Top

2015 World Cup: Everything a Rugby Fan Needs to Know

The 2015 World Cup, which kicks off on September 18, looks set to be a spectacular celebration of the very best that rugby union has to offer. Consider this page your guide to arguably the biggest sporting event of the year; directly below we have an interactive map displaying the locations of the host stadiums, while further down the page you'll find expert opinion on the prospects of each of the competing teams as well as stadium details – including, of course, information on nearby hotels.

We have asked the experts to give us their previews and predictions for the tournament starting from the first round, where the 20 teams are divided into four pools of five teams. Click on the below icons to find out more about each of the pools as well as the stadiums where the games will take place.

World Cup team previews and predictions

pool A

Pool A sees three big hitters (Australia, Wales and hosts England) battle it out for just two Quarter Final places. We asked the editorial team at Planet Rugby to give us the lowdown on this tournament’s ‘Pool of Death’.

Australia
australia

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Semi Finals
  • 2003: Runner-up
  • 1991: Winner
  • 2007: Quarter Finals
  • 1995: Quarter Finals
  • 2011: Semi Finals
  • 1999: Winner

Key Players

The Aussies have several talented players at their disposal who can turn the tide of a game in a flash. Full-back Israel Folau is arguably the world's best player in his position. A convert from rugby league, the Waratahs player is capable of tearing defences apart with his offloads and impressive pace.

Play-making centre Matt Giteau was recalled to the team in July this year after four years in the international wilderness following a change in eligibility rules, having spent the past few years as a key member of French club Toulon's triple European Cup-winning team. Flanker and former captain David Pocock is set to star in the battle of the breakdown having made a miraculous recovery from a series of knee injuries that threatened to end his career.

If all their big guns fire, Australia should win their pool in the World Cup 2015.

Prospects

Australia have never failed to make the knockout stages, but with England and Wales also competing for the pool's two qualification spots that record could be in jeopardy. The Aussies are expected to overcome Fiji and Uruguay, but will need to be at their best against the hosts and Welsh in the group's crunch ties to make the quarter-finals.

Prediction

If all their big guns fire, the Wallabies should win the pool, meaning they'll avoid fellow southern hemisphere giants New Zealand and South Africa until the Final.

England may like the 'X-Factor' needed to come top of their pool in World Cup 2015.

Key Players

England have a powerful combination of physical and talented young players in their ranks. Their outstanding performers include centre Jonathan Joseph, who burst onto the international scene in 2014 as an outstanding talent. Captain Chris Robshaw is a workhorse and must bear the burden of the pressure of leading the host nation.

Young fly-half George Ford has the potential to become one of the greats of the game and shows a maturity beyond his tender 22 years of age on the world's biggest stage.

England
england

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Quarter Finals
  • 2003: Winner
  • 1991: Runner-Up
  • 2007: Runner-Up
  • 1995: Semi Finals
  • 2011: Quarter Finals
  • 1999: Quarter Finals

Prospects

England have never failed to make the knockout stages of the competition, but that record will be tested this time around in the 'Pool of Death'. With both Australia and Wales also vying for the pool's two qualification spots, the hosts will be under massive pressure to reach the quarter-finals. Comfortable wins over Fiji and Uruguay are expected.

Prediction

Despite their home-field advantage and excellent record against Australia and Wales, the hosts may lack the ‘X-factor’ needed to get the better of the Wallabies. Finishing second in the pool would set up a likely quarter-final against two-time winners South Africa, where they may be outmuscled.

Fiji
fiji

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Quarter Finals
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Quarter Finals
  • 1995: Did not qualify
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

The Flying Fijians have some exciting and skillful players with a big physical presence, who thrive in an open, unstructured game. Barnstorming Nemani Nadolo was one of the outstanding players of the 2015 Super Rugby season on the wing for the Crusaders and is likely to cause more destruction in the 12 jersey for Fiji.

Leicester Tigers centre/wing Vereniki Goneva has plenty of experience of local conditions, while Bordeaux-Begles full-back Metuisela Talebula is one of the most exciting counter-attackers in the world game.

Fiji expected to come fourth in their pool at World Cup 2015

Prospects

With powerhouses England, Australia and Wales all battling for the pool's two qualification spots, Fiji are unlikely to make the knockout stages this time around. However, they will be hoping for a repeat of their 2007 upset against the Welsh before rounding off their campaign with a victory over Uruguay.

Prediction

The Islanders won't make it out of the group but they'll leave plenty of bruises in their wake. They'll be too strong for Uruguay, meaning they'll finish fourth in the pool.

Uruguay will almost certainly come last in their pool at World Cup 2015

Key Players

The Teros have a team made up of mostly amateur players. Their outstanding performers are French-based scrum-half Agustin Ormaechea (Stade Montois), fly-half Felipe Berchesi (SO Chambery) and prop Mario Sagario (Massy).

