Rugby World Cup Pool B sees reigning champions South Africa face off against Ireland, Scotland, Tonga, and Romania as they battle for a place in the knockouts.
Ahead of the tenth edition of the Rugby World Cup, Planet Rugby previews each of the pools, with the ‘group of death’ next up.
South Africa – World ranking: 2
Head coach: Jacques Nienaber
Captain: Siya Kolisi
Forwards: Ox Nche, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Marvin Orie, Jean Kleyn, Marco van Staden, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese, Deon Fourie, Franco Mostert
Backs: Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams, Cobus Reinach, Manie Libbok, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Jesse Kriel, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Makazole Mapimpi, Willie Le Roux, Damian Willemse
Rugby World Cup record: Pl 43, W 36, D 0, L 7, 87% win rate.
Best Rugby World Cup finish: 3x champions (1995, 2007, 2019)
Key Player – Eben Etzebeth: Simply a world-class second-rower, the 113 Test cap stalwart is one of the best players in the world. The Springboks place a big focus on their pack, and Etzebeth is a crucial cog up front. He is the most capped player in the Boks squad and has been in outstanding form over the past 24 months.
💥 How is that hand off from Eben Etzebeth!pic.twitter.com/m0jY8dWkUS
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) August 2, 2022
Player to watch – Manie Libbok: The only out-and-out fly-half in Springboks’ squad, there is a massive weight on the playmaker’s shoulders for the tournament. A wonderfully talented number 10, Libbok could ignite the Boks’ attack into life.
Ireland – World ranking: 1
Head coach: Andy Farrell
Captain: Johnny Sexton
Forwards: Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, David Kilcoyne, Jeremy Loughman, Joe McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Josh van der Flier
Backs: Bundee Aki, Ross Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson-Park, Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Jimmy O’Brien, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton
Rugby World Cup record: Pl 40, W 24, D 0, L 16, 60% win rate.
Best Rugby World Cup finish: Quarter-finalists (7 times)
Key Player – Josh van der Flier: The current World Rugby Player of the Year has been a key cog in Ireland’s pack for several seasons now. The brilliant openside flanker was crucial in his side’s Six Nations campaign earlier this year and their series victory over New Zealand last July.
Player to watch – Mack Hansen: The elusive winger is renowned for his quirkiness off the pitch but will be out to make an impression on it in France. The hard-working speedster has all the attributes to be a star at the World Cup, having become a regular starter for the number-one ranked side since making his Test debut in 2020.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 11, 2023
Scotland – World ranking: 5
Head coach: Gregor Townsend
Captain: Jamie Ritchie
Forwards: Ewan Ashman, Jamie Bhatti, Dave Cherry, Luke Crosbie, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie (c), Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Hamish Watson
Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Ben Healy, George Horne, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price, Cameron Redpath, Finn Russell, Ollie Smith, Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Ben White
Rugby World Cup record: Pl 42, W 24, D 1, L 17, 57% win rate.
Best Rugby World Cup finish: Fourth place (1991)
Key Player – Finn Russell: The brilliant fly-half has a whole box of tricks that he will look to make use of in France. A talisman of the Scotland team, most of what Townsend’s charges do well on attack comes through the sensational number 10. Russell seemingly has the ball on a string in attack and is an exceptional kicker, too.
