Rugby Union World Cup: Team-by-team guide, featuring England, New Zealand, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Australia and Japan

A guide to every nation competing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan
A guide to every nation competing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

The Rugby World Cup begins in September in Japan and our team-by-team guide has details of every nation competing, including their tournament history and odds..

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New Zealand

New Zealand lifted the 2015 World Cup in England
New Zealand lifted the 2015 World Cup in England

2015 World Cup: Winners

World Cups won: 3

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 5/4

Coach: Steve Hansen

Summary: The reigning champions are the only country to win the World Cup three times and also back-to-back, having won the inaugural tournament in 1987 and then in 2011 and 2015. The best team in the world, the country is rugby union obsessed - think Brazil in football. The favourites 'bottled' the 2005 and 2007 tournaments and looked destined to be stuck on one victory, however the 2011 success on home soil has broken the mental barriers and the feared All Blacks have almost been unbeatable ever since. Their preparation for Japan has not gone as planned, losing their Rugby Championship crown due to a draw with South Africa and a hammering by Australia, showing a rare lack of discipline and poor tackling. But equally they returned the favour to the Wallabies a week later smashing them 36-0, so they rightly remain favourites to win in Japan and it will be a shock if they don't win it again.

Squad: TBC

England

England's Owen Farrell
England captain Owen Farrell will look to inspire his side again in Japan

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 1

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 5/1

Coach: Eddie Jones

Key player: Owen Farrell - the captain is a born winner and leads by example. When he's at his best so are England.

Summary: The 2003 World Cup winners are the biggest rugby playing nation in the world, but have struggled to turn that into consistent success at the very highest level, despite reaching the World Cup final on three occasions (1991, 2003, 2005). They were embarrassed at their own tournament in 2015, being knocked out in the group stages for the first time in their history. Having been crowned Six Nations Grand Slam champions in 2017 they looked back on track, but they've been inconsistent since and have failed to win the tournament again. Coach Eddie Jones expected his England side to be further ahead at this stage, but their mixed performances continue to demonstrate why fans both feel rightly they are potential World Cup winners and at the same time fear another failure.

Squad: Forwards: Dan Cole (Leicester, 86 caps), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter, 12), Tom Curry (Sale, 11), Ellis Genge (Leicester, 10), Jamie George (Saracens, 37), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 27), George Kruis (Saracens, 32), Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 59), Courtney Lawes (Northampton, 72), Lewis Ludlam (Northampton, 1), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 58), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 22), Jack Singleton (Saracens, 1), Sam Underhill (Bath, 9), Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 42), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 53), Mark Wilson (Newcastle/Sale, 13).

Backs: Joe Cokanasiga (Bath, 5), Elliot Daly (Saracens, 31), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 70), George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 56), Piers Francis (Northampton, 5), Willi Heinz (Gloucester, 1), Jonathan Joseph (Bath, 41), Jonny May (Leicester, 45), Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath, uncapped), Jack Nowell (Exeter, 33), Henry Slade (Exeter, 22), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester, 33), Anthony Watson (Bath, 34), Ben Youngs (Leicester, 86).

Wales

Wales are the current Six Nations champions
Wales are the current Six Nations champions

2015 World Cup: Quarter-finals

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 6/1

Coach: Warren Gatland

Summary: Wales were crowned 2019 Six Nations champions thanks to a national record-breaking 14 match winning run, and they are now ranked as the best team in the world. Coach Warren Gatland, a double British Lions Tour coach, leaves his role after the tournament and the nation will feel they may never have a better chance of winning their first World Cup. A united team of warriors, their defence is the best in the world, they have an excellent kicking game and seem to have forgotten how to lose. They are not specular, but very solid, and that's what wins World Cups.

Squad: TBC

Ireland

Ireland's Jonny Sexton scores a try
Ireland's Jonny Sexton was the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year and will be key to their success in Japan

2015 World Cup: Quarter-finals

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 7/1

Coach: Joe Schmidt

Summary: The best team in the world in 2018, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam and beating New Zealand in Ireland for the first time in their history, in the process increasing belief that 2019 would be their year to go all the way in Japan. However, a disappointing 2019 Six Nations in terms of both results and performances mean expectations have been lowered slightly. Coach Joe Schmidt will leave after the tournament and if he can get Ireland back to their 2018 form then they can lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy. However, Ireland have a reputation of peaking between World Cups and thus have never progressed passed the quarter-finals.

Squad: TBC


Japan are hosting their first World Cup
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Scotland

2015 World Cup: Quarter finals

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 50/1

Coach: Gregor Townsend

Summary: Under Townsend, Scotland play an attractive, expansive game, however they lack depth and brute strength throughout their squad. The last year has also highlighted their weak game management and experience. Despite they have really developed back into a strong side in recent years but remain someway off consistently competing with the top nations. They are hampered by a terrible away record, which means a World Cup in Japan could be one to forget. In the likes of Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell they have two of the most exciting backs in Europe. They love being underdogs and written off and that showed in 2015, when they shone to reach the quarter finals, where they lost to Australia due to an incorrect ref call.