Unfortunately for Uruguay their best player, Castres lock Rodrigo Ortega Capo, withdrew from the squad in favour of staying at home for the birth of his child.

England
uruguay

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Did not enter
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Did not enter
  • 2007: Did not qualify
  • 1995: Did not qualifys
  • 2011: Did not qualify
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Prospects

Uruguay have no chance of making the knockout stages and will lose heavily to England, Australia and Wales. However, they will be hoping to give a good account of themselves against Fiji.

Prediction

No mystery here, they will finish last in the pool.

Wales
wales

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Semi Finals
  • 2003: Quarter Finals
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Semi Finals
  • 1999: Quarter Finals

Key Players

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny is one the world's best from the kicking tee and his accuracy has proved invaluable. With a style of play that looks to force errors more than create chances out wide, Halfpenny's ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over - especially from long range - is key to their chances of success.

Arguably Wales' only international class tighthead, 22-year-old Samson Lee replaced stalwart Adam Jones, amid much controversy. He will have to show his worth at scrum-time, especially against England, provided he has recovered from a torn Achilles. Meanwhile, monster Northampton wing George North is a star of the world game.

Wales may struggle to beat both England and Australia at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

After series of specialised training camps, Wales are set to be one of the fittest teams at the World Cup but have a huge task if they hope to reach the Quarter Finals. The Welsh will also need to avoid a potential banana skin in Fiji before facing the old enemy England at Twickenham in a pivotal game. Victory there could set up a possible decider against the Aussies in the final group game.

Prediction

The three-way battle for this pool is extremely hard to predict but Wales may just fall short. Third place behind Australia and England will be a disappointing result.

pool B

Two-time champions South Africa are heavily tipped to progress from Pool B but the race for second place will be tougher to call, according to Dave Nicoll of In The Loose.
We asked him for his opinion on how the group will play out.

 Japan have a chance to gain a couple of wins in World Cup 2015.

Key Players

Scrum half Fumiaki Tanaka has spent several years in New Zealand playing for Super Rugby champions the Highlanders. Although he is second choice, he has been playing behind Aaron Smith who will undoubtedly have helped bring his game on recently.

At 37 years of age, and with 87 caps to his name, Hitoshi Ono will bring a wealth of experience to the Brave Blossoms. Although he may not be able to get round the field like he used to, his experience and leadership will be vital for some of the younger players.

New Zealand born flanker Michael Leitch has spent the last couple of years playing in New Zealand for the Chiefs. Despite finding his game time restricted, his experience of playing in the Super Rugby competition ensures he will be ready for the World Cup.

Japan
japan

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Prospects

Although there will be a fair bit of expectation from the crowd at home, given the opposition in their group Japan will have a tough job making the knockout stages. That being said, if they can perform to their best and get the rub of the green, they could well sneak through.

Prediction

Realistically, it's hard to imagine Japan achieving much higher than fourth place in their pool, although if they can claim a couple of wins this would represent a significant improvement from 2011.

Samoa
samoa

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Did not enter
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Quarter Finals
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Quarter Finals
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

Northampton scrum half Kahn Fotuali'i is probably Samoa's best player and will play a key role in dictating the way his side plays. If he can control the game, and get the ball out wide, then Samoa have the potential to be absolutely devastating when breaking.

Captain Alesana Tuilagi is one of his side’s most experienced players and has a key role to play in a side somewhat bereft of international exposure. Although maybe not quite the player he was a couple of years ago, he still has the power to make his mark against even the toughest of opponents.

Until recently it looked like Tim Nanai-Williams would be donning an All Blacks shirt. His decision to turn out for Samoa will be a huge boost given that he is currently one of the Southern Hemisphere's most exciting attacking talents. If he gets his hands on the ball he could do some real damage.

Samoa are the likely runners-up in their pool at World Cup 2015

Prospects

It's hard to know exactly what this Samoa side is capable of given their lack of game time together. However, they have several world class players who could propel them much deeper into the World Cup than many expect.

Prediction

The Samoan team contains enough talent to see them come runners-up in their pool. However, a lack of World Cup experience is likely to see them knocked-out in the quarter finals.

Scotland may just lose out to Samoa and come third in their pool at World Cup 2015.

Key Players

Scotland have an abundance of talent in the back row but New Zealand-born flanker Blair Cowan has really stood out of late. His performances since becoming available for international selection have been impressive and he regularly acts as a thorn in the opposition’s side.

In Finn Russell, Scotland have finally found a fly half who can open up a game and let their impressive backline flourish. He recently led Glasgow to their first ever Pro12 title and is capable of creating moments of magic that could help Scotland claim victories during tight games.

