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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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Nigeria Premier League

Eyimba FC International on expansionist mission- Ekwueme

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Nigerian professional football league and continental soccer record holders, Eyimba football club fc of Aba has commenced the

Nigerian professional football league and continental soccer record holders, Eyimba football club fc of Aba has commenced the implementation of an expansionist idea that would spread the club franchise, further past its current torrents, the club Sporting Director, ex intetnational , Ifeanyi Ekwueme has disclosed.

Ekwueme speaking in Kano last Tuesday,.further revealed that the club management under the pilot of Atlanta 96, Olympics football gold medalist, Kanu Nwankwo has embarked on the implementation of a newly designed development template that would stampede the influence of the club franchise on Nigerian, African and international football climes.

He said, Eyimba fc is a trademark that has excelled over time, Kanu Nwankwo regime currently at the helms of affairs at the club is building on the heroic achievements of the club by resorting to building bridges across Nigeria and beyond.

Ekwueme said ” we have signed partnership that involves exchange programmes, we are committed to coaches development mini and major projects

He further said ” we now have the requisite development structures, with our now in place youth football and semi professional talent development programmes , this is vital and critical.

” Eyimba is not a stagnant or zero football brand, we are a broad football brand, that is why, we are committed to partnerships that are results oriented and have them spread across Nigeria and extend same to the continent and beyond.

He averred that though there are challenges, the current leadership of the club is focused and committed towards surmounting the hurdles and posed to take the club to the zenith of club side football, where Eyimba fc is rightly believed to belong to.

Ekwueme appealed to the fans and their partners to keep faith with the Eyimba fc brand , stating that the club has witnessed enviable improvements in the area of football coorporate administration that he said is now yielding dividends and would continue to help the Aba football warlords to improve in the delivery of mandated club football services and business divdends expected by all stakeholders.

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Nigeria Premier League

Lagos State FA Congratulates Madiba, Inter Lagos, Ikorodu City, On NNL Play-offs Tickets

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The Lagos State Football Association ably led by Hajji Gafar Liameed, has congratulated the trio of Lagos State based football clubs, Madiba

The Lagos State Football Association ably led by Hajji Gafar Liameed, has congratulated the trio of Lagos State based football clubs, Madiba FC, Inter Lagos and Ikorodu City, for qualifying for the NNL Super 8 payoffs.

In the press statement, Hajji Gafar Liameed described the qualification of the teams, as remarkable and very commendable.

“Lagos State Football Association, the stakeholders and indeed, all lovers of the game are very happy over the feats of these teams, and of course, what it portends for the development of the game in Lagos State.

“As we earnestly look forward to big time and top level football matches in Lagos State in the next season, Lagos FA, shall continue to give technical and every other necessary supports to all clubs, for the benefits of game in the state.”

The board of the Lagos State Football Association, also expresses its profound appreciation to the Lagos State Government and its agencies, including the Lagos State Sports Commission, for providing the enabling environment for social activities and particularly, football to thrive in the state.

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Nigeria Premier League

Stormers FC will return to NNL soonest, Olopade Assures

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The Chairman / proprietor of Stormers Sports Club of Abeokuta, Chief Bukola Olopade, has promised that with proper restructuring, planning and complete dedication of the players and coaches of the team, the relegated Nigeria National League club will return to the professional league cadre, sooner than expected.

Stormers SC, at the end of the concluded NNL 2023/2024 season were relegated to the lower Nationwide League after ammassing a meagre 24 points in 22 matches in the Group A of the NNL.

The team’s below par NNL outing only saw them winning 7 matches, lost 12 and drew three games, only good enough for the bottom third position in a league of 12 teams.

Stormers SC scored 16 and conceded 10 goals, a performance not good enough to keep the team in the professional league, when compared with the NNL Group A Champions, Madiba FC, that finished with 40 points with the same number of matches in the league, won 18 games, lost 6 and drew 6.

Olopade, a former Commissioner of Youth and Sports in Ogun State, stated that, by all standards, Stormers SC’s performance was not befitting enough and he doesn’t have any option than to make positive changes in the team that would lead them to greatness.

Olopade said on Monday in his office in Lagos that: “The relegation of Stormers SC from the professional NNL to the amateur Nationwide, is failure on the part of the technical crew and the players.”

He noted that, with the new plan for the club ahead of the 2024/2025 campaign, he would ensure Stormers Sports Club return to the NNL sooner than anyone expects. Adding that :”The goal of the team is to get promoted back to the NNL and in record time step up to the premier league and play prominently in the Nigeria Professional Football League. I believe strongly this is possible with hard work and investment in young players who will believe their future is in the team.”

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