Squad: TBC

France

The French squad in their World Cup training camp
The French squad in their World Cup training camp

2015 World Cup: Quarter finals

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 40/1

Coach: Jacques Brunel

Summary: The beautiful and unpredictable French have hit rock bottom in recent seasons. A terrible 2019 Six Nations confirmed their problems, as they lack a consistent game plan, a solid defence and the unity required to mix it with the very best. They were in a mess in 2011 too, but still reached the final, where they should have beaten hosts New Zealand, but since then they have gone further downhill. If they throw all caution to the wind they can still be great, but on the whole they are on the decline, as highlighted by their defeat to Fiji in 2018.

Squad: TBC

Italy

Conor O'Shea is the Italy head coach, having previously coached Harlequins

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 500/1

Coach: Conor O'Shea

Summary: Introduced into the Six Nations in 2000 to help them become a global force, sadly Italy have fallen backwards in recent times, despite some improvement under O'Shea. They have finished bottom of the Six Nations 14 out of 19 times. Famously a strong pack, but inconsistent backs, Italy always work hard and pressure opponents, but lack the basic execution and decision making to hurt teams when they are on top.

Squad: TBC

South Africa

South Africa are one of the rare nations to defeat World Champions New Zealand in the last two years
South Africa are one of the rare nations to defeat World Champions New Zealand in the last two years

2015 World Cup: Semi finals

World Cups won: 2

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 6/1

Coach: Rassie Erasmus

Summary: A year ago this felt a nation in transition with a new coach and captain, a young squad and a new focus on playing a more expansive game. But Rassie Erasmus, who took over in March 2018, will already feel the Springbok can win the World Cup for a third time after an unexpectedly impressive 2018 and 2019. They were the only team to beat New Zealand in the 2018 Rugby Championship and a draw with them in this year's event helped them win the Rugby Championship for the first time in 10 years. A side that at their best can win the World Cup, and are strong in all areas.

Squad: TBC

Australia

Israel Folau goes in for an Australia try
Israel Folau will not play for Australia in Japan due to his controversial religious views

2015 World Cup: Finalists

World Cups won: 2

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 16/1

Coach: Michael Cheika

Summary: Think Germany in football - no matter their previous form and squad quality a World Cup brings out the best in Australia and they are always there or thereabouts at the end of the tournament, as highlighted in 2015 when they reached the final, despite being written off beforehand. It looks like the pattern is repeating again. They've had an 18 months to forget on and off the pitch. They narrowly avoided finishing bottom of the 2018 Rugby Championship and endured a tough European tour last winter, losing to the likes of England and Wales. Off the pitch they sacked their best player Israel Folau for his outspoken anti-homosexual views. But all of a sudden they look strong again, thanks to a win over Argentina and a hammering of New Zealand in The Rugby Championship.

Squad: TBC

Argentina

Pablo Matera is the Argentina captain
Pablo Matera is the Argentina captain

2015 World Cup: Semi finals

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 33/1

Coach: Mario Ledesma

Summary: Like Italy, Argentina were introduced to the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship to allow them to mix it with the big boys and become a top rugby nation. They have fared much better than Italy in this respect, but are still the team that typically finishes bottom of that competition and have gone backwards in the past two years, as their new era of player fails to live up the legends that went before them. They pride themselves on fearsome forwards, exciting backs, and individually are one of the best tackling sides in the world, so when they get going they can challenge most sides. They have improved under new coach Mario Ledesma in the last 12 months, but three defeats from three in this year's Championship points to how far behind they remain. One word of note, they do normally peak for World Cups, having reached the semi-finals in 2015, where they should have beaten Australia.

Squad: TBC

Japan

Japan celebrate their win over South Africa in 2015 - rugby's biggest World Cup shock
Japan celebrate their win over South Africa in 2015 - rugby's biggest World Cup shock

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 150/1

Coach: Jamie Joseph

Summary: The 2019 hosts, as the World Cup is played in Asia for the first time. The Brave Blossoms caused the greatest upset in World Cup history in 2015 when they beat giants South Africa, thanks to an injury-time try. Back then they were coached by Eddie Jones, the man at the helm of England now. They are still a minnow in rugby circles, but are serious about becoming a tier one nation sooner rather than later. They've beaten Tonga and Fiji in 2019, and Italy, Georgia and Russia in 2018. They also led England at Twickenham in November at half-time before losing 35-15. They are the reigning Pacific Cup champions and with a home crowd on their side they will be expecting to get out of the group stages at least.

