England team LIVE: Rugby World Cup announcement for opener against Argentina

Alex Mitchell is expected to start for England

The Rugby World Cup’s opening fixture is just a day away, with preparations intensifying ahead of the tournament.

France and New Zealand have confirmed their line-ups for the curtain-raiser, with likely starting inside centres Jonathan Danty and Jordie Barrett both absent for the Paris clash due to injury.

The Stade de France encounter will kick off a busy opening weekend, with plenty of attention on events in Marseille with two crucial games being held in the city. England and Argentina meet at the Stade Velodrome on Saturday, before Scotland take on defending champions South Africa a day later in a vital Pool B meeting.

England’s Steve Borthwick and Argentina’s Michael Cheika are set to announce their opening World Cup teams on Thursday, while most of the 20 nations competing in France are also set to hold press conferences as the tournament start nears.

Follow all the latest updates from the Rugby World Cup below:


Romania shuffle backline for Ireland test

New Zealand-born Hinckley Vaovasa will start at fly half for Romania in their Rugby World Cup Pool B opener against Ireland on Saturday as No 8 Cristian Chirica wears the captain’s armband on the country’s return to the global finals.

Coach Eugen Apjok has made three changes to his starting XV from the side that lost 57-7 to Italy in their final warm-up fixture last month, as well as a host of positional adjustments to the back line.

Vaovasa has only made a single start in the No 10 jersey for the side before, having featured previously at centre, wing and full back. He will have Gabriel Rupanu alongside him and incredibly it is the seventh different half-back pairing for the team this year.

Apart from the half-backs, Romania have the same personnel in the backline as they did against Italy, but all will be wearing different jersey numbers.

Former Australia junior international Jason Tomane is at inside centre, with Tongan-born Tangimana Fonovai at number 13. Marius Simionescu, Nicolas Onutu and ex-Tongan Sevens player Tevita Manumua make up the back three.

The only change to the pack comes at flanker where Florian Rosu comes in for Damian Stratila. Chirica and Vlad Neculau make up the rest of the back row. Adrian Motoc and Stefan Iancu are the lock pairing, while hooker Ovidiu Cojocaru will have props Iulian Hartig and Alexandru Gordas either side of him.

Romania played in every World Cup from 1987 to 2015 but were disqualified from the last tournament in Japan for fielding an ineligible player in the qualifiers. Sione Faka’osilea featured when he had already played for Tonga and they had their hopes of appearing in Japan quashed.

Namibia opt for World Cup experience against Italy

Namibia will field eight players who played in their last World Cup game and have included a former Wallaby in their line-up to face Italy in their opening Pool A game in Saint Etienne, France on Saturday.

Richard Hardwick, who has switched international allegiance from Australia, packs down at No 8in the team which Namibia named on Wednesday, 24 hours before the scheduled announcement.

Namibia are seeking their first World Cup finals victory in their seventh successive appearance at the tournament. Coach Allister Coetzee’s bid to change that statistic relies on experience and he has kept faith with many of the side who were in Japan four years ago.

Centre Johan Deysel will captain the team. Winger JC Greyling, scrum half Damian Stevens, loose forwards Prince Gaoseb and Johan Retief, lock Tjiuee Uanivi, prop Aranos Coetzee and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld all played in Namibia’s 71-9 defeat by New Zealand in Tokyo four years ago.

Namibia team: 15-Divan Rossouw, 14-Gerswin Mouton, 13-Johan Deysel (capt.), 12-Danco Burger, 11-JC Greyling, 10-Tiaan Swanepoel, 9-Damian Stevens, 8-Richard Hardwick, 7-Johan Retief, 6-Wian Conradie, 5-Tjiuee Uanivi, 4-Adriaan Ludick, 3-Aranos Coetzee, 2-Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1-Desiderius Sethie.

Replacements: 16-Louis van der Westhuizen, 17-Jason Benade, 18-Casper Viviers, 19-Tiaan de Klerk, 20-Prince Gaoseb, 21-Jacques Theron, 22-Andre van der Berg, 23-Le Roux Malan.

Willemse preferred to Le Roux for World Cup opener

South Africa have selected Damian Willemse at full back and opted for a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the bench for the opening game of their Rugby World Cup defence against Scotland in Marseille on Sunday.

Willie le Roux, the long-time first-choice No 15 for the Springboks, is among the replacements with the versatile Willemse preferred against Scotland, who are likely to take the game to South Africa with ball in hand.

Wingers Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe make up a pacey back three, and Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel are a change to the centre pairing from the side that thumped New Zealand by a record 35-7 in their final warm-up game in London.

Jasper Wiese takes over at No 8 from 37-year-old Duane Vermeulen, who drops to the bench, but the rest of the pack remains the same with the only backs among the replacements scrum half Grant Williams and Le Roux.

Utility back Canan Moodie and lock Jean Kleyn were not considered for selection due to injuries.

“We believe this group of players strikes the right balance to achieve the result we need against Scotland,” coach Jacques Nienaber said. “We’ve been working hard in the last few weeks to make sure we are as prepared as possible going into this match and we are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us.”

South Africa team: 15-Damian Willemse, 14-Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Cheslin Kolbe, 10-Manie Libbok, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Jasper Wiese, 7-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Franco Mostert, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Malcolm Marx, 1-Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Ox Nche, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Marco van Staden, 21-Duane Vermeulen, 22-Grant Williams, 23-Willie le Roux.


