Rugby World Cup

Tonga fly-half James Faiva proves combine initiative can yield rich harvest

The countries meet in their opening Pool C match in Sapporo on Sunday and the presence of Faiva is testament to the talent identification "combines" run by World Rugby to help improve the strength in depth of Tier 2 nations.

Faiva (pictured above) impressed in a World Rugby-funded Pacific Islands Combine in Fiji that featured young talent from across the region, earning himself a contract in New Zealand's Mitre 10 competition.

'Manu lives less than 100 metres from me and can be a nuisance sometimes'

The Tonga full-back struck up a close relationship with Tuilagi after suffering a foot injury that resulted in eight months of treatment but it has healed in time for him to take part in the World Cup in Japan.

It was during his rehabilitation that he tapped into the experience of Tuilagi, who has finally been restored to full fitness following a sickening run of injuries spanning four years.

Tonga's main three threats to England in Sunday's World Cup opener

The England players will be well aware of some of the more potent players in the Tonga side when they meet in Sapporo, with a number of them playing alongside one another in the Gallagher Premiership on a week-in, week-out basis.

There are also some fresher faces in the forms of Vunipola Fifita of the Brumbies or New Zealand club rugby hooker Siua Maile, but if Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu has any chance of springing a remarkable upset – or at least pushing England closer than many expect – he will need to lean heavily on three of his star performers.

Japan name side for Rugby World Cup opener

Despite losing heavily in their final World Cup warm-up match against South Africa in Kumagaya a week-and-a-half ago, the Brave Blossoms impressed in many aspects during the 41-7 defeat.

However, even with a strong showing in the second half, Joseph has rung the changes for the first match of his side’s home tournament.

Blindside flanker Michael Leitch will become the second player to captain Japan at two World Cups, following in the footsteps of former loose forward Takuro Miuchi.

Samoa cover tattoos at Rugby World Cup as sign of respect for Japan

But the cover up will only go so far, it has been revealed.

The Samoan players will wear skin suits after the team consulted a Japanese cultural expert.

Captain Jack Lam said: “We had someone coming in and giving us a heads-up about what we could expect in Japan.

“There’s a lot of similarities in our cultures but when it comes to the tattoos we have obviously got a lot of tattoos, it’s quite normal in our culture.

“But we are respectful and mindful to what the Japanese way is. We will be making sure that what we are showing will be OK.”

Adam Coleman's poignant tribute to his late father Pau'u Afeaki, the former Tongan skipper

The Hobart-born Wallaby has played 34 times under Michael Cheika since getting his first cap in 2016 and with the 27-year-old now set for a money-spinning move to London Irish in the English Premiership, he expressed his gratitude for his family in helping him enjoy the career that he has.  

Gigantic rugby ball breaks world record with its size ahead of Rugby World Cup

The giant ball was introduced to a gathered crowd in South Molton before a large crew carried it to a kicking tee.

The ball measures in at 5.98 metres in length with a diameter of 3.70 metres and was made to official rugby specifications, meaning it could be played with - in theory.

Guinness World Records attended the unveiling and confirmed it to officially be the world’s largest rugby ball, beating the previous record held by the one used to promote the Hong Kong Sevens tournament in 2011.

     

England forward Maro Itoje knows what to expect from Tonga

A clash against the big-hitting Pacific Islanders launches England’s World Cup quest in Sapporo on Sunday in what will be only the third meeting between the rivals and their first since France 2007.

Itoje has played alongside the Vunipolas at Saracens for six years and since 2016 has operated in the same England pack, leaving a lasting impression of the ruinous impact the brothers of Tongan heritage can have.

“I’ve seen what those two have done to people! It can be dangerous if you allow it to be,” Itoje said.

Nasi Manu recovery on track for England opener

Manu was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year and missed the entire 2018 season as he underwent treatment.

He was then named 'Ikale Tahi captain for this year's Pacific Nations Cup, but had to withdraw from the campaign just before it kicked off because of a pectoral injury.

"He's been fantastic in the way that he has really worked hard to get back and all bearing well he is looking good and [hopefully] he will be up for selection against England but only time will tell," Alatini said.

Springboks want a strong effort from match officials

The Boks have previously felt they have not always got the rub of the green from the officials in clashes with the world champions, especially in areas such as the breakdown and scrum.

With only two points separating the sides on aggregate in their last four matches, it suggests fine margins could decide the Pool B opener.

"Hopefully the match officials will respect the game because if you look at the way things are between us and New Zealand, I think we're more balanced now," Stick said.