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Rugby World Cup 2023 squad guide: Players, fixtures and more

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The Rugby World Cup starts on September 8 when host nation France take on New Zealand, in a match set to kick-start a thrilling competition.

An unbalanced draw sets up intrigue where sides other than the favourites of Ireland, France, New Zealand and South Africa could go further into the tournament than expected.

It will be the first time that the tournament returns to a nation that has been a previous sole host, after the 2007 edition was also held in France.

Chile make their tournament debut after beating Canada and the USA in Americas qualifying, while Portugal are set to return to the World Cup for the first time in 16 years.

There will be 20 teams headed to France and here’s a closer look at the squads and their fixtures:


POOL A
Group fixtures:

Fri 8 Sept France v New Zealand (8.15pm, Stade de France, Paris)

Sat 9 Sept Italy v Namibia (12pm, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne)

Thu 14 Sept France v Uruguay (8pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille)

Fri 15 Sept New Zealand v Namibia (8pm, Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse)

Wed 20 Sept Italy v Uruguay (4.45pm, Stade de Nice, Nice)

Thu 21 Sept France v Namibia (8pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)

Wed 27 Sept Uruguay v Namibia (4.45pm, Parc OL, Lyon)

Fri 29 Sept New Zealand v Italy (8pm, Parc OL, Lyon)

Thu 5 Oct New Zealand v Uruguay (8pm, Parc OL, Lyon)

Fri 6 Oct France v Italy (8pm, Parc OL, Lyon)

New Zealand
When the All Blacks squad was announced, the most capped player in the squad Sam Whitelock was chosen for his fourth Rugby World Cup.

Back-rower Sam Cane will captain New Zealand, while prop Joe Moody was not selected despite being a starter at the 2019 and 2015 tournaments, having struggled with an ankle injury in the last few months.

Forwards: Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Nepo Laulala, Fletcher Newell, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Tamaiti Williams, Dane Coles, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’I, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papli’I, Ardie Savea.

Backs: Finlay Christie, Cam Roigard, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Jordie Barrett, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Will Jordan, Emoni Narawa, Mark Telea.

POOL B
Group fixtures:

Sat 9 Sept Ireland v Romania (2.30pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)

Sun 10 Sept South Africa v Scotland (4.45pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)

Sat 16 Sept Ireland v Tonga (8pm, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes)

Sun 17 Sept South Africa v Romania (2pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)

Sat 23 Sept South Africa v Ireland (8pm, Stade de France, Paris)

Sun 24 Sept Scotland v Tonga (4.45pm, Stade de Nice, Nice)

Sat 30 Sept Scotland v Romania (8pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille)

Sun 1 Oct South Africa v Tonga (8pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)

Sat 7 Oct Ireland v Scotland (8pm, Stade de France, Paris)

Sun 8 Oct Tonga v Romania (4.45pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille)

South Africa
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi has been included in the squad but other key players are left out because of injury, including influential fly-half Handre Pollard, World Cup-winning centre Lukhanyo Am and giant lock Lood de Jager, while hooker Joseph Dweba and prop Thomas du Toit missed the cut for selection purposes

Kolisi had major knee surgery in April but South Africa are confident he will be fit in time for the tournament and he heads a list of players who will compete at a third World Cup for the Boks. Props Frans Malherbe and Trevor Nyakane, lock Eben Etzebeth, loose forwards Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen and centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel are the others.

Backs: Damian de Allende, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Faf de Klerk, Andre Esterhuizen, Jaden Hendrikse, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Manie Libbok, Makazole Mapimpi, Canan Moodie, Cobus Reinach, Damian Willemse, Grant Williams

Forwards: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff, Jean Kleyn, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Franco Mostert , Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Marvin Orie, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese

POOL C
Group fixtures:

Sat 9 Sept Australia v Georgia (5pm, Stade de France, Paris)

Sun 10 Sept Wales v Fiji (8pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)

Sat 16 Sept Wales v Portugal (4.45pm, Stade de Nice, Nice)

Sun 17 Sept Australia v Fiji (4.45pm, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne)

Sat 23 Sept Georgia v Portugal (1pm, Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse)

Sun 24 Sept Wales v Australia (8pm, Parc OL, Lyon)

Sat 30 Sept Fiji v Georgia (4.45pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)

Sun 1 Oct Australia v Portugal (4.45pm, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne)

Sat 7 Oct Wales v Georgia (2pm, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes)

Sun 8 Oct Fiji v Portugal (8pm, Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse)

Fiji
Fiji have arguably one of the most inexperienced squads of the tournament, with 24 members of the 33-man squad having never played at a World Cup previously.

