Alun Wyn Jones Rugby World Cup 2019 team by team guide as England gun for glory in Japan

Alun Wyn Jones Rugby World Cup 2019 team by team guide as England gun for glory in Japan

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The Rugby World Cup is almost here – and the race to lift the Webb Ellis Cup looks wide open.

Hosts Japan take on Russia in the opening game on Friday, with all the top contenders in action over the course of a hectic few days to get the competition underway.

Despite winning the last two tournaments, there are high hopes New Zealand could finally be dethroned with England, Ireland and Wales all amongst those considered as possible winners.

Two-time winners Australia and South Africa are also looking to return to the top of the tree, whilst three-time runners-up France are hoping this can finally be their year to get over the line.

The likes of Scotland and Argentina also cannot be discounted – whilst hosts Japan showed us four years ago that shocks are possible when they stunned South Africa on a historic afternoon in Brighton.

Here’s a team by team guide to the 2019 Rugby World Cup as we run the rule over all 20 teams in the showpiece competition.

Alun Wyn Jones

The iconic Webb Ellis Cup is on the line in the Rugby World Cup
(Image: PA)

POOL A

IRELAND

Coach: Joe Schmidt

Captain: Rory Best

Tournament odds: 9/1

Best finish: Quarter-finals (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)

World ranking: 1

Dangerman: Jordan Larmour

Verdict: Start tournament ranked No.1 in world after back-to-back wins over Wales which have changed mood music following dismal first half of 2019 that suggested they had peaked a year too early. Wins over NZ in 2016 and 2018 show how good they can be. Need to rediscover set-piece game.

SCOTLAND

Coach: Gregor Townsend

Captain: Stuart McInally

Odds: 40/1

Best: Semi-final (1991)

World ranking: 7

Dangerman: Finn Russell

Verdict: Within a minute of reaching semi-finals last time but unlikely to go that close again. Dreadful record away from home against tier one opposition does not bode well. Won’t fear Ireland in opener but lose that and Japan will believe they can beat them to second qualifying spot.

Alun Wyn Jones

Ireland enter the tournament ranked as world No.1
(Image: Getty Images)

JAPAN

Coach: Jamie Joseph

Captain: Michael Leitch

Odds: 150/1

Best: Pool stages

World ranking: 10

Dangerman: Amanaki Mafi

Verdict: Size is always an issue for Japan but the hosts punched above their weight in downing South Africa at the 2015 World Cup and with home advantage and a fizzing attacking game they could do so again.

RUSSIA

Coach: Lyn Jones

Captain: Vasily Artemyev

Odds: 2,500/1

Best: Pool stages

World ranking: 20

Dangerman: Andrei Ostrikov

Verdict: Only made it into the tournament by default when Romania were kicked out for fielding ineligible players and Spain and Belgium fell at the same hurdle. Having lost a warm-up match to Jersey it looks bleak for the Bears.

SAMOA

Coach: Steve Jackson

Captain: Jack Lam

Odds: 750/1

Best: Quarter-final (1991)

World ranking: 16

Dangerman: Tim Nanai-Williams

Verdict: Physical as ever but not the force they once were. Defeats to Fiji and the USA in the Pacific Nations Cup, plus the usual financial issues, leave them lagging behind heading into the World Cup.

Alun Wyn Jones

New Zealand have lifted the Rugby World Cup on the last two occasions
(Image: Getty)

POOL B

NEW ZEALAND

Coach: Steve Hansen

Captain: Kieran Read

Odds: 5/4 favourites

Best: Winners (1987, 2011, 2015)

World ranking: 2

Dangerman: Beauden Barrett

Verdict: Lost World No.1 ranking for the first time in a decade this summer as they failed to win Rugby Championship, but come tournament time they have the class to land a hat-trick of World Cups and will have star forward Brodie Retallick fit for knockout stages.

SOUTH AFRICA

Coach: Rassie Erasmus

Captain: Siya Kolisi

Odds: 4/1

Best: Winners (1995, 2007)

World ranking: 4

Dangerman: Duane Vermeulen

Verdict: Revived under Erasmus, the Springboks won a series against England last summer and the Rugby Championship this year. They have the power to threaten anyone but need to keep Handre Pollard fit at stand-off.

Alun Wyn Jones

South Africa are two-time winners and recently won the Rugby Championship
(Image: Getty Images)

ITALY

Coach: Conor O’Shea

Captain: Sergio Parisse

Odds: 750/1

Best: Pool stages

World ranking: 14

Dangerman: Matteo Minozzi

Verdict: Whipping boys in the Six Nations, they should chalk up two wins against the minnows in their pool but too brittle defensively to cope with the super-heavyweights they are bracketed with.

NAMIBIA

Coach: Phil Davies

Captain: Johan Deysel

Odds: 5,000/1

Best: Pool stages

World ranking: 23

Dangerman: Eugene Jantjies

Verdict: Lack of exposure to top-level rugby a problem for the African lightweights after financial problems led to withdrawal from Cu

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