By far and away Scotland's best player, full back Stuart Hogg has it all. He's got a monster boot, is brave in defence, and has pace and guile to scare opponents. If they can bring him into games and get his hands on the ball he could prove to be devastating.

Scotland
scotland

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Quarter Finals
  • 2003: Quarter Finals
  • 1991: Semi Finals
  • 2007: Quarter Finals
  • 1995: Quarter Finals
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Quarter Finals

Prospects

The current Scotland side have the capability to make it through this pool given the talent at their disposal. However, you can't help but feel the tournament has come a couple of years too soon for a young side adapting to life under a new ambitious coach.

Prediction

While Scotland have the potential to make the Quarter Finals, it's more likely they will narrowly miss out to Samoa and therefore claim another third place in their group.

South Africa
south africa

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Did not enter
  • 2003: Quarter Finals
  • 1991: Did not enter
  • 2007: Winner
  • 1995: Winner
  • 2011: Quarter Finals
  • 1999: Semi Finals

Key Players

It's hit or miss as to whether powerful number 8 Duane Vermeulen will be fit in time for the World Cup. If he is then he will be a huge presence on the pitch and will be a key figure in the Springboks’ bid to claim a third World Cup crown.

Full back Willie le Roux adds a certain flair and elegance to their play, allowing them to attack from deep. He is also a great distributor of the ball and has an accurate boot when kicking from hand.

There have been a few concerns raised over Bismarck du Plessis over the last year or so but when he’s on form he is the stand-out hooker in world rugby and could prove to be a key asset, particularly during the later rounds of the tournament.

Injuries and poor form may affect the Springboks chances at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

The Springboks look the most likely side to top their group, and could easily make the latter stages of the tournament if they can keep their side fit.

Prediction

Despite their undoubted talent, injuries and poor form have hit at the wrong time and could see the Springboks falter, meaning they could well drop out at the Semi Finals stage.

USA will struggle to not come last at World Cup 2015.

Key Players

Chris Wyles has been promoted to his national side’s captain for the World Cup following his form over the past 12 months. He is the ultimate utility back, capable of covering all positions from 11 – 15, making him a useful asset at the World Cup.

Giant lock/Number 8 Samu Manoa is the USA's truly stand-out player and could be one of the key reasons why they surprise a few people at the World Cup. If he can play to the best of his ability, he may just help the USA cause a few upsets in the pool.

Cardiff Blues man Cam Dolan is going to have to step up in the likely absence of former captain Todd Clever. He may have limited experience on the international stage but he has shown that he could be a key man for the Eagles at the World Cup.

USA
usa

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Did not qualify
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Prospects

Despite showing some significant improvements since the last World Cup, it's hard to see the USA getting out of their pool, such is the competition for that second place spot. If they can claim a victory during any of their games they can consider it a job relatively well done.

Prediction

In all likelihood, the USA are likely to find themselves propping up their group, given the quality of opposition they are facing.

pool C

Defending champions New Zealand top the bill in Pool C along with two-time Quarter Finalists Argentina. Namibia, Tonga and up-and-coming Georgia will have their part to play, though, according to this preview compiled by the editorial team at Rugbydump.com.

Argentina
argentina

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Semi Finals
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Quarter Finals
  • 1999: Quarter Finals

Key Players

Nicknamed 'El Mago' (the Magician) for an outlandish array of skills, Juan Martin Hernandez was the star of the 2007 World Cup, orchestrating Los Pumas to the Semi Finals. Equally able at full back as at stand-off, Hernandez has scored more than 130 points for his country.

Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, named as captain once more, has been part of the team since 2004 and won over 60 caps. Hugely versatile, Lobbe has one French title and two European triumphs with his club Toulon and will be aiming higher ahead of his third World Cup.

Wing / full back Lucas Gonzales Amorosino helped put Argentina into the Quarter Finals in 2011 with a superb try against Scotland at Eden Park. He has pace to burn and a unique running style that can be difficult to defend against.

 Argentina should progress to the Quarter Finals at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

The Argentineans have reached the knockout stages in the previous two World Cups. Led by the talismanic Lobbe, they look likely to reach the last eight again in 2015, provided they can overcome the improving Tonga and Georgia.

Prediction

Due to their superior experience at knockout rugby, Argentina should progress to the Quarter Finals and, depending on their opponents, they could go even further. However, the standard of competition that potentially stands in front of them is perhaps a challenge too far.

Georgia will finish 4th in Pool C at World Cup 2015.

Key Players

Toulon second row Mamuka Gorgodze has taken his team from international obscurity to World Cup prominence. At 6ft 5, the second row-cum-flanker only switched to rugby from basketball at the age of 17 but has become one of the game's most influential players.

