Rugby World Cup 2019: Pool A preview – Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Samoa, Russia

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Ireland, japan, Scotland, Samoa and Russia face off with both highest-ranked sides, in Pool A – Scotland and Ireland – facing each other in week one.
Four decades back, Japan stunned the world by defeating South Africa from England. Rugby’s showpiece will be hosted by them and seem to earn a initial quarter-final this month.
Below we take a peek at every nation’s 31-man squad, select a key participant to concentrate on, go through current form and bring you all the pool fixtures…
Head coach: Joe Schmidt
Captain: Rory Best (120 caps)
Past Rugby World Cup best: Quarter-finals (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015)
Key player: James Ryan. The next row has grown into the most crucial and consistent performer within the Ireland squad. His work at the loose and in ruck time is critical to the attacking stage drama and defensive sets of Ireland. With Devin Toner omitted in the squad, Ryan will have to step up more at the lineout.
Current form as the No 1 ranked side in the entire world for the very first time in 36, even though enduring a much tougher 2019 compared to 2018, Ireland head into the World Cup. Last year saw them conquer all as they beat the All Blacks at Dublin and acquired series success in Australia, a Six Nations Grand Slam. This year, they’ve suffered heavy defeats to Wales and England (double ), with their general form and optimism rocked. Their final pre-World Cup win over Wales in Dublin was impressive though and will offer them a pep in their step heading to Japan.
World Cup squad:
Forwards (17): Rory Best (c), Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Dave Kilcoyne, Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn Peter O’Mahony Andrew Porter, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier.
Backs (14): Bundee Aki, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Luke McGrath, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Jacob Stockdale.
Fixtures:
Head trainer: Gregor Townsend
Captain: Stuart McInally (29 Tests)
Previous Rugby World Cup best: Semi-finals (1991)
Key player: Finn Russell. When Russell is really on shape, Scotland really are a really dangerous side and difficult to contain. His pace, passing ability off either hand and propensity to step through the lineup make him a super danger. The form of maverick gift that he is however, means when he’s away from his game also always are Scotland.
Present form: A bit like Ireland, Scotland will return to 2018 more lovingly than 2019. In the former, they conquer England, France, Argentina (home and away) and Fiji, while also giving the Springboks a good go. While also drawing in the jaws of a victory at Twickenham England in 2019, they have dropped to Wales, France and Ireland. From the warm-ups, matters couldn’t have started worse with a loss in France, but they recovered to beat France away and in the Georgia and home home. All in all, their kind is a mixed bag.
31-man World Cup squad:
Forwards (17): John Barclay, Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Stuart McInally (c), WP Nel, Gordon Reid, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Backs (14): Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Peter Horne, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor.
Fixtures:
Head coach: Jamie Joseph
Captain: Michael Leitch (62 caps)
Previous Rugby World Cup best: Pool point (1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)
Key player: Michael Leitch. Not their skipper, but Leitch is Japan’s best player, together with breakdown skills, his match and work superb. He’s an integral leader for this group, and was central in the decision making four decades ago to discount the possibility of a draw to get a shot at beating against the Boks – the greatest upset that the game has ever seen.
Present form: In truth, the form during the past few years against Tier 1 opposition of Japan doesn’t make for great reading. Tavern 1 victory over Italy they’ve been soundly beaten by New Zealand, England and South Africa – although there is not any shame in defeat to perhaps the three World Cup favourites – although also having dropped in another Test against Italy. They’ve defeated Fiji, Tonga, Georgia, Russia and Italy. Can Scotland and Ireland jolt?
31-man World Cup squad:
Forwards (18): Michael Leitch (c), Keita Inagaki, Yusuke Kizu, Jiwon Koo, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Valu, Takuya Kitade, Atsushi Sakate, Shota Horie, Luke Thompson, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Hendrik Tui, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno, Amanaki Mafi.
Backs (13): Kaito Shigeno, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Kenki Fukuoka, Ataata Moeakiola, Lomano Lemeki, William Tupou, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, Kotaro Matsushima, Ryohei Yamanaka.
Fixtures:
Head coach: Steve Jackson
Captain: Chris Vui (14 caps)
Previous Rugby World Cup best: Quarter-finals (1991, 1995)
Key player: Chris Vui. You just need to hear Pat Lam and Eddie Jones talk about Vui to understand. Indeed, the term’world class’ has been utilized. hands and Electricity, he is a superb player.
Present form: Not so excellent. Over the past two decades have been Germany, Spain and Tonga. They have lost to Fiji (twice), Tonga, Georgia, the USA (double ) and Australia. But with most of their players in today, they can come this World Cup.
31-man World Cup group:
Forwards (17): Afaesetiti Amosa, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Piula Fa’asalele, Josh Tyrell, Chris Vui (c), Teofilo Paulo, Kane Leaupepe, Senio Toleafoa, Michael Alaalatoa, Paul Alo-Emile, James Lay, Jordan Lay, Logovi’i Mulipola, Motu Matu’u, Ray Niuia, Seilala Lam.
Backs (14): Ed Fidow, Tim Nanai-Williams, Ahsee Tuala, Belgium Tuatagaloa, Henry Taefu, Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee-Lo, Kieron Fonotia, AJ Atatimu, Tusi Pisi, Ulupano Seuteni, Dwayne Polotaivao, Melani Matavao, Scott Malolua.
Fixtures:
Head trainer: Lyn Jones
Captain: Vasily Artemyev (88 caps)
Past Rugby World Cup best: Pool stage (2011)
Key participant: Andrei Ostrikov. The lock has experience of doing for Agen in France and Sale Sharks in England in which he showcased between 2011 and 2019, and is one of only two Russia gamers to ply their trade outside of the nation. He has signed for Best 14 club Grenoble.
Form: Last month’s showpiece is only going to be the next World Cup participation of Russia, having featured without victory in 2011, failing to qualify in 2015. Their kind is abysmal, with shipped 85 points to Italy from the build-up, and lost to the likes of Connacht along with Jersey Reds. The tournament against Japan opens on Friday.
World Cup squad:
Forwards (18): Azamat Bitiev, Andrey Garbuzov, Kirill Gotovtsev, Victor Gresev, Bogdan Fedotko, Vitaliy Zhivatov, Evgeny Matveev, Andrey Polivalov, Vladimir Podrezov, Evgeny Yelgin, Stanislav Selsky, Nikita Vavilin, Sergey Chernyshev, Tagir Gadzhiev, Roman Khodin, Andrei Ostrikov, Valery Morozov, Anton Sychev.
Backs (13): Vasily Artemyev (c), Igor Galinovsky, Kirill Golosnitsky, Vasily Dorofeev, Yuri Kushnarev, German Davydov, Dmitry Perov, Vladislav Sozonov, Dmitry Gerasimov, Ramil Gaysin, Denis Simplikevich, Vladimir Ostroushko, Sergey Yanyushkin.
Fixtures:

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