England, finalists in 2019, open their Rugby World Cup 2023 challenge with a difficult clash against an Argentina side confident of booking a place in the knockout phase of the competition.
Tournament history favours Steve Borthwick’s side – England have won the three previous RWC meetings, including a convincing 39-10 victory in Japan four years ago.
But Los Pumas came out on top the last time the two sides met, last November – and they’ve had a confidence-boosting run-in to the tournament. Unlike England.
FIXTURE: England v Argentina
GROUND: Stade de Marseille (67,847)
KICK-OFF: 21:00 local time (GMT+2)
The first match between an England XV and Argentina was in 1978. The first test, in which players from both sides were capped came three years later in 1981.
In the 42 years that have followed, the two sides have met 25 times – including three times in Rugby World Cups. England have won 19 of them, Argentina five, and that first match ended in a 19-19 draw.
In November 2006, Los Pumas recorded their first win over England outside Argentina – a result that ended the era of Andy Robinson as head coach.
Last November, they finally added to that number, with a dramatic and thoroughly deserved 30-29 victory at a rain-sodden Twickenham.
England led 16-12 at half-time, but Emiliano Boffelli and player-of-the-match Santiago Carreras crossed in quick succession to turn the game on its head.
Eddie Jones was replaced as England coach after last November’s internationals, which also included defeat to South Africa, a draw with New Zealand, and victory over Japan.
KEY TALKING POINT
England head into this year’s World Cup on the back of just three wins in nine matches under Steve Borthwick, including a first-ever defeat against an emerging nation when they lost 30-22 against Fiji.
The head coach has insisted that his squad will come good at the tournament. An opening round win against their biggest Pool D rivals might quiet some critics. The question is whether his confidence is well placed.
George Ford v Santiago Carreras. In a game between two sides that look very evenly matched on paper, two Premiership fly-halves – Sale Sharks’ Ford and Gloucester Rugby’s Carreras – go head-to-head on the biggest rugby stage of all. The Argentinian drifts between 10 and 15 on the teamsheet. If there is an advantage, it may be here. Has coach Michael Cheika made the right call?
Argentina coach Cheika has put his faith in experience for this tournament – his 33-player squad featured hooker Agustín Creevy, 38, who is Los Pumas’ first-ever test centurion. He and Nicolás Sánchez, who’s not in the 23 for the opener, are coming into their fourth Rugby World Cup. Another 10 of the 33 Argentina squad members are playing their third.
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Speaking about the choice of France for this World Cup, the president of World Rugby also said that the country will be “a magnificent host, but not only in Paris, but in all this country that loves great competitions and rugby”. Because, outside Saint-Denis, eight additional French cities are candidates to host various games. Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lyon, Lille and Nice were chosen to be the field of 48 games in the Cup.
Toulouse, which defines itself as the French stronghold of rugby, since it is the cradle of French rugby, will host six games to stay the most iconic city of rugby. And it won’t be alone: in Marseille, rather a land of football, the no less iconic Vélodrome stadium scheduled six games. The Bordeaux stadium will host four, the same as Nantes, Saint-Etienne, and Nice. The cities of Lyon and Lille will both host five games and try to become the new promised land of rugby!
Mathieu Raynal (France). The home nation’s only representative on the 12-strong referees’ panel at RWC 2023 was a promising back in his youth, winning the French junior championship with Perpignan in 1998.
The Rugby World Cup is here with excitement building ahead of this evening’s opening fixture.
Organisers hope it will set the mood for a competition that stretches over 48 matches and 51 days – and is more than three weeks longer than the Fifa World Cup in Qatar. The initial signs are certainly positive. Teams have been welcomed to their training bases by huge crowds. Images of the French captain Antoine Dupont are everywhere. And 2.5m tickets have been sold, the highest ever, with 600,000 visitors arriving from abroad. Among them are the Prince and Princess of Wales, who will be in Bordeaux and Marseille to cheer on Wales and England this weekend.
It should be a thrilling curtain raiser in Paris, with hosts France taking on New Zealand in an early clash of contenders.
Both sides are dealing with injury issues but the encounter could offer a chance for either side to lay down an opening night statement of intent.
England, meanwhile, kick their tournament off on Saturday, with Steve Borthwick producing a first line-up containing a number of surprise selections. They face Argentina, with both sides due to speak at the Stade Velodrome on match eve.
Scotland are also in Marseille, with Gregor Townsend ready to name his team later on Friday. South Africa confirmed their squad earlier in the week for a vital first encounter in a competitive Pool B.