Former wrestler Davit Zirakashvili spent two years in France before first representing his country in 2004. Renowned as one of the best tighthead props in the world, Zirakashvili turns out regularly for Clermont Auvergne in the Top 14 and this will be his third World Cup.

Despite being only 22, Merab Sharikadze has been part of the national side since 2012. An exciting, attacking winger, Sharikadze has scored seven tries in his career so far and shown impressive defensive performances, particularly in last year's test match against Ireland.

Georgia
georgia

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Did not enter
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Did not enter
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Did not enter
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Did not qualify

Prospects

Georgia are a team on the rise and their recent results show it. Once known as a cakewalk, Milton Haig’s side have leapt up the World Rugby rankings after their breakthrough victory over Samoa in 2014. However, fewer resources and a relatively small group of players to choose from mean that getting out of the group is still unlikely.

Prediction

Georgia will finish 4th in Pool C. Their opening match against Tonga may well prove to be a make-or-break encounter but the Tongans’ experience and poise could work against them. They’ll learn a lot against New Zealand and will no doubt secure their third World Cup victory when they face Namibia.

Namibia
namibia

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Did not enter
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Did not enter
  • 2007: Semi Finals
  • 1995: Did not enter
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

Saracens player Jacques Burger is a tough nut and one who quite literally puts his body on the line for his team. Having played a half against Ulster in the Heineken Cup with a badly broken nose, he has developed a cult following. This will be Burger's third World Cup.

A product of the Griquas and the Golden Lions in South Africa's Currie Cup competition, Crysander Botha quickly made a name for himself in the Namibian national team. He made his debut against Zimbabwe in 2008 before playing in the 2011 World Cup, scoring a try in the defeat to Fiji.

Like Burger, Rohan Kitshoff is a well built, sturdy flanker. Part of the Stormers setup, the 29 year-old is still relatively inexperienced at international level but a good tournament could see him as a natural successor to his back row partner.

Namibia will certainly finish last in their pool at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

Namibia are rank outsiders in Pool C, possessing the unenviable record of having lost every World Cup match they have played, including a record-breaking 142-0 defeat to Australia in 2003. Despite showing well in a 32-17 defeat to Ireland in 2007, they face the prospect of yet more pain in 2015.

Prediction

If they are able to compete for the majority of the game against Georgia, they may have a sniff at getting a result. But Danie Vermuelen's side cannot afford to look too far ahead. Bottom of the group seems the only guaranteed position of Pool C.

New Zealand could well win the World Cup again thanks to Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith.

Key Players

Despite his imposing 112kg, Number 8 Kieran Reade possesses an array of handling skills and pace that most normal backs would love to boast. Reade has captained the side on eight occasions. He won the IRB player of the year in 2013 and was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad.

After his try-scoring debut against Italy in 2009, Ben Smith was recalled to the squad in 2012. He has since become a try-scoring machine, notching up 16 tries for the All Blacks. His mazy running and counter-attacking brilliance makes Smith a vital cog in the Kiwis' pulverising wheel.

Tongan-born Malakai Fekitoa is a relatively new addition to the All Blacks, having made his debut in the first test against England last summer. At only 23, he has already scored two tries in his career and has been hailed as a rising star in New Zealand rugby.

New Zealand
new zealand

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Winner
  • 2003: Semi Finals
  • 1991: Semi Finals
  • 2007: Quarter Finals
  • 1995: Runner-Up
  • 2011: Winner
  • 1999: Semi Finals

Prospects

New Zealand are the No.1 ranked rugby team in the world and have held this position, incredibly, since 2009. If all goes smoothly, they could become the first three-time champions. New Zealand have, however, been subject to World Cup nerves and have been upset twice by France in the knockout stages.

Prediction

Having ditched the dreaded monkey off their back by winning the last World Cup, New Zealand have every chance of reaching their fourth final. Their form has been electric and unmatched in recent months. Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith will provide a bedrock on which to lead the Kiwi juggernaut straight through to Twickenham in October.

tonga
tonga

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Did not qualify
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

Former Waikato Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo is a battler and has frightening turn of pace that only a winger can match. An effective scrummager, he is one of Tonga's most important players. He also has a keen eye for the try-line, scoring 14 tries in four seasons with the Chiefs in Super Rugby.

A lightning quick side-stepper and equally efficient finisher, Fetu'u Vainikolo is a big prospect for Tongan rugby. He scored a try in his first World Cup in 2011 and is more famous for his brilliant solo effort try in his side's shock 21-15 win over Scotland in 2012.

Australian-born Steve Mafi is a powerful and mobile second row best known to English fans for his time with Leicester Tigers. Five years after his club debut, he returned to Australia to play for the Waratahs. Mafi stuck with his Tongan heritage and will add to his ten caps in England.

