England handed ‘Group of Death’ at Rugby World Cup draw

By Thomas Branston


Eddie Jones was present at the Kyoto State Guest House, Japan, where England were handed another ‘group of death’ in the Pool stages for a second consecutive World Cup.

England will face France, Argentina and the winner of Americas 1 and Oceania 1. Just two years ago at the 2015 World Cup, England were grouped with Australia and Wales and failed to reach the knockout stages.

The likely opponents could be USA Rugby and Samoa, both would add to the pressure Jones’ side already face.

Eddie Jones said: “We want to win the World Cup in 2019, and to win it, we need to be ready to play and beat anyone.

“Our pool will be highly competitive and full of intensity, as a World Cup group should be.

“History shows that you need to win seven games to win the tournament and we will greatly respect every team we play.”

In other Pools, the hosts Japan will face up against Ireland and Scotland and the winner of Europe 1 and Play-Off Winner.

Meanwhile, Wales have drawn Australia for the second successive World Cup. Georgia are also in Pool D, with the most likely opponents qualifying through Oceania 1 being Fiji accompanied by Americas 2 which could be Uruguay or Canada.

Pool B offers a mouthwatering clash between holders New Zealand and their fellow twice world champions South Africa, whilst Italy make up that group so far.



England Rugby legend Jason Leonard is confident the British and Irish Lions can claim a series win in New Zealand

By Thomas Branston

Jason Leonard of England

England Rugby legend Jason Leonard believes the British and Irish Lions have the potential to beat New Zealand over three tests to win the series this summer.

The Lions last toured New Zealand in 2005, which ended in bittersweet fashion. Clive Woodward’s side beating all seven provincial teams but fell to three heavy defeats against the All Blacks including a narrow defeat to the New Zealand Maori side.

Former Harlequins prop Leonard knows just how good New Zealand are but holds belief that if the Lions squad merge well then they can overcome the All Blacks.

He said: “New Zealand know how to play rugby, there’s not doubt about that and their game management is very good.

“They have got a couple of injury problems, but that wont hamper them they’ve still got a lot of very good players in their system so it wont have that much of an impact.

“The whole thing about the Lions playing anyone is that they’ve got to come together quickly.

“It’s about hitting the ground running and that is the biggest challenge but if they do that then they are in with a shout.”

The 48-year-old praised Warren Gatland’s squad selections and spoke at those that weren’t included.

He said: “It wasn’t a surprise for me. There’s a lot of heartbreak when it comes to selection and it happens every four years when the Lion’s tour comes around.

“Joe Launchbury and Dylan Hartley both have a valid case to be selected but ultimately it’s down to the choices of the coaches and Warren Gatland.

“There are a couple of other players I thought were unfortunate to miss out, the Gray brothers were close calls as well.

“You look at the Lions squad they have picked and it’s a pretty good side anyway and the one thing about these tours and it always happens, there’s always injuries.

“Its such a brutal tour and they are going to the hardest place in the world to play rugby.

“There will be injuries so it leaves a door open for those not selected. Players are likely to fly over late on, whether it be from England, Ireland Scotland or Wales and hopefully they might get a late call up so you never know.”


Nicknamed ‘The Fun Bus’ back in his playing days, Leonard was a well renowned, physical forward and the former prop admits the selection of Kyle Sinckler was a surprise to him but paid tribute to the young Lion.

He said: “I think most of the players were pretty much justified in their games to be selected.

“A surprise selection was Kyle Sinckler to a certain degree, we’ve seen him come off the bench for England, he’s a talented young man and very dynamic.

“He needs to work on his set piece more to become a consistent player but he’s the sort of kid who never stops grafting so he might be a surprise selection for the tests.

“Other players that New Zealand know about are your Farrell’s and your Sexton’s, they are all great players and they know about each other but stopping them is a completely different thing.”

Capped 114 times with England and five times with the British and Irish Lions, Leonard admits there is a difference in representing your country and the red jersey of the Lions.

He continued: “It’s a huge thing. With England when you put on that white jersey and you think about your friends, your family, coaches and teachers who have all made sacrifices, not only the ones you have made but also the sacrifices they have made for you along the way.

“With the Lions its slightly different because you are already an international player.

“When you put on that red jersey for the Lions you want to do the jersey proud because you’re thinking about the players who have previously worn it and you are talking about some real rugby legends.

“You want to make sure you do the jersey justice, you want to make sure you do the players that have worn that jersey before you proud and live up to that legend.”

Despite the odds against the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand, Leonard knows how hard the tour will be but remains upbeat about their chances of gaining a series win.

He added: “It’s no secret, out of the 100 odd years that the Lions have been running, they have only won a handful of tests so it shows you how tough it will be.

“It will be close, I’m not actually going down to New Zealand, but I’ve already told the wife if its one all going into the third test then I’m jumping on the plane.

“Hopefully those lads can get down there and do us proud.“

Eddie Jones: They have to get on with it

By Thomas Branston


England Rugby boss Eddie Jones revealed that his star players that were omitted from the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand this summer need to “get on with it” and claims their England future is at stake.

The Australian has recently revealed the England squad that will tour Argentina this summer with a mixture of experience and youth, including the likes of Dylan Hartley, George Ford, Joe Launchbury, Mike Brown and James Haskell.

He said: “We will have a quick chat but they have to get on with it. They have their English careers at stake.

“If they don’t perform for England then they wont be included in the squad so you don’t want them to be unhappy twice.

“They’ve got to knuckle down and work hard, do their best for England and make sure we win in Argentina.”

The 57-year-old remains upbeat about England’s chances this summer despite overseeing his side on the wrong end of a 13-9 scoreline against Ireland in the RBS Six Nations to end a record-equalling run of 18 consecutive wins.

He said: “We are confident but it’s going to be tough, they were semi-finalists at the World Cup in 2015 and we are playing in their back yard.

“Its a very small place with a fairly raucous crowd so we are going to have to be at our best.”

Jones expressed how proud and happy he is seeing 16 England players included in the Lions squad but threw caution into the wind stating players need to perform in the red jersey.

He continued: “It’s fantastic and obviously there were two or three others that feel a little bit aggrieved that they haven’t been included.

“Everyone’s got a reason not to be selected, so we are proud of having the 16 English players that have been included in the Lions squad.

“The really important thing now is that they go down to New Zealand and beat them, it’s not good enough to just be in the Lions squad, it’s about what you do when you get in the jersey.”

Eddie Jones’s side will face Argentina in a two-test tour of Argentina this summer beginning at the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario, San Juan on Saturday 10 June and then play at the Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao Lopez, Sante Fe, a week later on 17 June.