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Finn Russell England
Injuries:A mixed bag. England appear to have made it through their four World Cup warm-up games relatively unscathed as all 31 members of the initial squad remain intact, but there are still enough concerns for Eddie Jones to worry about. Jack Nowell and Henry Slade have not played a minute of rugby this season as they head to Japan, while Mako Vunipola is not much better off with just 17 minutes under his belt. The final match against Italy also brought a few further headaches with Kyle Sinckler, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Joe Launchbury all forced off with injury, but Jones is confident all of those listed will be cleared up by the time their big pool games against France and Argentina come around.
Form:Strong. An impressive win over Wales with an experimental team and a record 57-15 victory over Ireland sandwiched a narrow defeat in Cardiff, and the 37-0 rout of Italy cemented England’s status as genuine World Cup contenders in Japan.
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Coach:Jones has the experience and pedigree to success in Japan. In what will be his fourth World Cup campaign, England certainly have a head coach who knows what it takes to succeed thanks to his part in South Africa’s 2007 triumph, while he was also part of the famous Brighton miracle four years ago. Given how much he has talked up England’s potential over the last four years, it’s time to see if his belief is genuine.
Chances:Good as long as they can avoid any slip-ups early on. If England come out of the pool stage games against Tonga and the United States with two wins in the bag and no injuries to report, they will be nicely lined up to take on Argentina and France and, if everything goes as expected, they’ll face Australia for a place in the last four. That’s where the All Blacks could await, but then there’s a lot of rugby to play before then.
Finn Russell Ireland
Injuries:Much like England, Ireland have come through their warm-up games in good shape, although the long-term injury to Dan Leavy still feels like a massive blow to their chances. Joe Schmidt was optimistic that the injury to Keith Earls will not prove serious following the win over Wales in Dublin, but it still feels as though the Irish are one serious injury to Johnny Sexton from being
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