Alt: Georgia are Tongas main rivals at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

Having won two matches in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, Tonga will be aiming to at least match this record. They should beat Namibia comfortably but will struggle against New Zealand and Argentina. Their crunch match will likely be their first against similarly matched Georgia on the second day.

Prediction

Third place in the pool should be within reach for Tonga and their experience at this level of the game will prove crucial in achieving this. Their side has more variation than their main rivals Georgia and will adapt better if the match gets tight.

pool D

Pool D does not look like the most competitive group at first glance but there are plenty of potential highlights to look forward to. Lewis Hughes and Max Ashcroft of Talking Rugby Union
give us their thoughts on how things will play out.

canada
canada

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Quarter Final
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

As the most capped player in the Canadian World Cup squad, Aaron Carpenter will be expected to set a standard of discipline on the field. A mobile and strong ballcarrier, Carpenter is by trade a No.8 but has transformed himself internationally into a hooker to fill a noticeable gap in that area for Canada.

Captain at the age of 24 and after just 17 appearances, the impression Tyler Ardron has made on Canadain rugby has been monumental since making his debut in 2012. A strong, powerful runner, with excellent on-field awareness and lineout ability, Ardron’s defining features are his fantastic handling and passing.

A fixture on the Canadian wing since 2012, Jeff Hassler is lightning quick and has an ability to break tackles that typically wouldn’t be associated with a frame as slight as his. A surprisingly ferocious tackler to boot, Hassler is tough as nails and has made a seamless transition from Rugby 7s to 15-man union.

Alt: The Canada V Romania game will decide who finishes this pool last at World Cup 2015

Prospects

Canada enter the 2015 World Cup as the tournament’s fourth-lowest ranked nation. While rugby continues to see a huge rise in prominence in Canada, little impact should be expected from the Maple Leafs this September.

Prediction

Victories over Ireland, France and Italy are unlikely; the Canada v Romania game will be the sole decider of who leaves Pool D as holders of the wooden spoon.

France should progress to Quarter-Finals of World Cup 2015 but may be ousted by All Blacks

Key Players

Thierry Dusautoir looks set to play a huge role as captain. A powerful and punishing tackler, Dusautoir is capable of being seemingly everywhere on the field at once with his outstanding technique in the loose and at the breakdown. He is also a powerful blend of strength and quickness as a ballcarrier, able to opportunistically turn defence into attack at a moment’s notice.

Affectionately known as ‘The Cheetah’ for his blinding pace, Wesley Fofana has been one of the few reasons for optimisim in French rugby in recent years. He has the footwork and pace that few in world rugby can match and is capable of turning a game on its head every time he gets the ball.

One of the few bright spots of a dismal Six Nations campaign was the emergence of Scott Spedding at full back. The South African-born back is extremely difficult to compete with under the high ball. He’s also a powerful runner and possesses a monster boot, making him a valuable asset in France’s territorial game.

France
france

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Runner-Up
  • 2003: Semi Finals
  • 1991: Quarter Finals
  • 2007: Semi Finals
  • 1995: Semi Finals
  • 2011: Runner-Up
  • 1999: Runner-Up

Prospects

A miserable Six Nations campaign highlighted just how far French Rugby still has to go to rebuild. While you can never rule out the French, a repeat of their run to the Final in 2011 looks unlikely.

Prediction

Considering the relative lack of a threat posed by the teams in their pool not named Ireland, France should have enough to get out of the group, but a probable encounter with the All Blacks will likely spell the end of France’s campaign.

ireland
ireland

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Quarter Final
  • 2003: Quarter Final
  • 1991: Quarter Final
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Quarter Final
  • 2011: Quarter Final
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

The 2015 World Cup will mark the end of a storied international career for Irish captain Paul O’Connell. A true leader from the front, O’Connell will be an integral part of Ireland’s lineout, scrum and turnover play.

Arguably the best international fly half in the game right now, Johnny Sexton will be central to Irish fortunes in 2015. A brilliant and composed attacking pivot, Sexton is the complete package and gives Ireland the flexibility to modify their strategy to counteract whoever they go up against.

Tipped by many as the heir apparent to Brain O’Driscoll’s legendary 13 shirt, Robbie Henshaw is in pole position to compound his status as Ireland’s next great centre. A playmaker in every sense of the word, Henshaw is a smart passer with great feet, excellent acceleration and dominance in the air and under the high ball.

 Ireland should come top of their pool at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

Having beaten Australia and South Africa last November and retained their Six Nations crown earlier this year, Ireland are the form team of Pool D and should have little difficulty progressing as group winners.

Prediction

Ireland have been the best team in the Northern Hemisphere for two years now but a likely Semi Final match-up against New Zealand may be their breaking point.

Italy will potentially be runners-up in their pool at World Cup 2015.

