India's status as world's top Test team under threat when they face England

By Lance Whittaker and Wayne Lewis August 01, 2018
India captain Virat Kohli. India captain Virat Kohli.

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  • Rugby World Cup 2019: England have earned the right to be among the favourites – Dallaglio Rugby World Cup 2019: England have earned the right to be among the favourites – Dallaglio

    England have earned the right to be considered among the favourites for the Rugby World Cup, according to Lawrence Dallaglio.

    Eddie Jones' side, along with top-ranked Ireland, Six Nations Grand Slam champions Wales and Rugby Championship winners South Africa, have been tipped as the most likely sides to challenge holders New Zealand in Japan.

    England crashed out of their home World Cup at the first hurdle in 2015 but will aim to make amends this time around.

    They start their campaign against Tonga on Sunday, before facing the United States, Argentina and France, with Jones' men having lost just twice – both times against Wales – in 2019.

    Dallaglio lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2003 and sees no reason why England cannot go on to claim rugby's top prize once more.

    "They've set the bar high," the former England captain told Omnisport, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.

    "There's always expectation with England in any sport, particularly rugby. We've got a history in rugby of doing well and I think they've earned that right quite frankly.

    "I think the progression under Jones has been there right the way from 2015 when he declared he didn't feel we had enough world-class players.

    "But I think on that journey over the last four years, you look at the team now and it's packed full of top-class international rugby players who have won Grand Slams, they've won the title a few times and domestic and European honours. So I think we can rightly go into this World Cup in Japan cautiously optimistic.

    "They know they are capable of beating any of the sides in the world as they showed in Dublin in the Six Nations, as they showed in the first half against New Zealand and as they've shown in games more recently against Ireland.

    "We're contenders, we're challengers and New Zealand are the team to beat. But we've got a chance."

    Pressed on what else England need to do to prove their credentials, Dallaglio conceded a World Cup triumph may be required.

    "How do you measure success in a side? It's what you win, tangibly," he added.

    "This England team have a won a couple of Slams, they've equalled the world record for international victories under Jones, so I think the one thing they need to do is win a World Cup.

    "To do that away from home would be some achievement. I'm really excited about their prospects, I'm looking forward to it. It's wide open."

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: England v Tonga Rugby World Cup 2019: England v Tonga

    Eddie Jones stressed the importance of England getting their tactics spot on against a "ferocious" Tonga outfit in their Rugby World Cup opener on Sunday.

    After a group-stage exit at the last World Cup, England go into their tournament bow in Sapporo expected to be among the top challengers to holders New Zealand this time around.

    The 2003 champions won three of their four warm-up matches after coming second in the Six Nations and will contest a competitive Pool C that contains Argentina, France and United States as well as their initial opponents.

    "The focus this week has been about getting right for Tonga," head coach Jones said ahead of the match.

    "We have had a good seven days in Japan where we have acclimatised really well. Now it is about putting in a game plan against Tonga and it is important to be tactically right. We know they are going to be ferocious and full of pride and passion. 

    "They are a side if they get a bit of momentum they can be very dangerous and are well-coached by Toutai Kefu. We will need to be at our best.

    "There is a good feeling about the place - I don't think there is anyone who isn't excited about getting out there."

    George Ford will start at fly-half for England, with Owen Farrell captain at inside centre. Joe Marler is at loose-head prop with Mako Vunipola out.

    Billy Vunipola, though, will line up against Tonga 20 years after his father and uncle represented the Pacific islanders against England in a World Cup contest.

    This will be the third meeting between the teams, with the previous two – both at World Cups – having been won by England in convincing fashion with a combined score of 137-30.

    England are looking for a seventh straight win in a Rugby World Cup opener and have not lost one since a defeat to New Zealand back in 1991.

    The omens do not look great for Tonga, who have won only three of their last 10 World Cup encounters and come into the event with just one win from their last seven Test outings.