However, they started their preparations brightly with three wins over Tonga, Samoa and Japan and have world-class operators such as Waisea Nayacalevu, Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova scattered throughout the group

Forwards: Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesake Doge, Luke Tagi, Samu Tawake, Tevita Ikanivere, Sam Matavesi, Zuriel Togiatama, Isoa Nasilasila, Temo Mayanavanua, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Albert Tuisue, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Levani Botia, Vilive Miramira, Meli Derenalagi, Viliame Mata.

Backs: Frank Lomani, Simi Kuruvoli, Peni Matawalu, Caleb Muntz, Teti Tela, Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra, Waisea Nayacalevu, Iosefo Masi, Selesitino Ravutaumada, Vinaya Habosi, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Sireli Maqala, Ilaisa Droasese.

POOL D
Sat 9 Sept England v Argentina (8pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)

Sun 10 Sept Japan v Chile (noon, Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse)

Sat 16 Sept Samoa v Chile (2pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)

Sun 17 Sept England v Japan (8pm, Stade de Nice, Nice)

Fri 22 Sept Argentina v Samoa (4.45pm, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne)

Sat 23 Sept England v Chile (4.45pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille)

Thu 28 Sept Japan v Samoa (8pm, Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse)

Sat 30 Sept Argentina v Chile (2pm, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes)

Sat 7 Oct England v Samoa (4.45pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille)

Sun 8 Oct Japan v Argentina (noon, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes)

England
Henry Slade was left out of Steve Borthwick’s World Cup squad despite playing in 30 out of the 37 games since the 2019 World Cup, as Joe Marchant is preferred in the centres.

Alex Dombrandt, who has started every England Test this year, and Tom Willis were left out, meaning there is no specialist No 8 in reserve for Billy Vunipola, while his brother Mako was also not included after failing to recover from a back injury in time.

Forwards: Dan Cole, Ellis Genge, Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Theo Dan, Jamie George, Jack Walker, Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Martin, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Lewis Ludlam, David Ribbans, Billy Vunipola, Jack Willis.

Backs: Danny Care, Jack van Poortvliet, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Marcus Smith, Elliot Daly, Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell, Max Malins, Freddie Steward, Anthony Watson.

Argentina
Michael Cheika included Nicolas Sanchez and Agustin Creevy, who will play in their fourth World Cup, in the 33-man group.

There is also a tournament debut for 38-year-old Francisco Kodela.

Forwards: Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Joel Sclavi, Thomas Gallo, Eduardo Bello, Julian Montoya (captain), Agustin Creevy, Ignacio Ruiz, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni, Pedro Rubiolo.

Backs: Gonzalo Bertranou, Tomas Cubelli, Lautaro Bazan Vélez, Santiago Carreras, Nicolas Sanchez, Santiago Chocobares, Lucio Cinti, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Matias Moroni, Emiliano Boffelli, Mateo Carreras, Rodrigo Isgro, Juan Cruz Mallia, Martin Bogado, Juan Imhoff.

Samoa
Samoa have plenty of experience in their squad, including Christian Leali’ifano who was part of the Australia team that reached the quarter-finals at Japan 2019 and has benefitted from World Rugby’s loosening of rules around switching nationality back to your country of birth.

Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua are ex-All Blacks, while Samoa be led by co-captains Michael Alaalatoa and Chris Vui.

Forwards: Michael Alaalatoa (co-captain), Paul Alo-Emile, Charlie Faumuina, Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Sama Malolo, Luteru Tolai, Brian Alainuuese, Theo McFarland, Sam Slade, Chris Vui (co-captain), Sootala Faasoo, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Fritz Lee, Steven Luatua, Alamanda Motuga, Taleni Seu, Sa Jordan Taufua.

Backs: Ere Enari, Melani Matavao, Jonathan Taumateine, Christian Leali’ifano, Lima Sopoaga, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Tumua Manu, Duncan Paiaaua, Ulupano Junior Seuteni, Nigel Ah Wong, Ed Fidow, Neria Fomai, Benjamin Lam, Danny Toala.