Player to watch – Duhan van der Merwe: One of the most dangerous wingers in the game, Van der Merwe beats defenders for fun and is regularly on the scoresheet for the Scots. He has an unbelievable turn of pace, and while he is a poacher by nature, he is capable of scoring some truly astonishing tries.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 7, 2023
Tonga – World ranking: 15
Nickname: Ikale Tahi
Head coach: Toutai Kefu
Captain: Sonatane Takulua
Forwards: Sosefo ‘Apikotoa, Adam Coleman, Sione Havili Talitui, Vaea Fifita, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Fe’ao Fotuaika, Solomone Funaki, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Tau Koloamatangi, Paula Latu, Sam Lousi, Steve Mafi, Siua Maile, Samiuela Moli, Paula Ngauamo, Semisi Paea, Ben Tameifuna, Sione Vailanu
Backs: Pita Ahki, Malakai Fekitoa, George Moala, William Havili, Fine Inisi, Solomone Kata, Otumaka Mausia, Manu Paea, Salesi Piutau, Augustine Pulu, Sonatane Takulua, Kyren Taumoefolau, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Anzelo Tuitavuki
Rugby World Cup record: Pl 29, W 8, D 0, L 21, 28% win rate.
Best Rugby World Cup finish: Pool stage (8 times)
Key Player – Vaea Fifita: The former All Blacks back-rower has used World Rugby’s change in its eligibility laws to represent his country of birth in what will be his second World Cup. The incredibly talented forward has played across the back-five for Tonga. His speed, aggression, lineout ability and defensive prowess makes him one of the most dangerous forwards at the Rugby World Cup.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) February 18, 2023
Player to watch – Pita Ahki: Another player who has switched nations ahead of the World Cup having represented New Zealand sevens. Ahki is a well-rounded inside centre capable of tearing any defence to shreds. His playmaking ability is a massive boost for Tonga, and he has proven pedigree at high levels, having helped Toulouse win the Champions Cup and Top 14.
Romania – World ranking: 19
Nickname: The Oaks
Head coach: Eugen Apjok
Captain: Cristi Chirica
Forwards: Alexandru Savin, Gheorghe Gajion, Thomas Crețu, Alexandru Gordaș, Costel Burțilă, Iulian Harțig, Ovidiu Cojocaru, Robert Irimescu, Florin Bărdașu, Adrian Motoc, Marius Iftimiciuc, Ștefan Iancu, Cristi Chirica, Andre Gorin, Vlad Neculau, Dragoș Ser, Cristi Boboc, Florian Roșu, Damian Strătilă
Backs: Gabriel Rupanu, Florin Surugiu, Alin Conache, Gabriel Pop, Lama Sioeli, Tudor Boldor, Nicolas Onuțu, Marius Simionescu, Taliauli Sikuea, Taylor Gontineac, Jason Tomane, Tangimana Fonovai, Tevita Manumua, Hinckley Vaovasa
Rugby World Cup record: Pl 28, W 6, D 0, L22, 21% win rate.
Best Rugby World Cup finish: Pool stage (8 times)
Key Player – Cristi Chirica: The Romanian captain is a powerhouse back-rower who is crucial to The Oaks if they are to cause an upset in Pool B. He is an excellent ball carrier and will regularly take two defenders with him and is a hard-hitting loose forward.
Cristi Chirică, Romania🇷🇴
The Romanian captain is my one to watch for Romania at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
— Andrew Forde (@andrewfrugby) August 22, 2023
Player to watch – Hinckley Vaovasa: Romania will be looking to make a mark with their pack, but in the backline, they have an exceptional talent in Vaovasa. Much like Ahki, Vaovasa has a great mix of physicality and playmaking skills, and will be a tricky customer when he gets his hands on the ball.
Rugby World Cup Pool B fixtures
Saturday 9 September Ireland v Romania – 2.30 pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Sunday 10 September South Africa v Scotland – 4.45 pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Saturday 16 Sept Ireland v Tonga – 8pm, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Sunday 17 September South Africa v Romania – 2 pm, Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Saturday 23 September South Africa v Ireland – 8 pm, Stade de France, Paris
Sunday 24 September Scotland v Tonga – 4.45 pm, Stade de Nice, Nice
Saturday 30 September Scotland v Romania – 8 pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Sunday 1 October South Africa v Tonga – 8 pm, Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Saturday 7 October Ireland v Scotland – 8 pm, Stade de France, Paris
Sunday 8 October Tonga v Romania – 4.45 pm, Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille