The only real world cup going on…
The RWC (Rugby World Cup) 2019, which is happening from September to November, is hosted by Japan – who produced rugby’s biggest ever upset in 2015 by beating South Africa 34-32.
From nine initially interested nations, Italy, Japan and South Africa were announced as potential hosts in 2009. Later that year, England were voted the 2015 hosts, and Japan the 2019 hosts. Since then, Japan’s plans have crucially changed. Previously, matches were to be held in Hong Kong and Singapore, but this is no longer the case. Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic stadium plans were ditched due to outrage over its $2 billion price tag, meaning the stadium won’t be ready in time for the RWC, but should be ready for the 2020 Japan Olympics.
England find themselves in group C, alongside France, rugby’s flashy startup, Argentina, the USA and Tonga. Unlike in 2015, where the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best ranked teams were in the same ‘pool of death’, the draw this time is much fairer.
England play four warm-up matches, starting at home against Wales on the 11th August, followed by the same in Cardiff, on the 17th. England are back at home playing against Ireland on the 24th, and finally against Italy at St James’ Park, Newcastle on the 6th September. St James Park, usually home to Newcastle United, hosted the 2019 European Rugby Finals weekend, where domestic champions Saracens beat 2018 champions Leinster, and were crowned champions of Europe.
Wales’ pool this year is almost identical to their lot in 2015, as they face Australia, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay. Georgia are the only change from 2015, replacing England. Wales also have four warm-up matches. They play against England away and at home, followed by Ireland at home on the 31st August and in Dublin on the 7th September.
Scotland are joined by Ireland, Japan, Russia and Samoa. Russia are making their second appearance, after losing all four matches in the 2011 RWC, while Japan are the hosts, and Ireland are Scotland’s Celtic rivals, who proved victorious in the Six Nations earlier this year. Scotland’s loss at home further soured an already rancorous relationship.
Scotland will play France away (but at the Allianz Riviera in Nice, not the usual Stade de France) on the 17th August and at home, on the 24th. Scotland will then do the same for Georgia, on the 31st and 6th September respectively. Scotland’s delayed start to the warm-ups means they forego the two-week break between matches that other northern hemisphere teams have.
Ireland will play Italy at the Aviva on the 10th August, followed by England at Twickenham on the 24th. The Irish take their two-week break earlier than most. Ireland will then play Wales away on the 31st and at home on the 7th September. Ireland will play Wales three times this year, and only European teams since November last year. They lost 25-7 to Wales in March.
France, the 2023 hosts, are in England’s pool, and will only play three warm-ups. Home and away against Scotland, on the 17th and 24th, and home against Italy, on the 30th.
Special credits go to Russia and Uruguay, who only play one warm-up each, and to Namibia, who have not yet confirmed any of theirs. Russia play Italy on the 17th August, and Uruguay play Brazil, who did not qualify for the world cup, on the 7th September, the deadline for all warm-ups. Expect a Wessex write-up midway through the warm-ups, and at their conclusion.
Download the official schedule here.