Over the weekend we were treated to four outstanding games in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in Japan with a host of players standing out.
Check out our starting XV below with some tough decisions in certain positions.
15) Beauden Barrett – There was no need to think twice about who was taking this jersey. Barrett was outstanding as the All Blacks ran riot. Ireland tested him with a couple of high-balls early on and found no joy as he dealt with everything. As they game wore on he seemed to get better and better. His kicks over the top, his assist for brother Jordie’s try and his own try showed how deadly he is in open play. England will have to keep the game tight this weekend because if they don’t he will cause all sorts of problems.
14) Jonny May – On his 50th cap he scored two tries as his side run-away with the game in the second-half against the Wallabies. Started on the left-wing but we had to fit him in due to how clinical he was. His upcoming battle with Sevu Reece will be fascinating.
13) Virimi Vakatawa – Should have ended the game on the winning side as he was that good. Scored a try and his offloading game was unbelievable. Every time he touched the ball he looked dangerous and made metres. Will rue the red-card his side received as he put in a massive individual performance.
12) Gael Fickou – Again like Vakatawa was seriously impressive in defeat. Looked lightening quick as he has all tournament and if his side had their full compliment you would not have been surprised to see him cause Wales more problems. Samu Kerevi and Anton Lienert-Brown were impressive as always but Fickou just pipped them.
11) Makazole Mapimpi – Before we talk about Mapimpi we have to give a shoutout to Marika Koroibete as he was sensational during Australia’s loss and if not for the Springbok he would be in the team. However, Mapimpi just continues to get better and better! Two tries on the day and five in two games against the Japanese. His pace and upper-body strength are so impressive. Defensively he seems to be solid and is clinical in attack. Wales will need to watch out!
10) Owen Farrell – This could have gone to Romain Ntamack, but injury meant he only played one half. That half was incredible though and if he had have been on for the full 80 who knows how things would have ended. Although it is Farrell who is our fly-half. His kicking was perfect, his passing was crisp and even when shifted back to the centre he looked like causing the Wallabies major issues. England will need another strong showing from their captain if they are to stand a chance against New Zealand.
9) Faf de Klerk – The little scrum-half was just everywhere. A try and a try assist as well as running the show for his side against an energetic Japanese outfit. Definitely staking his claim to be called the best No 9 in the world. Have to mention Antoine Dupont and Aaron Smith though as both shone brightly for their teams. Are those three the top three in their position on the planet?
1) Jefferson Poirot – Put in a mighty shift in the front-row, staying on for almost the full game and putting in every effort to help his team hold onto their narrow lead with less men on the pitch. Has been brilliant to watch all tournament.
2) Tolu Latu – Another man who lost but hard to leave out. Like Poirot he stayed on longer than most would in his position but never stopped causing England problems with his ball carrying. His set-piece work was on-point and on an individual note he should be proud.
3) Jiwon Koo – Completing our front-row is again a man who’s side lost but against a massive Springboks pack he produced a huge performance. All competition his team out-did themselves and once again he did so here.
4) Brodie Retallick – Returning to the starting line-up and if we are honest you wouldn’t have noticed he had only played 30 minutes of rugby since July. Dominated the collisions and was fantastic at the set-piece. His seamless return proves how good he is. He is a vital component to this New Zealand team and his recovery has put them back in the driving seat.
5) Maro Itoje – He has had an unbelievable tournament so far and that continued on Saturday. His physicality is just something to behold at the highest level of the game and that is why we moved him to five as we had to get him into the team. His battle with Retallick this weekend will be key to who wins the match.
6) Michael Leitch – He might have lost but he has led his Japanese side to history and was immense yesterday. As we expected he had to be physical and didn’t shy away against the Boks powerhouses but it was his handling skills that caught the eye also as he produced a couple of offloads that Sonny Bill Williams would have been proud of. What a player and leader!
7) Tom Curry – Is the second of three players to have worn the number six jersey for their side in our back-row but he was just too good to leave out. Michael Hooper was outstanding but for determination and smacking tackles Curry had to be in. At 21 he has stepped up on the biggest stage of all and not looked out of place. The future looks bright and he will be tested to the max in the semi-final against some of the best back-rowers in the world once more.
8) Ardie Savea – Yes he also played at six, but even at scrums he went to No 8 such is his versatility and quality with ball in hand. Ireland couldn’t cope with him all game. With every game he turns it up a notch and seems to be faster, stronger and more skilful. One of the best in the business and will relish the chance to face a back-row like England’s this weekend.
