Rugby World Cup 2019: Favourites to win, full schedule, teams and more
Philip Mak - September 18, 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019: Favourites to win, full schedule, teams and more

Rugby union’s biggest event tackles Asia for the first time
Rugby World Cup 2019

The 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on 20 September — with 20 of the top men’s teams in rugby union competing for the Webb Ellis Cup until 2 November.

This event is certainly not to be missed as it is the first time the tournament has been held in Asia and outside the sport’s traditional heartland. France will host the Cup next in 2023.

The tournament is played across 48 matches in 12 locations around Japan. It has been held every four years since 1987, with New Zealand’s All Blacks being the current reigning champions. England has the distinction of being the only team from the Northern Hemisphere to have ever won the prized Webb Ellis Cup, and brought home the prize last in 2003.

While it may be a bit of a maul for British rugby fans to get to Japan, there have certainly been plenty of other events this year to keep them in play including the 2019 Rugby World Cup summer warm-up matches in the UK and Ireland, as well as the first-ever five-a-side RugbyX tournament coming to London on 29 October. Plus, Six Nations 2020 is not far away now. 

Whether you’re jetting to Japan or watching the tournament, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the 2019 Rugby World Cup — including who is playing, who are the favourites to win, what the full fixture schedule and more.

Be there: 2019 Rugby World Cup tickets

Rugby World Cup Fast facts

  • Dates: 20 September to 2 November 2019
  • Host nation: Japan
  • Venues: International Stadium Yokohama (72,327), Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa (50,889), Tokyo Stadium (capacity: 49,970),  City of Toyota Stadium (45,000), Sapporo Dome (41,410), Oita Stadium (40,000), Kumamoto Stadium (32,000), Kobe Misaki Stadium (30,132), Hanazono Rugby Stadium (30,000), Kumagaya Rugby Stadium (24,000), Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium (22,563), Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium (16,187)
  • Number of nations competing: 20
  • Attendance: 2,477,805 fans (2015 results)
  • Founded: 1987
  • Won the most Webb Ellis Cups: New Zealand All Blacks (1987, 2011, 2015)

Who is playing?

The Rugby World Cup will bring together the top 20 rugby union teams from around the globe, with the qualifying groups divided into four pools. Japan is hosting the tournament and they will play against Russia in the opening match on 20 September.

The qualifying 20 teams are divided into four pools —A, B, C and D— of five, with only two nations from each advancing. From there, the tournament follows the standard quarter-final, semi-final and final format. Of all the British teams, England has the toughest go of it, having to face power-players Argentina and France in its initial pool.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying teams include:

Pool A

  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • Samoa

Pool B

  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Italy
  • Namibia
  • Canada

Pool C

  • England
  • France
  • Argentina
  • United States
  • Tonga

Pool D

  • Australia
  • Wales
  • Georgia
  • Fiji
  • Uruguay
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Who are the favourites to win? 

The current Rugby World Cup champions are the New Zealand All Blacks. The legendary team has also won the tournament the most times, having taken home the Webb Ellis Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015. Australia and South Africa have won the World Cup twice each and England has once. 

Having won the last two tournaments, the All Blacks are the favourites to take their third straight World Cup title. The Irish team had been considered strong contenders earlier this year, until their crushing losses to England and Wales in the Six Nations competition.

However, a Warren Gatland-led Wales have dethroned the All Blacks as the No. 1 team in World Rugby after beating in August. This is the first time New Zealand hasn’t been at the top since the rankings were introduced in 2003. While ultimately the World Cup is still anyone’s game, Wales is positioned well to be the winner. 

The current rugby union world rankings are: 

  • Wales — 89.43
  • New Zealand — 89.4
  • England — 88.13
  • Ireland — 87.36
  • South Africa — 86.83
  • Australia — 84.05
  • Scotland — 79.87
  • France — 79.72
  • Japan — 77.21
  • Fiji — 76.98

What is the 2019 Rugby World Cup schedule?