Key Players

Arguably the greatest Italian rugby player ever, captain Sergio Parisse is the engine that drives the Azzuri. A true all-round player without a weakness in his game, Parisse is instrumental in orchestrating the Italian defence with his mechanically perfect tackling and constant communication with teammates.

Australian-born full back Luke McLean has been one of the few ever-presents on the Italian backline since his debut in 2008. His versatility is key – he is comfortable at several positions in the back line. Keep an eye out for McLean’s passing and in-field kicking which at times have bordered on the sublime.

Tipped by many to be the Italian’s breakout star of the World Cup, 25 year-old Giovanbaattista Venditti enjoyed an electric Six Nations campaign that saw his raw pace and finishing ability combine with excellent on-field awareness and opportunistic positioning to the tune of two key tries in Italy’s campaign.

Italy
italy

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Prospects

The strength of the teams above them and pre-tournament discord among the team and management suggests disappointment could be in store once again for Italy despite their emerging talent.

Prediction

While they have obstacles to overcome, Italy have a strong pack and budding ensemble of backline talent meaning they’ll likely be in contention for the Pool D runners-up spot.

ireland
romania

World Cup Record

  • 1987: Pool Stage
  • 2003: Pool Stage
  • 1991: Pool Stage
  • 2007: Pool Stage
  • 1995: Pool Stage
  • 2011: Pool Stage
  • 1999: Pool Stage

Key Players

A huge and powerful lock-cum-flanker, Mihai Macovei is the epitome of Romanian rugby. As captain, he leads a powerful scrum and a strategy that centres on using an intelligent and flexible gameplan to frustrate opponents into making mistakes.

Cătălin Fercu’s impressive resume for both Timişoara and Romania saw him picked up last season as a part of Saracens’ global network of clubs. Capable of playing either at full back or wing, Fercu possesses great footwork and an elusive change of pace.

Florin Vlaicu is the leading points scorer in Romanian rugby history and has worked hard to make the No.10 shirt his own since his debut in 2006. Now firmly entrenched as the incumbent fly-half, Vlaicu’s form from the kicking tee will be extremely important if Romania are to capitalise on the opportunities their forward pack look to create.

Despite a powerful scrum, Romania will come 5th in their pool at World Cup 2015.

Prospects

Romania’s continued appearance at the World Cup is a testament to the importance placed upon developing the game in the country but it’s hard to see them being able to overcome the difference in discipline and ability between themselves and the likes of Ireland and France.

Prediction

Romania’s powerful scrum and forward pack will cause opponents problems but a weak backline and limited depth makes a 5th place finish look logical.

World Cup 2015
Stadium Information

Matches at the 2015 World Cup will be hosted by 13 stadiums across 11 UK cities. Below you'll find information on each of them, including location and capacity and history, along with details of nearby hotels.

Brighton

community stadium

capacity: 30,750

Fixtures
September 19: South Africa v Japan (4:45pm)
September 20: Samoa v USA (12pm)
Stadium information

Also known as The Amex, the stadium is situated in Falmer, only a short train journey away from Brighton and Hove, just off the A27 and close to other main roads towards London. It was officially opened on the 30th of July 2011 at a cost of £93 million.

The stadium was designed to host a number of sports including football, hockey and rugby, as well as music concerts. It hosted its first ever rugby union game on Friday the 20th of March 2015, seeing England Under 20s regain the Six Nations Championship with a decisive 24-11 win against France.

Hotels near Brighton Community Stadium

Leeds

elland road

capacity: 37,914

Fixtures
September 26: Italy v Canada (2:30pm)
September 27: Scotland v USA (2:30pm)
Stadium information

Elland Road originally opened in 1897 as a rugby league venue but then expanded for football purposes in 1904. The stadium is close to the M1 with easy access from both North and South and the M62 East and West. It’s also very close to Leeds city centre and the main train station, with fast links across the country.

As well as football, rugby league and (so far) one Rugby Union match (South Africa vs a North of England XV in 1992, seen by a crowd of 14.000), it has also briefly played host to American and Gaelic football matches, as well as a number of music concerts from the likes of Queen, U2 and Rod Stewart.

Hotels near Elland Road

Gloucester

Kingsholm Stadium

capacity: 16,500

Fixtures
  • September 19:
    Tonga v Georgia (12pm)
  • September 25:
    Argentina v Georgia (4:45pm)
  • September 23:
    Scotland v Japan (2:30pm)
  • October 11:
    USA v Japan (8pm)
Stadium information

Although it has a relatively small capacity, Kingsholm Stadium has a deep-rooted history with rugby union, going all the way back to its first match in 1891. This may explain why it is one of only two club rugby grounds to be used in the 2015 World Cup.

