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World Cup warm-up: England

World Cup warm-up: England
  • England out to banish spectre of 2015 Rugby World Cup
  • Eddie Jones' troops to face Guinness Six Nations rivals Wales, Ireland and Italy in warm-up matches

Having been captured cheering on the country’s cricketers during their World Cup heroics last weekend, England’s rugby stars will be desperate to emulate their success when they head to Japan later this summer.

Eddie Jones’ side are among the front-runners to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time, and the England head coach will be confident the 2003 winners can improve on their pool-stage exit four years ago.

England showed plenty of promise in the early stages of their 2019 Guinness Six Nations campaign but defeat to eventual Grand-Slam Champions Wales – and a draw against Scotland – has left them with something of a point to prove.

With doubtless talent and skill bubbling throughout an exciting squad, they will surely have a big say in who goes on to be crowned World Champions if Jones can get his men ticking at the right time.

Ahead of a string of warm-up matches, which are now less than a month away, here’s a closer look at England’s preparations for the tournament.

Warm-up matches

With a quartet of World Cup warm-ups against fellow Guinness Six Nations sides starting next month, England were scheduled to depart their second training camp in Bristol on Thursday after five days of graft in the west country.

A visit from Wales will kick things off on August 11, six days before England cross the border and head back to Principality Stadium for the first time since that ferocious 21-13 defeat back in February.

Ireland then make the trip to Twickenham a week later, with England having produced arguably their most impressive performance of the Jones era in a 32-20 win over Joe Schmidt’s side in Dublin earlier this year.

Italy, who lost all five of their matches in this year’s Championship, are England’s final opponents on September 6 – just 16 days before England’s World Cup opener against Tonga – in what will be their first home Test match to be played in Newcastle.

Warm-ups in full

August 11: England v Wales (Twickenham)

August 17: Wales v England (Principality Stadium)

August 24: England v Ireland (Twickenham)

September 6: England v Italy (St James’ Park)

Squad

Ahead of the second Red Rose training camp, five names were added to the 35-strong squad who were initially called up to contest the 31 spots available on the plane to the Far East.

Mike Brown – England’s most-capped full-back – has been drafted back into the fold, along with Alex Dombrandt, Marcus Smith, Tom Dunn and Ollie Thorley.

Jones has so-far been coy on who is likely to make the final cut but admitted earlier this month that up to 28 places had already been set in stone.

Among the biggest decisions he must make is whether to include Premiership Rugby Player of the Season Danny Cipriani.

The Gloucester fly-half – alongside Sam Underhill and Anthony Watson – completed specialised strength and conditioning work instead of linking up with the rest of the players in Bristol, with Jones highlighting the need to cater for the needs of each individual.

Sevens convert Ruaridh McConnochie and Northampton youngster Lewis Ludlam are among those vying to squeeze their way into the final 31, while Joe Marler could make the cut after reversing his decision to retire.

The absence of former captain Dylan Hartley – as well as fellow experienced heads such as Chris Robshaw and Danny Care – has been cause for some concern, but Jones insists his group possesses a good balance of excitement and know-how.

The former Japan head coach will name his team a day after the first warm-up game against Wales, meaning those on the periphery will face a boom or bust situation against Warren Gatland’s men.

Before that, England head to Treviso for a heat camp on July 22, and they will return to Italy at the end of August ahead of their final warm-up fixture against the Azzurri in Newcastle.

Rugby World Cup Pool

England will be greeted with arguably the World Cup’s pool of death when they arrive in Japan, as they line up alongside Argentina, the United States, Tonga and Guinness Six Nations rivals France.

With only two qualification spots up for grabs, Jones will know his side will need to be on their best form – and Argentina and France should pose the biggest threats to England’s knockout hopes.

England haven’t faced the Pumas since an unconvincing 21-8 win at Twickenham nearly two years ago, and they haven’t lost to an Argentina side since 2009.

But the South Americans have had top-four finishes at two of the last three World Cups and will be confident they can rattle the former champions.

Despite a fourth-place finish in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, French rugby is on a high after they retained the Junior World Cup in June.

Only nine of their 37-man provisional squad have World Cup experience and there is no place for Mathieu Bastareaud or Morgan Parra but Jones will be wary that the three-time runners-up will take some stopping.

England haven’t faced Tonga or the USA since the 2007 World Cup on their run to the final, and Jones will be hoping two wins this time around in Pool C can help his side go on to achieve a similar feat.

Fans can get tickets for the matches at Twickenham and St James’ Park here and the trip to the Principality Stadium here