Squad: TBC

Fiji

2015 World Cup: Group stage: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 500/1

Coach: John McKee

Summary: The nation everyone wants to watch and wishes their side where like, Fiji are the entertainers of the rugby world and play the game like no one else. Incredibly skilful and powerful, they play a beautiful style and with a smile on their face. They are the Olympic Sevens champions, but do not enjoy such success at XV's international level. This is down to a number of factors, including a lack of training time together, cohesion, game plan and discipline. They put more focus on their sevens game and lose a lot of players to other nations. They beat France in 2018 to prove on their day they can beat the tier one nations, and will be targeting second spot in their pool.

Squad: TBC

Samoa

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 500/1

Coach: Steve Jackson

Summary: The name sends a shudder down the spine of opponents, as these boys have always been brutes. Physically almost perfect, they combine awesome power with great handling skills. However they are sadly a fading nation due to a lack of world support. Other nations regularly steal their players, and those left behind rarely get to practice together. In-game their physical dominance often goes over the top, with many red and yellow cards issued against them. With the new strict tackle laws, it means a lot of their traditional power tackling has been taken out of their game, which was one of their biggest weapons - much to the delight of opposition.

Squad: TBC

Georgia

Tier two nation Georgia are a side that have developed well in recent years
Tier two nation Georgia are a side that have developed well in recent years

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 750/1

Coach: Milton Haig

Summary: Another very likeable side, that you find yourself willing to win a group game and give a bloody nose to one of the big boys. They are built on power with a fearsome pack, living to scrummage and grind their opponents down. They won two group games in 2015 and their aim is to now start regularly beating stuttering nations like Tonga and Fiji.

Squad: TBC

Tonga

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 750/1

Coach: Toutai Kefu

Summary: Very much like Samoa, Tonga have always been known for their fearsome tackling, strong running and clever hands. They have also lost a lot of their players to other nations, who manage to find a long lost grandmother that once drank a beer in their country. They've lost to Samoa and Japan in 2019, but beat Canada, which highlights where they are now.

Squad: TBC

USA

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 2000/1

Coach: Gary Gold

Summary: A Rugby World Cup is a rare place, one where the USA actually win a lot of love, helped in the past by popular characters like Todd Clever and Blaine Scully. Their squads are always littered with talented players who have successfully plied their trades in Europe's top leagues, but as a unit they lack the overall quality across the park to ever be a force or be close to causing real upsets. They lost every game in the 2015 World Cup, but did beat Scotland in 2018. A sport that domestically always threatens to go big, if it ever does then the USA could become strong very quickly, but we've been waiting for this to happen for three decades.

Squad: TBC

Canada

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 2500/1

Coach: Kingsley Jones

Summary: They won't like the comparison, but they are very much like the USA. They are a likeable side, with a lot of goodwill toward them. They play with a lot of passion and hard work and have some notable names in their squad that have done well in Europe, but again lack the quality to ever be a tier one nation and they also lost every game in 2015, although they should have beaten Romania and Italy. In the 90s they threatened to be the next minnows to break into the top ranks, but they never kicked on and instead have gone backwards, despite being coached by the former Sale boss Kingsley Jones.

Squad: TBC

Russia

2015 World Cup: DNQ

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 2500/1

Coach: Lyn Jones

Summary: Coached by the former player Wales and Osprey's coach Lyn Jones, Russia are back at the World Cup after missing the 2015 campaign, having failed to qualify. They are in Japan in controversial circumstances, after Belgium, Romania and Spain were all kicked out after fielding ineligible players during the qualifying stages. Russia, having finished third in qualifying and losing narrowly to both Spain and Romania, were promoted to the World Cup. Their one and only tournament appearance was in 2011 in New Zealand where they lost all four group games, but earned a bonus point against the USA.

Squad: TBC

Uruguay

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 2500/1

Coach: Esteban Meneses

Summary: Currently ranked 19th in the world, Uruguay have qualified for the World Cup four times in total, in 1999, 2003, 2015 and now 2019. In the Americas rankings they sit behind tier one nation Argentina and fellow tier two outfit USA. They beat Russia in the final qualifying play-off to reach the 2015 competition and a play-off win over Canada ensured a trip to Japan. They've won five of their seven matches this year, including wins over Chile, Brazil and Russia.

Squad: TBC

Namibia

Namibia will hope Japan will be the venue of their first World Cup win
Namibia will hope Japan will be the venue of their first World Cup win

2015 World Cup: Group stage

World Cups won: 0

Sky Bet odds to win World Cup: 5000/1

Coach: Philip Davies

Summary: Coached by the former Wales player and Leeds Tykes head coach Phil Davies, Namibia first appeared at the World Cup in 1999, having only started playing the game internationally in 1990. This will be their sixth World Cup, yet they are still searching for their first win. They were unlucky not to earn that in 2015, losing 17-16 to Georgia, while their record defeat is 142–0 to Australia in 2003. They are currently ranked 23rd in the world. They've beaten Uruguay this year, but lost to Russia.

Squad: TBC

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