The stadium is close to the M5 and A40, as well as Gloucester train station. As well as its sporting events, it has hosted a number of music concerts including Tom Jones and McFly, with Madness and Elton John billed for 2015. Kingsholm has previously seen a number of international rugby union games played including England vs Wales all the way back in 1900, and New Zealand vs USA in 1991, which drew a crowd of 12,000.

Hotels near Kingsholm Stadium

Leicester

City Stadium

capacity: 32,312

Fixtures
October 4: Argentina v Tonga (2:30pm)
October 6: Canada v Romania (4:45pm)
October 11: Argentina v Namibia (12pm)
Stadium information

Also known as King Power Stadium, the arena’s close proximity to both the M1 and the M69, as well as Leicester train station, make it an easily accessible venue. The stadium officially opened in 2002 at a cost of £37 million.

Although mainly a football stadium, the King Power has seen a number of rugby union matches played by fellow Leicester team, Leicester Tigers amid rumours of an eventual groundshare between the football and rugby teams.
It has previously hosted one international game, an exhibition match with South Africa taking on a World XV team.

Hotels near Leicester City Stadium

Cardiff

Millenium stadium

capacity: 74,154

Fixtures
  • September 19:
    Ireland v Canada (2:30pm)
  • October 2:
    New Zealand v Georgia (8pm)
  • September 20:
    Wales v Uruguay (2:30pm)
  • October 11:
    France v Ireland (4:45pm)
  • September 23:
    Australia v Fiji (4:45pm)
  • October 17:
    Quarter Final 2 (8pm)
  • October 1:
    Wales v Fiji (4:45pm)
  • October 18:
    Quarter Final 3 (1pm)
Stadium information

Opening in 1999 at a cost of £121 million, the Millennium Stadium is the national stadium of Wales and the undisputed home of Welsh rugby. Located right next to the train station and within easy reach of the M4, the stadium has been witness to some of the biggest matches the game has offered up over the years.

It is currently the second largest stadium with a fully-retractable roof in the world, beaten only by the AT&T Stadium in Texas, USA. Originally built to host the 1999 World Cup final, it has also been host to an impressive number of other sports, including rugby league, football, speedway, boxing and cricket. It has also been used for many music concerts for acts such as Robbie Williams, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M, U2 and many more.

Hotels near Millenium Stadium

Manchester

City Stadium

capacity: 47,800

Fixtures
October 10: England v Uruguay (8pm)
Stadium information

Also known as King Power Stadium, the arena’s close proximity to both the M1 and the M69, as well as Leicester train station, make it an easily accessible venue. The stadium officially opened in 2002 at a cost of £37 million.

Although mainly a football stadium, the King Power has seen a number of rugby union matches played by fellow Leicester team, Leicester Tigers amid rumours of an eventual groundshare between the football and rugby teams.
It has previously hosted one international game, an exhibition match with South Africa taking on a World XV team.

Hotels near Manchester City Stadium

Milton Keynes

Stadium Mk

capacity: 30,500

Fixtures
October 1: France v Canada (8pm)
October 3: Samoa v Japan (2:30pm)
October 6: Fiji v Uruguay (8pm)
Stadium information

Stadium mk was built for an estimated £50 million in 2007 as the new home of rebranded football club Milton Keynes Dons (formerly Wimbledon FC) following its relocation in 2003.

Although Stadium mk is a dedicated football ground, it has hosted a number of domestic rugby union matches, as well as Heineken Cup and European Rugby Champions Cup games. The venue is located close to a few nearby train stations with easy links into and out of London, and is situated in close proximity to the M1.

Hotels near Stadium mk

London

Olympic Stadium

capacity: 54,000

Fixtures
  • September 23:
    France v Romania (8pm)
  • October 7:
    South Africa v USA (4:45pm)
  • September 24:
    New Zealand v Namibia (8pm)
  • October 30:
    Bronze Final (8pm)
  • October 4:
    Ireland v Italy (4:45pm)
Stadium information

Originally constructed to host the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics for an estimated cost of £500 million, the stadium was designed with a capacity of 80,000 in mind but was substantially reduced to its current capacity of 54,000 after the Olympics.The arena is situated just 10.5km from Central London and less than 10 minutes from London St Pancras station, so transport links to the stadium couldn’t be better.

As well as this year’s World Cup action, the stadium will see more athletics take place in the form of the 2017 World Athletics and IPC Athletics World Championships. It is also due to host a number of cricket and rugby league matches this year, and will eventually become the long-term home of West Ham United Football Club.

Hotels near London Olympic Stadium

Exeter

Sandy Park

capacity: 10,744

Fixtures
September 29: Tonga v Namibia (4:45pm)
October 7: Namibia v Georgia (8pm)
October 11: Italy v Romania (2:30pm)
Stadium information

Stadium mk was built for an estimated £50 million in 2007 as the new home of rebranded football club Milton Keynes Dons (formerly Wimbledon FC) following its relocation in 2003.

