The Rugby World Cup starts next Friday (September 20) when hosts Japan take on Russia at 11.45am.
There’s a marvellous tournament in prospect, but a slight downside for England rugby fans is the times of the matches. Given the eight-hour time difference with Japan a lot of the games will be in the morning for Londoners.
What times are England’s group matches in the Rugby World Cup? They play Tonga on the first Sunday (22nd) at 11.15am; then it’s the USA at 11.45am on Thursday the 26th when many of us will be at work; the next two, fortunately for workers, are both on a Saturday – Argentina 9am on the 5th of October and France 9.15am on the 12th. All matches will be screened on ITV.
So, what are England’s chances of winning the Rugby World Cup? Well, according to a survey by pub company and brewer Greene King, just 14% of Brits think the England boys can bring home the silverware from this year’s World Cup. A quarter think favourites New Zealand will be the 2019 champions!
I don’t doubt these results, but it seems to be a national characteristic to say “it won’t be us” while crossing our fingers and saying inwardly “but I hope we can do it”. My opinion – and the odds from the bookies suggest they agree – is that second-favourites England are in with a real chance, perhaps the best since we won it in 2003. There, that will have put the mockers on them.
Of course, last time out on home soil England screwed up royally and didn’t even make it out of the group stages making them the first hosts to be knocked out at that early stage. Maybe Japan will follow this time.
Back to that poll. Less than half of those asked (43%) do believe England will reach the semi-finals, with almost one in four believing that Wales will be in the mix as well. Most fans are backing New Zealand as the favourites to get to the semis and more than a quarter (29%) think Australia have a really good chance of getting there also.
Bookies are backing All Blacks to win the tournament (11/8) followed by England (9/2), South Africa (9/2) and Ireland (9/1).
When it comes to watching the games, 40% of those polled would prefer to watch the tournament at home, whereas more than a fifth (22%) say the ultimate place to watch the rugby is at the pub with mates as they can soak up the atmosphere. The prospect of drinking a couple of pints while watching the game appealed to 17%, while one-in-20 would admit to having five or more during in a match!
Starting out on a five pints session at 9 in the morning might be off-putting to some – and that’s if the pubs are open (see note at foot of article).
Former England International, Andy Goode, says: “Rugby brings people together more than any other sport – whether that’s down your local for some friendly competition with your mates, or at the stadium itself. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from, it’s all about the atmosphere and the thrill of the game!”
London’s two clubs, Harlequins and Saracens – the latter especially – will be well represented at the tournament.
There are two Harlequins players in the England squad of 31 – props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler and, as Marler is a loosehead and Sinckler a tighthead, it might be an all-London club front row given that the first-choice hooker, Jamie George plays for Saracens.
In addition to George, there are no less than seven other Saracens players in the squad: back-up hooker Jack Singleton; prop Mako Vunipola; second rows Maro Itoje and George Kruis; Mako’s brother Billy Vunipola plays at the base of the scrum; in the backs there is captain and kicker par excellence Owen Farrell (if he stays fit England’s chances improve greatly given he is the best kicker since Jonny Wilkinson in my opinion); Elliot Daly can feature on the wing or, more likely, at full-back.
Mako (ball carrier) and Maro are shown on club duty for Saracens in the main picture.
Saracens will also have Liam Williams in a Wales shirt and two Scotland players – Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor.
Greene King IPA* is an Official Community Club Partner of England Rugby. They asked fans the burning questions ahead of the kick-off later this month. Almost a third (30%) cited the legend Jonny Wilkinson as the best kicker of all time, and just under a fifth (17%) believe he is also the best player in English history.
Will Hemmings, marketing director, Greene King Brewing & Brands, says: “Key matches for the Rugby World Cup will be aired at more than 500 Greene King pubs nationwide, offering a friendly and welcoming atmosphere to get stuck in and debate sport, over a pint.”
If you do go down to the pub to watch an England match you might want to bone up on the words to the team’s unofficial anthem “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. See below. The end of the Ella Eyre video features that dropkick in 2003 in case you haven’t seen enough of it. I recall I was in a pub where I lived – Kings Hill, Kent – watching it along with dozens of other fans at the time. Still sends shivers down the spine.
Why did England fans start singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot?
If you research this you will find different theories put forward. The one I prefer to believe is that fans started singing it during an England international against Ireland in 1988. A coloured player – Chris Oti – was a try-scorer and a group of youngsters from Douai School in Berkshire began serenading him with the spiritual song. It caught on and many others in the crowd joined in, is one theory.
In these politically correct days the lads would probably be booed for what would be seen as unacceptable racism. How times and attitudes change.
Will the England team be “coming for to carry the trophy home”? We can but hope.
*Key matches for the Rugby World Cup, including home nation and knockout stage games, will be aired at more than 500 Greene King pubs nationwide. The intention is is open early (9am) when appropriate. We suggest you contact your local to check that their notion of a “key” game coincides with yours. For an extra reward, sports fans can also download the Greene King Season Ticket loyalty app, which offers sport fans access to 10% off drinks one hour before, during and one hour after selected sports matches, as well as exclusive offers and discounts.