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Rugby World Cup Pool D preview: England may toil as Pumas get ready to pounce

England will expect to get out of Pool D but a troublesome build-up to the Rugby World Cup, coupled with improvements made by their section rivals, means it won't be a straightforward process.

When the draw for the World Cup was made in 2020, England were heavy favourites to top their section having reached the 2019 World Cup final and recently won the Six Nations. 

Fast forward three years and they now share favouritism to win Pool D with Argentina at 10/11, while the meetings with fellow group rivals Japan, Samoa and tournament debutants Chile are far from formalities.

England have only once failed to get out of their pool but their path to the quarter-finals appears treacherous.

Argentina are greatly improved, Samoa will bring a hard-hitting and high-quality squad to France and Japan were pool winners at the last World Cup, setting the stage nicely for a competitive set of fixtures.

WhatRugby World Cup 2003 - Pool D
WhereVarious stadiums across France
WhenSaturday, September 9th - Sunday, October 8th
How to watchITV
Pool D winner oddsEngland 10/11, Argentina 10/11, Samoa 40/1, Japan 40/1, Chile 1000/1

England

England enter the World Cup at their joint-lowest ever ranking having slipped to eighth in the standings following a torrid few years. 

With the relationship between Eddie Jones, some members of the squad and the RFU having turned toxic in 2022, Steve Borthwick was thrown a hospital pass when being asked to turn around the national side's fortunes at the end of last year. 

And there's been little sign of any improvement under Borthwick with England finishing fourth in this year's Six Nations before a World Cup warm-up series dogged with issues. 

England recorded one win from four warm-up games - a narrow 19-17 win over Wales at Twickenham - suffering disappointing losses to Wales in Cardiff and Ireland in Dublin before a first-ever defeat to Fiji at home.

To make matters worse, captain Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola were sent off during those friendlies, ruling them out of the crunch opening game against Argentina in Marseille.

England have been lacklustre in attack and sloppy in defence, but history suggests they can pull it together for the World Cup. 

The Red Rose have only ever lost six pool stage matches and the way the draw has fallen is favourable, with the 2003 champions 4/6 to reach at least the semi-final.

Having reached the final four years ago, the bar seems much lower for England this time around, but it would still be a huge shock if they failed to make it out of the pool.

Argentina

Argentina took home the bronze medal the last time the World Cup was staged in France in 2007, topping their section along the way, and a repeat performance doesn't look beyond the South Americans. 

The Pumas have been steadily building since their disappointing pool stage exit in Japan four years ago and under former Australia coach Michael Cheika they've chalked up some impressive results. 

England, New Zealand, Australia twice, Scotland and Wales have all been toppled by Argentina under Cheika's watch, with the majority of those wins coming away from home.

Argentina boast a squad with a nice blend of youth and experience, featuring 11 players who ply their trade in the English Premiership. 

Newcastle livewire Mateo Carreras is 10/3 to be Argentina's top tryscorer after a prolific season for the Falcons and is part of an impressive collection of backs for the Pumas.

Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez's return to fitness in time for his fourth World Cup has been timely, while the fearsome pack on which Argentina built their rugby reputation remains a force to be reckoned with.

Samoa

Samoa haven't reached the quarter-finals of a World Cup in 28 years but head to France with high expectations after a recent good run of results.

Having crashed out of Japan 2019 with a whimper and then gone the best part of 18 months without an international game, Samoa have enjoyed a rapid turnaround. 

Head coach Seilala Mapusua was part of some excellent Samoa sides and has brought the squad closer together, with his options boosted by changes to the eligibility laws.

Three former All Blacks - Lima Sopoaga, flanker Steven Luatua and prop Charlie Faumuina, and ex-Austalia fly-half Christian Leali'ifano - have been allowed to link up with Samoa, adding to a squad blessed with a hard-hitting collection of forwards.

Samoa have won nine of their last 12 internationals and look a real handful based on their narrow loss to Ireland in their final warm-up match.

Samoa still have a few flaws, notably at the set-piece, but could give England and Argentina a run for their money at 10/1 to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Japan

Pool winners four years ago when hosts of the World Cup, Japanese rugby has failed to build on the momentum gained from such an outstanding achievement.

The Brave Blossoms have won just four games in the four years since topping a section featuring Scotland and Ireland, and have been far from impressive in the build-up to the renewal.

They were well beaten by Italy recently and won just one game in the Pacific Nations Cup, despite home advantage for those fixtures.

Reports of a split camp and some controversy over the squad selected by Jamie Joseph, who will leave his job after the World Cup, has cast further doubt on Japan's ability to compete in France and they are 20/21 to finish fourth or fifth in Pool D. 

But it would be foolish to entirely write off such a tactically diverse side that boasts plenty of experience and talent with Michael Leitch, Horie Shota and Himeno Kazuki included in the party. 

Japan have won seven of their last eight pool stage games at the last two World Cups and will hope they can enjoy a return to their former glories.

Chile

Chile will become the 26th different nation to compete at a Rugby World Cup when they kick-off against Japan in Toulouse on 10th September. 

The Condors had never previously made it beyond the second round of qualifying for a World Cup, but coach Pablo Lemoine appears to be building something with a young, unburdened squad of players. 

Chile beat World Cup regulars Canada and the USA, both over two legs, to punch their ticket for France, and can now look forward to a first meeting with a tier one nation since the 1950s.

Fly-half Rodrigo Fernandez scored the try of the year in the win over the USA and is the man to watch from a squad featuring four pairs of siblings.

Six straight defeats in the build-up have tempered any talk of upsetting their more established pool rivals, but Chile will try to make life tough for their opponents, particularly when they come up against neighbours Argentina on 30th September. 

Pool D fixtures

FixtureDateTimeVenue
England v ArgentinaSaturday, September 9th20:00Orange Velodrome, Marseille
Japan v ChileSunday, September 10th12:00Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
Samoa v ChileSaturday, September 16th14:00Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
England v JapanSunday, September 17th20:00Allianz Riviera, Nice
Argentina v SamoaFriday, September 22nd16:45Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne
England v ChileSaturday, September 23rd16:45Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Japan v SamoaThursday, September 28th20:00Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
Argentina v ChileSaturday, September 30th14:00Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
England v SamoaSaturday, October 7th16:45Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Japan v ArgentinaSunday, October 8th12:00Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes

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