Pool A 

  • Match 1: Japan vs Russia: Tokyo Stadium — Friday, 20 September 20 at 11.45am BST   
  • Match 2: Ireland vs Scotland: International Stadium Yokohama — Sunday, 22 September at 8.45am BST   
  • Match 3: Russia vs Samoa: Kumagaya Rugby Stadium — Tuesday, 24 September at 11.15am BST 
  • Match 4: Japan vs Ireland: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa — Saturday, 28 September at 8.15am BST   
  • Match 5: Scotland vs Samoa: Kobe Misaki Stadium  Monday, 30 September at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 6: Ireland vs Russia: Kobe Misaki Stadium — Thursday, 3 October at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 7: Japan vs Samoa: City of Toyota Stadium — Saturday, 5 October at 11.30am BST   
  • Match 8: Scotland vs Russia: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa — Wednesday, 9 October at 8.15am BST  
  • Match 9: Ireland vs Samoa: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium — Saturday, 12 October at 11.45am BST 
  • Match 10: Japan vs Scotland: International Stadium Yokohama — Sunday, 13 October at 11.45am BST 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Pool B

  • Match 1: New Zealand vs South Africa: International Stadium Yokohama — Saturday, 21 September  at 10.45am BST   
  • Match 2: Italy vs Namibia: Hanazono Rugby Stadium — Sunday, 22 September at 6.15am BST   
  • Match 3: Italy vs Canada: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium — Thursday 26 September at 8.45am BST   
  • Match 4: South Africa vs Namibia: City of Toyota Stadium — Saturday 28 September at 10.45am BST   
  • Match 5: New Zealand vs Canada: Oita Stadium — Wednesday 2 October at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 6: South Africa vs Italy: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa — Friday 4 October at 10.45am BST   
  • Match 7: New Zealand vs Namibia: Tokyo Stadium — Sunday 6 October at 5.45am BST   
  • Match 8: South Africa vs Canada: Kobe Misaki Stadium — Tuesday 8 October at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 9: New Zealand vs Italy: City of Toyota Stadium — Saturday 12 October at 5.45am BST   
  • Match 10: Namibia vs Canada: Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium — Sunday 13 October at 4.15am BST

Pool C

  • Match 1: France vs Argentina: Tokyo Stadium — Saturday, 21 September at 8.15am BST   
  • Match 2: England vs Tonga: Sapporo Dome — Sunday, 22 September at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 3: England vs USA: Kobe Misaki Stadium — Thursday, 26 September at 11.45am BST   
  • Match 4: Argentina vs Tonga: Hanazono Rugby Stadium — Saturday, 28 September at 5.45am BST   
  • Match 5: France vs USA: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium — Wednesday, 2 October at 8.45am BST  
  • Match 6: England vs Argentina: Tokyo Stadium — Saturday, 5 October at 9am BST   
  • Match 7: France vs Tonga: Kumamoto Stadium — Sunday 6 October at 8.45am BST   
  • Match 8: Argentina vs USA: Kumagaya Rugby Stadium — Wednesday 9 October at 5.45am BST   
  • Match 9: England vs France: International Stadium Yokohama — Saturday 12 October at 9.15am BST   
  • Match 10: USA vs Tonga: Hanazono Rugby Stadium — Sunday 13 October at 6.45am BST   

Pool D

  • Match 1: Australia vs Fiji: Sapporo Dome — Saturday, 21 September at 5.45am BST   
  • Match 2: Wales vs Georgia: City of Toyota Stadium — Monday, 23 September at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 3: Fiji vs Uruguay: Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium — Wednesday, 25 September at 6.15am BST   
  • Match 4: Georgia vs Uruguay: Kumagaya Rugby Stadium — Sunday 26 September at 6.15am BST   
  • Match 5: Australia vs Wales: Tokyo Stadium — Sunday 29 September at 8.45am BST   
  • Match 6: Georgia vs Fiji: Hanazono Rugby Stadium — Thursday 3 October at 6.15am BST   
  • Match 7: Australia vs Uruguay: Oita Stadium — Saturday 5 October at 6.15am BST   
  • Match 8: Wales vs Fiji: Oita Stadium — Wednesday 9 October at 10.45am BST   
  • Match 9: Australia vs Georgia: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa — Friday 11 October at 11.15am BST   
  • Match 10: Wales vs Uruguay: Kumamoto Stadium — Sunday 13 October at 9.15am BST   

Rugby World Cup 2019 finals:

  • Quarter Finals: October 19-20
  • Semi-Finals: October 26-27
  • Bronze Final: November 1
  • Final: November 2

Is the Rugby World Cup gender neutral now?

No, there will still be separate men’s and women’s tournaments. However, the language around them is more inclusive. The cup’s governing body, World Rugby, announced on 21 August 2019 that the events would have gender-neutral titles moving forward — meaning the next women’s competition in New Zealand in 2021 will also simply be called the ‘Rugby World Cup 2021’.  

Forbes quotes World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont as explaining, “As a global sporting federation we need to be leading from the front on the issue of equality. By adopting gender balance in the naming of men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup competitions, we are setting new standards in equality in rugby.”

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