Qualification process set for Rugby World Cup 2023
- Process designed to promote regional strength and the best teams to rugby’s showcase event
- 12 teams already qualified owing to top three pool placing at RWC 2019
- RWC 2023 on track to be a spectacular celebration of rugby and France
World Rugby has announced details of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
Following the most competitive and widely-acclaimed Rugby World Cup to date in Japan, the qualification process is designed to deliver the top teams in the world to rugby’s showcase tournament, while promoting a genuine opportunity for all unions.
With 12 teams having secured their place at France 2023 courtesy of finishing in the top three of their respective pools at RWC 2019, the remaining eight places will be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers. The process will conclude with a four-team round-robin Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022 to determine the final qualifier.
The dates for events in 2021 will be announced in due course and will be subject to an anticipated easing of the COVID-19 situation.
The announcement follows consultation with unions and regions in January 2020 and a full review of performance at Rugby World Cup 2019, where rankings upsets and the impressive performances in particular of Japan, Fiji, Uruguay, Tonga and Georgia cut the performance gap, with the average winning margin between established and emerging unions decreasing in comparison with 2015 benchmarks.
The Americas will deliver two direct places, while Oceania will deliver a direct qualifier with a further direct place available following a play-off with Asia. The Rugby Europe Championship (two direct places), Rugby Africa Cup (one direct place) and Final Qualification Tournament (one direct place) will provide the other qualifiers. Further details are provided below.
RWC 2023 qualification principles
- Americas: the Americas will qualify two teams by September 2022. The third best team in the region will enter the Final Qualification Tournament – Americas 1 & Americas 2
- Europe: the existing Rugby Europe Championship will have two qualifying places, with the two best teams in March 2022 qualifying directly and the third placed entering the Final Qualification Tournament – Europe 1 & Europe 2
- Africa: the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 winner will qualify directly and the runner-up team will go to Final Qualification – Africa 1
- Oceania: a home and away play-off between Tonga and Samoa in 2021 will determine the direct qualifier for the Oceania region. – Oceania 1
The loser will then play the Oceania Rugby Cup 2021 winner in the highest ranked team’s country with the eventual winner contesting Asia / Pacific (see below) as Oceania 2
- Asia / Pacific: the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021 will play Oceania 2 home and away. The winner on aggregate will determine the qualifier and the loser will go to Final Qualification – Asia / Pacific 1
- Final Qualification Tournament: the tournament in November 2022 will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format with the winner qualifying for RWC 2023 – Final Qualification winner
Teams already qualified: South Africa, England, New Zealand, Wales, Japan, France (host), Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Argentina, Fiji
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With the global pandemic having halted most rugby activity, confirmation of the global qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 provides a beacon of excitement for all, including players and fans.
“The process that has been developed via full consultation with our regional associations and member unions will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for our showcase men’s 15s event.
“Maximising existing regional competitions, the process is good for regions and unions in managing costs for organisers and participants alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.
“On behalf of World Rugby, I’d like to wish all teams involved the best of luck on their journey to France 2023.”
Rugby World Cup France 2023 CEO Claude Atcher added: “This qualification process gives emerging unions an opportunity to take part in our sport’s biggest competition.
“The success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and performances by the host nation is a testimony of rugby’s expansion globally. As the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is about to be won, I welcome this optimistic prospect of reconnecting with the excitement of our sport. This is the start of our journey towards France 2023, which will be the best tournament ever delivered.”
Final details of the regional competition formats and dates will be announced in due course.
Official Press Release from World Rugby
Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.
England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing. We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news. We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us.
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.
Ireland Climb in Latest World Rankings
Ireland have had the biggest boost in the latest World Rugby Rankings ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw later this year
The boys in green have taken over the No 4 spot in the rankings following their 24-14 win over Wales in the Six Nations over the weekend, with their opponents dropping down to fifth.
It is a major boost for the Irish and gives them something to hold on to heading into the rest of this year’s fixtures as they are now currently in the top seeds ahead of the draw for the pool stages of France 2023.
World Rugby announced recently that they will hold the draw later this year meaning that teams will have less time to climb the rankings than last time around when they had 18 months between the previous World Cup and the draw for the next one.
A total of twelve teams will head into the draw as seeds in three brackets with the top four in the rankings being first seeds, meaning as of now Wales would be second seeds along with France, Australia and Japan.
Elsewhere in the rankings Georgia have moved up ahead of Italy, following the former’s latest two defeats in the Six Nations, while the biggest risers have been Portugal, who have moved from 22nd to 20th, but Russia have dived from 20th to 25th.
Ireland will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign when they take on the third-ranked team England away from home, whom they may look to overtake in the rankings before the draw.