    Distinguished former Australia international Kefu leads a squad that retains only four of the 23 players who lined up in their last World Cup match against New Zealand in 2015.

    One of that quartet is Kurt Morath, the country's all-time leading points scorer with 340 and one of seven English-based players in the team. 

    Key front-rower and the heaviest player in World Cup history, Ben Tameifuna, returns to the XV after being rested from a chastening 92-7 loss to the All Blacks two weeks ago.
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    England – Ben Youngs 

    Ben Youngs, 30, will earn his 90th cap and become the first scrum-half to play in three World Cups for England.

    His experience will be vital with England naming a XV that is their second-youngest ever at a World cup, including flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. Youngs scored a try in his last Test outing against Italy this month.

    Tonga - Nasi Manu

    Nasi Manu has been named among Tonga's replacements and if he takes to the field it will be an emotional moment. The number eight did not play for club Benetton or his country in 2018 and could play his first Test since recovering from cancer, having undergone months of chemotherapy.

    "I had tears just then," he said after Tonga's welcome ceremony. "I don't think anybody knows just how much I have been through to get here. Not only the surgery and chemotherapy, but also the physical battle to get myself in good enough shape." 


    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - England have won only two of their last five games at Rugby World Cups, including a 60-3 triumph over Uruguay in their most recent fixture.

    - England have surpassed 40 points scored in a game on three occasions thus far in 2019; the last time they did so more times in a calendar year was in 2003 (7), including two instances in their triumphant 2003 campaign.

    - No player has scored more Test tries thus far in 2019 than England flyer Jonny May, whose six tries are level with German Kessler Lordon (Uruguay) and Joe Taufete'e (USA).

    - Siale Piutau's next appearance will be his 40th in Test rugby for Tonga, becoming just the fourth Tongan to reach the mark.

    - Kurt Morath (73) has scored more points at the Rugby World Cup than any other player for Tonga, including a 28-point haul during the group stage of the 2015 tournament.

  • Giles delighted with Morgan's decision to stay on as England captain Giles delighted with Morgan's decision to stay on as England captain

    Ashely Giles is thrilled Eoin Morgan elected to stay on as ODI captain following England's triumphant Cricket World Cup campaign.

    Morgan led England to their maiden success in a 50-over World Cup in July, with the final settled in dramatic fashion at Lord's – the tournament hosts edging out New Zealand in a super over.

    Following the tournament, the 33-year-old suggested he was undecided as to whether he should stay on as captain of the limited-overs side.

    However, the ECB confirmed on Friday that Morgan would remain in charge and Giles is delighted with the batsman's decision with England now having the T20 World Cup in their sights.

    "Eoin took some time to decide whether, all things considered, it was right to continue," Giles told Sky Sports.

    "It didn't take him too long, thankfully. I'm delighted, he's been a great leader for us and with us losing [coach] Trevor Bayliss as well it's great for the team and the environment that he's staying on.

    "Having one of those two guys still there gives us consistency and now we can look to perhaps go with the team we've got and to hold two white-ball trophies within a year would be a great achievement."

    Bayliss called time on his tenure as England coach across all formats at the end of the Ashes series, but Giles is confident a replacement will be finalised within the coming weeks.

    "I see one coach leading the whole thing. I've been part of a set-up where there are two coaches and role-playing that out, for me, it doesn't end particularly well," Giles told BBC Sport.

    "If we have one head coach and some very good assistants, we are going to have to look after those guys well. The head coach would have some time off, so it's an opportunity for those assistants to lead in different forms.

    "I hope we have a shortlist in a week to 10 days and we will go through interviews. We won't rush it but it would be nice to have someone in place before we leave for New Zealand."

    Giles also added Alex Hales – who was dropped ahead of the World Cup due to an "off-field incident" – should not give up hope of returning to the fold despite not being given a central contract.

    "The door isn't closed. He's a very fine short-format player," Giles said. "He needs to keep working hard and getting the runs - but if he does that, who knows?"

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