Although Stadium mk is a dedicated a dedicated football ground, it has hosted a number of domestic rugby union matches, as well as Heineken Cup and European Rugby Champions Cup games. The venue is located close to a few nearby train stations with easy links into and out of London, and is situated in close proximity to the M1.

Hotels near Stadium mk

Newcastle

St james' park

capacity: 52,409

Fixtures
October 3: South Africa v Scotland (4:45pm)
October 9: New Zealand v Tonga (8pm)
October 10: Samoa v Scotland (2:30pm)
Stadium information

St James’ Park is the sixth largest football stadium in the United Kingdom, and the oldest in the North East of England, having hosted its first match in 1880. The ground has been home to Newcastle United Football Club since 1892.

Conveniently located around 500 metres from Central Station, Newcastle's main railway station, the stadium has hosted a number of domestic and international football matches, as well as a few football matches that took place during the 2012 Summer Olympics. As well as football, it has also hosted rugby league and rugby union matches and been a venue for many music concerts for acts such as Bob Dylan, Bryan Adams and Kings of Leon.

Hotels near St James’ Park

Birmingham

Villa park

capacity: 42,682

Fixtures
September 26: South Africa v Samoa (4:45pm)
September 27: Australia v Uruguay (12pm)
Stadium information

The grounds of Villa Park were originally a Victorian amusement park that consisted of a football pitch, cricket pitch and an athletics track. The ground re-opened in 1897, and over the years has been adapted to its current capacity of 42,682 (in 1923, it could hold a staggering 80,000 people of an originally planned 130,000!).

The stadium itself is just a short walk from two main railway stations, as well as easy striking distance from both the M5 and M6 on the northern side of Birmingham. Despite its football origins (both domestic and international), it has hosted a wide variety of events, from music concerts, boxing matches, athletics events and international rugby league and rugby union matches, as well as an American Football event in 1985.

The two international rugby union matches that were previously played at Villa Park 1924 in 1953 both featured English domestic sides playing against New Zealand. The All Blacks emerged victorious both times.

Hotels near Villa Park

London

Wembley Stadium

capacity: 90,000

Fixtures
September 20: New Zealand v Argentina (4:45pm)
September 27: Ireland v Romania (4:45pm)
Stadium information

Located to the North-West of London city centre but within easy reach of both the M1 and M25, as well as plenty of rail and underground links into and out of London, Wembley Stadium is an amazingly accessible 2015 World Cup venue.

On top of this, it is also the biggest 2015 venue, with a huge 90,000 capacity, making it the largest stadium in the UK and second largest in Europe (behind Spain’s Camp Nou with 99,354). Built in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium (which was demolished in 2003) for an estimated £1 billion, it already has a huge list of sporting and music events to its name.

As well as its roots in football (it’s the home of the FA and regularly hosts huge domestic and international football matches), it has had Olympic and American Football games played on its grounds, as well as motorsports, boxing, rugby league, rugby union and huge music concerts.

Its rugby union pedigree runs deep, having hosted Barbarians vs Australia in 2008 as well as domestic Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup matches.

Hotels near Wembley Stadium

London

twickenham

capacity: 81,605

Fixtures
  • September 18:
    England v Fiji (8pm)
  • October 17:
    Quarter Final 1 (4pm)
  • September 19:
    France v Italy (8pm)
  • October 18:
    Quarter Final 4 (4pm)
  • September 26:
    England v Wales (8pm)
  • October 24:
    Semi Final 1 (4pm)
  • October 3:
    England v Australia (8pm)
  • October 25:
    Semi Final 2 (4pm)
  • October 10:
    Australia v Wales (4:45pm)
  • October 31:
    Final (4pm)
Stadium information

AKA ‘Twickers’, Twickenham Stadium is the home of English rugby and the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Located in the South-West of London in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, transport links are excellent: the stadium is six miles from London Heathrow, 30 miles from London Gatwick and Twickenham train station is just a short walk away, offering connections to London Waterloo.

The 81,605 capacity makes Twickenham the fourth-largest stadium in Europe, and the second-largest in the UK after Wembley. Twickenham Stadium is synonymous with rugby union and is in fact the largest dedicated rugby ground in the world. During matches, Twickenham creates an incredible atmosphere; hearing a rendition of the English rugby anthem Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is an experience you’ll remember for years to come.

Even if you haven’t been lucky enough to find a ticket to a Twickenham match there are still reasons for a visit. Twickenham is the home of the World Rugby Museum, where you can learn about the history of the sport and see some excellent interactive displays.

Twickenham has a rich World Cup history, having hosted matches and finals in both the 1991 and 1999 World Cups.

Hotels near Twickenham

Our other travel ideas

X