The pool of the heavyweights pits world champions New Zealand against southern-hemisphere rivals South Africa.
The two teams lock horns next weekend in what is expected to be the match of the round-robin stage of the entire World Cup.
The winner of that encounter is expected to top this pool and will face the runner-up of Pool B.
As for the rest of the teams in the pool, they will be praying on a miracle to down the two top dogs.
Italy are expected to be South Africa’s biggest threat after the opener, having beaten the Springboks back in 2016.
World ranking: 4
Best World Cup: Winners 1995 and 2007.
South Africa play for territory instead of possession. They try to get the ball deep in the opposition half using the boots of halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard. With the ball expected to be wet because of humidity, they will test opposition wings, with Cheslin Kolbe, especially, playing a big part in the kick-chase. But it all amounts to nothing if they do get an attacking lineout from which they can launch attacks. And that’s why it will be vital that Malcolm Marx’s throw-ins are accurate.
The Boks enter the World Cup as the most dangerous underdog, winning a shortened version of the Rugby Championship this year. The first match against New Zealand next week will set the tone for their tournament. On their day, the Boks have what it takes to beat the All Blacks and having been the first team in Japan for the tournament, they are well prepared. They have as good a chance as New Zealand to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy.
Schalk Brits, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi (captain), Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Franco Mostert, Trevor Nyakane, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Warrick Gelant, Elton Jantjies, Herschel Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Willie le Roux, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn.
World ranking: 2
Best World Cup: Winners 1987, 2011 and 2015.
The All Blacks are dangerous all over the park.
Because of that, they need a strong link between forwards and backs.
They’ve got the players – scrumhalves Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Brad Weber, flyhalves Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’Unga. But with Barrett having played out of position at fullback of late, coach Steve Hansen’s team need the former World Player of the Year at his best in his preferred position if they want to successfully defend their title.
Yes, the All Blacks have lost some of their fear factor and they’re not ranked first heading into the tournament. But only a fool will write them off as favourites to win the tournament. They are the team to beat and will be on the radar of every single team this year.
Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Luke Jacobson, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith.
☀️ Bucket hats, sun screen and hydration are key as temperatures soar in Kashiwa. Get the full update on the All Blacks first day in Japan from coach Steve Hansen. 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/TTyZAvE00u— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 10, 2019
World ranking: 14
Best World Cup: Pool stage 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
There can only be one, Sergio Parisse. The No.8 is Italy’s most-capped player ever, the only player from the country to be nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award and will also play in his fifth World Cup campaign.
The captain is Italian rugby.
After beating South Africa 20-18 back in 2016, the Italians will target a win over the Springboks to advance to the knockout stage of the competition for the first time ever. Their recent record, though, doesn’t look well. Not a single win in this year’s Six Nations, their only win this year was against Russia. And while the South Africans will talk up their threat, they shouldn’t be much of a match for the Springboks.
Simone Ferrari, Andrea Lovotti, Tiziano Pasquali, Nicola Quaglio, Marco Riccioni, Federico Zani, Luca Bigi, Oliviero Fabiani, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, David Sisi, Alessandro Zanni, Maxime Mbanda, Sebastian Negri, Sergio Parisse (captain), Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn, Callum Braley, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Luca Morisi, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Jayden Hayward, Matteo Minozzi, Edoardo Padovani.
World ranking: 23
Best World Cup: Pool stage 1999-2015.
Namibia have a number of guys that have played at World Cups before, so experience won’t be an issue for them. Scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies, for example, will play in his fourth World Cup in Japan. But it will be ex-Cheetahs hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld that will be their key man.
They will not make it to the next round of the competition. Instead, playing against the All Blacks and the Springboks at the World Cup will be as big as it gets for these players.
Andre Rademeyer, Nelius Theron, Desiderius Sethie, AJ de Klerk, Johannes Coetzee, Obert Nortje, Louis van der Westhuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Tjiuee Uanivi, Johan Retief, Thomasau Forbes, Rohan Kitshoff, Max Katjijeko, Prince Gaoseb, Wian Conradie, PJ van Lill, Adriaan Booysen, Janco Venter, Cliven Loubser, Helarius Kisting, Damian Stevens, Eugene Jantjies, Darryl de la Harpe, Johan Deysel (captain), Justin Newman, JC Greyling, Johann Tromp, Chad Plato, Lesley Klim, Janry du Toit, PJ Walters.
World ranking: 22
Best World Cup: Quarterfinalist 1991
South African-born wing DTH van der Merwe was the talk of the town at the last World Cup, scoring four superb tries for the Canadians.
Van der Merwe, 33, will be in Japan again for his fourth visit to a World Cup. And if this is the last time at a global showpiece, the Worcester-born flyer will be looking to end off on a high.
Like Namibia, Canada won’t make the next round. But they won’t be pushovers either – especially against Italy. The match against Namibia will make for interesting viewing as it will be both teams’ big chance to register a win. In fact, Canada will be eyeing a result against Italy as well.
Tyler Ardron (captain), Kyle Baillie, Justin Blanchet, Hubert Buydens, Luke Campbell, Matt Heaton, Eric Howard, Jake Ilnicki, Cole Keith, Conor Keys, Evan Olmstead, Benoit Piffero, Andrew Quattrin, Lucas Rumball, Djustice Sears-Duru, Mike Sheppard, Matthew Tierney, Nick Blevins, Andrew Coe, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Ben LeSage, Phil Mack, Jamie Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie, Peter Nelson, Shane O’Leary, Patrick Parfrey, Taylor Paris, Conor Trainor, DTH van der Merwe.
- 21: NZ v SA (11.45am)
- 22: Italy v Namibia (7.15am)
- 26: Italy v Canada (9.45am)
- 28: SA v Namibia (11.45m)
- 2: NZ v Canada (12.15pm)
- 4: SA v Italy (11.45am)
- 6: NZ v Namibia (6.45am)
- 8: SA v Canada (12.15pm)
- 12: NZ v Italy (6.45am)
- 13: Namibia v Canada (5.15am)