Johnny Sexton returns for Ireland

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton will make his first competitive appearance in almost six months after being selected to start Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash with Romania.

Fly half Sexton missed his country’s three warm-up matches through suspension, having not played since injuring a groin as Ireland clinched the Six Nations grand slam against England on March 18.

The 38-year-old, who will retire after the tournament, will partner Leinster team-mate Jamison Gibson-Park on his long-awaited comeback in Bordeaux.

Ulster’s Rob Herring will start at hooker to fill the void left by Dan Sheehan’s foot injury, with Ronan Kelleher, who sat out last month’s wins over Italy, England and Samoa amid a hamstring issue, on the bench.

Lock Joe McCarthy – the least experienced international in Ireland’s 33-man squad – will make only his second Test start, alongside vice-captain James Ryan. Wing Mack Hansen and World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier are notable absentees, although the latter is on the bench, with Keith Earls selected on the right wing, Peter O’Mahony at openside flanker and Tadhg Beirne at blindside.

France team to face New Zealand in World Cup opener

Yoram Moefana will start at centre to make up for the absence of the injured Jonathan Danty, while fly half Matthieu Jalibert will pair up with Antoine Dupont for France’s World Cup opening match against New Zealand on Friday.

Les Bleus will also have to do without prop Cyril Baille and fly half Romain Ntamack, who will miss the tournament through injury.

“We’re getting into this match with the best France team,” head coach Fabien Galthie told a news conference on Wednesday.

Les Bleus, who are gunning for a maiden World Cup title, finished their preparations with a convincing 41-17 victory against Australia.

France team: 15-Thomas Ramos, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Yoram Moefana, 11-Gabin Villiere, 10-Matthieu Jalibert, 9-Antoine Dupont (cap), 8-Gregory Alldritt, 7-Charles Ollivon, 6-Francois Cros, 5-Thibaud Flament, 4-Cameron Woki, 3-Uini Atonio, 2-Julien Marchand, 1-Reda Wardi

Replacements: 16-Peato Mauvaka, 17-Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Paul Boudehent, 21-Maxime Lucu, 22-Arthur Vincent, 23-Melvyn Jamine


Lienert-Brown in as All Blacks make three changes for France opener

Let’s catch you up on a couple of team announcements from yesterday, starting with New Zealand who take on France on Friday.

Anton Lienert-Brown replaced the injured Jordie Barrett at inside centre in one of three changes to the New Zealand starting side for the World Cup opener against hosts France.

Barrett has been struggling with a knee problem and did not train this week so Lienert-Brown will play his second Test of the year alongside Rieko Ioane in midfield for the blockbuster clash at Stade de France.

Codie Taylor returns at hooker after a hamstring issue and Nepo Laulala comes in at tighthead prop for Tyrel Lomax, who needed 30 stitches in a cut to his leg after the crushing loss to South Africa in New Zealand’s final warm-up.

In the back row, Dalton Papali’i, who usually plays on the openside, starts as blindside flanker with Shannon Frizell still ruled out by a hamstring issue.

New Zealand team: 15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-Anton Lienert-Brown, 11-Mark Telea, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Ardie Savea, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Dalton Papali’i, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Sam Whitelock, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Ethan de Groot

Replacements: 16-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17-Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18-Fletcher Newell, 19-Tupou Vaa’i, 20-Luke Jacobson, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-David Havili, 23-Leicester Fainga’anuku


Evolved South Africa side bid to retain Rugby World Cup – but one factor might prevent them

A more emphatic declaration of World Cup intent there could not have been. As the All Blacks hauled themselves off the Twickenham pitch, battered, bruised and beaten by a record margin, South Africa were already looking at what was next. A fortnight before the tournament, and four years on from a triumph that united a nation, the world champion Springboks were back in business and had their eyes fixed squarely on a World Cup prize.

The 36-7 win counted for nothing tangible in the context of the tournament to come but the message was clear.

Ireland and France may have risen to form a leading quartet of contenders but the Webb Ellis Cup will not be prized easily out of South Africa’s hands.

Back to lead them again is Siya Kolisi, having overcome a knee injury. When the South Africa captain underwent surgery in late April, the worst fears were that the flanker may miss this tournament entirely, but a quick recovery saw him able to return in Cardiff for the warm-up encounter with Wales and immediately show why he remains such a vital back row figure.

Read Harry Latham-Coyle’s full team guide and preview of South Africa’s chances at the tournament:

Evolved South Africa can retain World Cup – but one factor might prevent them

The Springboks are ready to defend their World Cup crown

England expected to pick Alex Mitchell at scrum half to face Argentina

There’ll be a slew of team announcements today, including England, who are expected to name their side to take on Argentina at around 4pm BST.

Reports suggest that Alex Mitchell will start at scrum half in the World Cup opener, a remarkable rise given that he wasn’t even in the initial squad and only received a call-up when Jack van Poortvliet was ruled out through injury. From fourth choice to first choice in a matter of days as he has apparently leapfrogged Ben Youngs and Danny Care in the pecking order.

Winger Jonny May is in a similar boat, having not been in the initial squad but called up to replace Anthony Watson and now in line for a spot in the starting XV.

Rugby World Cup 2023 live

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the build-up to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The tournament finally gets going tomorrow but we’ve got a day of team announcements and press conferences first.

Stick with us for all the latest.

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