that won the silver medal in London.

His performances didn’t go unnoticed for the Sevens side, and after another productive year in the national squad McConnochie was offered a contract by Bath in 2018.

“It was more in the back of my head having never done an academy pathway and never being involved in professional 15s I wanted to give it a try. If at the end of the first year it wasn’t going well, that’s life, but if it was I would’ve hated to have retired from Sevens and not given it a try, ” McConnochie said.

McConnochie’s Bath debut came sooner than expected however, as an Anthony Watson injury meant he was deployed as fullback by head coach Todd Blackadder.

Other injuries across the back-three saw McConnochie become a regular fixture in the backline during the second half of the season, and after four tries in 15 games, he was called up to an England training squad in June.

Despite injury preventing his debut for England against Wales on Sunday, Jones was convinced by McConnochie after he impressed in training camps over the summer.

McConnochie’s inclusion was a shock to many in the rugby world; a feeling that was mutual between fans and the player.

“It was pretty last minute, and it did take me by surprise. I just wanted to go into each week and live it as a bonus, because it’s incredible,” he admitted.

After his injury prior to the game on Sunday, McConnochie believed his chances of making the squad were over.

“If you’d asked me 48 hours ago I’d be saying something different. It was a dark 24 hours with the injury. Then come this morning I was quite at peace, if it didn’t happen I’d have no regrets over the process,” McConnochie said.

McConnochie is expected to fit enough make his England debut against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday, which would be the end of an incredible four-year journey.

What the boss said

England head coach Eddie Jones vividly remembers the first time he watched McConnochie play for Bath.

“I will tell you the game I saw him. It was a beautiful sunny day in Exeter. He played for Bath and did a lot of good things. I remember driving back in the car and trying to find out more information about him,” Jones said.

“He is a big tall guy with feet and, again, with Exeter because you are close to the ground you can hear and see the communication of the players. He is a very good communicator. We found out more about him, did some background information, and he continued to play well.”

Although Jones’ decision to include McConnochie in his squad had been questioned, the Australian believes selecting the Bath back was a no-brainer.

“Firstly, I think it’s always nice to bring new blood in,” said Jones. “It freshens everything up. When you have the enthusiasm that young players do, it adds to the squad.

“Once he came into camp, he cemented our impression of him,” Jones added. “He’s a mature boy who has played a number of positions, so he was a pretty easy selection in the end.”

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International

Fiji Name 32-Man Squad Ahead of World Cup

Fiji have cut their initial 50-man squad down to just 32 players ahead of next month’s tournament in Japan

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(Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Fijian head coach John McKee has announced a 32-man squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.

The squad will be cut down to 31 before the tournament starts meaning one player from the remaining group will miss out.

Fiji will be captained by veteran forward Dominiko Waqaniburotu, who is one of five players that will appear at their third World Cup along with Kini Murimurivalu, Vereniki Goneva, Leone Nakarawa and Campese Ma’afu.

In total there are 17 players included that turned out for Fiji during the 2015 edition of the competition.

McKee has called on his players to now step up their preparations for the tournament.

“I wish the players selected well and remind them of the responsibility they must take on in representing Fiji in a Rugby World Cup. With 35 days until our opening match against the Wallabies, now is the time to step our preparation up in the final phase to ensure we put ourselves in the best position to achieve our performance goals at the World Cup,” he said.

There are a number of players included from National Rugby Championship side the Fijian Drua, with Frank Lomani, the new Melbourne Rebels signing the pick of the bunch.

As well as them there are some European-based players such as Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola and Waisea Nayacalevu, with Sevens star turned XV’s powerhouse Viliame Mata among them.

McKee is happy with the mix of youth and experience and believes that the country are in with a chance of qualifying from Pool D which contains Wales and the Wallabies.

“I am very pleased to announce a group of players to represent Fiji at the World Cup, which I believe has the potential to challenge for a place in the play-offs from Pool D. With selections made, players can focus completely on their preparation for the World Cup and being the best player they can be for the team and for Fiji. This is an exciting time for these men who have been selected for the Flying Fijians heading to the World Cup in Japan. They must not let this opportunity to do something special for Fiji slip by,” he added.

The Fijians now head on a 10-day training camp before facing Tonga in the Pasifika Challenge II on the 31st of August.

They will then head to Japan on September 6th ahead of their opening game against the Wallabies on the 21st.

Check Out the Full 32-Man Squad Below.

FORWARDS:

Campese Ma’afu

Eroni Mawi

Peni Ravai

Mesulame Dolokoto

Samuel Matavesi

Ratu Vere Vugakoto

Lee-Roy Atalifo

Manasa Saulo

Kalivati Tawake

Tevita Cavubati

Leone Nakarawa

Api Ratuniyarawa

Tevita Ratuva

Semi Kunatani

Viliame Mata

Mosese Voka

Dominiko Waqaniburotu

Peceli Yato

BACKS:

Frank Lomani

Nikola Matawalu

Henry Seniloli

Levani Botia

Jale Vatubua

Ben Volavola

Vereniki Goneva

Filipo Nakosi

Waisea Nayacalevu

Semi Radradra

Josua Tuisova

Joshua Matavesi

Alivereti Veitokani

Kini Murimurivalu

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