Rugby World Cup pool D | Samoa eye upset of England and Argentina

29 August 2023 - 12:27 By Grant Shub
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Gonzalo Bertranou of Argentina in action in their Autumn International Test against England at Twickenham in London in November 2022.
Gonzalo Bertranou of Argentina in action in their Autumn International Test against England at Twickenham in London in November 2022.
Image: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Argentina and England are set to battle for bragging rights but Samoa may have the final say on standings in the Rugby World Cup’s pool D.

TimesLIVE breaks down the fourth and final pool:


With Australian Michael Cheika in charge since 2022, Los Pumas have made major strides. Their away triumph against the All Blacks in New Zealand last year was a statement victory and, with England at arguably their lowest ebb, they will even be seen as the favourites to top the group.

Argentina’s scrummaging prowess is not as fearsome as it once was but talismanic loose forward Pablo Matera is a wrecking ball with an insatiable work-rate. If he is able to contain his red mist, he will lead Argentina’s forward charge.

In the back division, flyhalf Santiago Carreras has caught the eye of late with his well-rounded game and could usurp Nicolas Sanchez in the No.10 jersey. Meanwhile, in Juan Imhoff they have their record World Cup try-scorer with seven tries.

Argentina, who will make their 10th World Cup appearance in France, only have a 51% World Cup win ratio but given their group, they are likely to boost that at this year’s tournament.


After they removed Eddie Jones and installed Steve Borthwick as head coach, England have limped from one defeat to another, with their nadir coming in the 30-22 humiliation against Fiji at Twickenham on Sunday.

They are ranked eighth in the world — a new low for a team that has reached four World Cup finals. Due to the lopsided nature of the draw this time out, England could still go deep.

However, the runners-up four years ago in Japan, who hold the distinction of being the only northern hemisphere nation to have won the World Cup, have regressed since the last showpiece. They are porous in defence and appear to be lost in terms of the style of play they want to employ.

They have been further hampered by bans to key players in captain Owen Farrell and No.8 Billy Vunipola, who were cited for dangerous tackles. Farrell won’t feature in the first two matches of the event, while Vunipola will miss England’s opener against Argentina.


Manu Samoa, who made their World Cup debut in 1991, are a dangerous proposition. Last weekend, they pushed top-ranked Ireland all the way in a final warm-up.

Chris Vui is Samoa's co-captain.
Chris Vui is Samoa's co-captain.
Image: Dave Rowland/Getty Images

The Samoans, who have twice reached the quarterfinals, could see their clash against England deciding second place.

Experienced European-based forwards Chris Vui and Michael Ala’alatoa are Samoa’s co-captains.

Three former All Blacks have been picked by coach Seilala Mapusua in Samoa's 33-man squad — talented flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, loose forward Steven Luatua and prop Charlie Faumuina. Ex-Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano, who played for Australia at the 2019 World Cup, is also part of a team that could put together a good run of results.

Samoa have been dealt a kind draw as they will face off against World Cup newcomers Chile in their opening pool match. The Pacific islanders will contest their ninth consecutive World Cup finals tournament.


Having made history by reaching the quarterfinals in 2019, Kiwi coach Jamie Joseph’s men have been on a downward spiral results-wise ahead of the World Cup.

Hooker Shota Horie has 71 caps for Japan.
Hooker Shota Horie has 71 caps for Japan.
Image: Koki Nagahama/Getty Images

Former Lions and Bulls boss John Mitchell is also part of the coaching set-up but it appears Japan have fallen away as contenders. But the Brave Blossoms, even with a dismal 24% win-rate, can never be written off given their skilled backline players and high tempo of play that can catch out their opponents.

Eight years on from their historic win against the Springboks — one of rugby’s seismic upsets, when Heyneke Meyer’s South Africa capitulated to a 34-32 defeat at the Amex Stadium in Brighton — Michael Leitch remains the man who skippers the side. He is aided in the pack by experienced hooker Shota Horie, who has 71 caps.

In the backline, Joseph has a host of Pacific island-born players to call upon such as Semisi Masirewa and Jone Naikabula, while Kotaro Matsushima remains an ever-present at fullback.


The 22nd ranked nation in world rugby, who qualified at the expense of the US in a two-legged playoff, will make their World Cup debut in France. They are coached by Uruguayan Pablo Lemoine who appeared at the showpiece for his native land in the 1999 and 2003 editions.

Los Condores (The Condors) will be led by captain Martin Sigren, 27, and while it’s unlikely they will take flight, qualifying for the World Cup is their victory. The majority of the squad play in Chile’s Super Rugby Americas team named Selknam, though Sigren plies his trade for Doncaster Knights in the RFU Championship.




Pool A Pool B Pool C 

Star players:

Ardie Savea, New Zealand | Will Skelton, Australia Johnny Sexton, Ireland Antoine Dupont, France


*The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France kicks off on September 8 and the final is on October 28. TimesLIVE 'has been profiling all four pools and the star players in the build-up to the tournament.


subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.