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Nigerian League

There’s a twist’ – Springbok hopeful rejects South African homecoming

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Ruan Ackermann will not be returning to South Africa after signing a contract extension with Premiership club Gloucester Rugby.

 

The powerhouse forward’s contract was expiring at the end of the current season and looked set to return to South Africa but has instead opted to remain in the West Country.

 

The Sharks and his former employers, the Lions, were two of the teams that Ackerman was reportedly in talks with, but ultimately, he decided to remain at the club he joined back in 2017.

“I miss playing in South Africa, I see the stadiums are getting more and more full,” Ackermann told Afrikaans newspaper Rapport in January.

 

But on Thursday, Gloucester and Ackermann revealed that the player had changed his mind.

 

“There is a little twist, I can’t see myself leaving yet, I want to stay on, so we are staying on,” he said in an interview confirming his extension.

 

He added: “The players, the staff, the people, the coaches, everyone has been really good to me. It’s basically like a second home, so that’s what makes things, when it comes to a decision, so tough.”

His re-signing with the Premiership side means that he will head into his eighth season at Gloucester this year, having arrived along with his father Johan, who was head coach at the time.

 

The Kingsholm favourite is consistently one of the top players in the Premiership for carries and metres made and was voted Gloucester Rugby’s Players’ Player of the Season for 2021/22.

 

His ability to play across the back-row, and even at lock, is a huge asset for the Cherry and Whites, with director of rugby, George Skivington, hailing the club’s ability to retain his services.

 

“There was lots of competition for Ruan’s signature, so it’s a huge coup for the Club,” Skivington said.

 

“Ruan has been fantastic for us and to have a player of his quality committing his future to the Club is a massive statement of trust in the direction we are heading in.

 

“Everyone at Gloucester Rugby is delighted that Ruan will be in Cherry & White next season.”

International ambitions

Ackermann is qualified to represent England through residency and his potential move back to South Africa was seen as an attempt to better his chances of cracking the Springboks squad.

 

In fact, he was reportedly on the cusp of making the Red Rose squad before injury struck and ruled him out of the World Cup and a debut in the England jersey.

 

However, he still hopes to make it on the international stage.

 

“I just want to play at the highest level, it’s a dream of mine, but the Springboks are my first choice,” he said in an interview in January.

 

“I feel like I have been here [England] long enough to prove myself, and that chance or option never came. I think they have their eyes on other players.”

 

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Nigerian League

Sunshine Stars unveil Boboye, Oboabona

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Sunshine Stars FC on Thursday in Akure unveiled former Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye and AFCON 2013 winner Godfrey Oboabona as the team’s coach and player respectively.

The club employed the services of the former Abia Warriors and Heartland manager following the sacking of Edith Agoye, who led the team to 14th place in the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League season.

The appointments were contained in a statement issued by Sunshine Stars media officer, Michael Akintunde.

According to the statement, other technical crew members unveiled alongside Kennedy Boboye include Kayode Julius (chief coach), Nwachukwu Ifeanyi (assistant coach) and John Gaadi (goalkeeper trainer).

Oboabona, a member of the Super Eagles that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, has made a return to the team after playing for various clubs in Europe.

The statement read, “He (Oboabona) is expected to add his wealth of experience to the team as Kennedy Boboye gets set to lead the team back to winning ways.”

Boboye, in his remarks, thanked the management of the team for giving him an opportunity to serve and lead the team again, seeking the corporations of the stakeholders and promised to give his best with the support of everyone.

“I’m glad I’m back home, Sunshine Stars remain in my heart, with God and the collective support of everyone we shall succeed and achieve the desired results,” the coach stated.

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Nigerian League

NPFL Youth league finals hold in Benin

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(NPFL) Youth League

Benin, the Edo State capital has been announced as the host city for the Championship finals of the inaugural edition of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Youth League.

The zonal qualifiers held in five centres from February 1-3 from where teams emerged for the championship finals.

Chairman of the NPFL YOUTH league Committee, Pastor Emeka Inyama, on Tuesday, confirmed that the championship finals will take place in Benin.

He also announced that the finals will be held from February 24th to March 2nd at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.

Teams that progressed from the zonal qualifiers are Rangers International from the South East, Rivers United from South South, Remo Stars from the southwest, katsina United from North East/west and Plateau United from North Central.

“We expect the teams to arrive Benin on the 24th, and first rounds of matches will begin on February 25th,” Pastor Inyama told NPFL Media.

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