Lacey Owen: York Valkyrie and England second row living her rugby dreams and inspiring next generation


Lacey Owen is held aloft by team-mates after York’s Grand Final win over Leeds

Lacey Owen was 11 when she first picked up a rugby ball. Now aged 23, she is a Women’s Super League champion, an England international, and one of the first female rugby league players in the country to sign a professional contract.

The York Valkyrie player’s rise to the top has not been without its challenges though. Growing up in Castleford, she had to get her oval-ball fix outside of a handful of league matches for her school playing club rugby union due to a lack of offerings at the time from community clubs in the area.

Owen turned her hand to other sports such as netball and football as well, but like many in the West Yorkshire town it was rugby league which was her fervent passion, and she has rapidly realised her ambitions since joining Castleford Tigers in the Women’s Super League as a 16-year-old.

“The first time I picked a rugby ball up – maybe it was the adrenaline I got or the fact it was all right to tackle somebody and run at people,” Owen told Sky Sports.

“It’s a bit weird, but I felt like it was a sport I didn’t have to try to be good at, it just came naturally. I’m a very sporty person anyway so usually if I tried something I was good at it, but as soon as I picked a rugby ball up, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

“Since picking a ball up from being in year seven, I’ve never looked back. I’ve tried every other sport you could imagine, but it doesn’t quite suffice for me in the way rugby does.”

Although utilised as a fly-half or outside centre in rugby union, Owen has found her niche as a second row in league and is now aiming to develop those ball-handling and organisational skills utilised in her roles in the 15-a-side code after harnessing her ability to pick a good line.

Owen scored the third try for York Valkyrie in the Betfred Women's Super League Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos.

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Owen scored the third try for York Valkyrie in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos.

Owen scored the third try for York Valkyrie in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos.

After taking a six-month break from the sport for personal reasons at the end of 2021, Owen followed her former Castleford head coach Lindsay Anfield to York in May last year and has quickly become a mainstay of the Valkyrie pack.

Her form as York secured a first Grand Final triumph last month, beating reigning champions Leeds Rhinos 16-6 at the LNER Community Stadium with Owen among the try-scorers, was rewarded with her earning a first England cap in the end-of-year Test against Wales.

Her international debut off the interchange bench at Headingley saw Owen score a try with one of her first touches in the 60-0 win for the hosts, but perhaps the biggest moment for her this year came when she was one of 20 Valkyrie players to be offered a two-year professional contract.

“It’s unreal women in rugby league have got professional contracts and I’m one of the few women in the country who have got one,” Owen said.

I’m a very sporty person anyway so usually if I tried something I was good at it, but as soon as I picked a rugby ball up, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Lacey Owen

“It’s a special thing, too. I’m not going to take it for granted next season and it shows how far rugby league has come as a whole, not just the women’s sport, and shows younger girls as well this is something you can achieve and hopefully in a couple of years it will expand.

“I was blown away when I got asked to sign a contract with York because it is a step forward and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted it to be more than a hobby.”

Although now a contracted professional player, Owen will still be combining her rugby commitments with her day-job at her old secondary school Castleford Academy, which means continuing the long days of heading to work a 7.30am and not getting back home until 9pm after training with York.

Not that she is complaining about the sacrifices she has to make though, and Owen is enthused by the growth of the women’s game in her home area which was underlined by four other schools bringing girls teams to Castleford Academy earlier this week for a Wakefield district competition.

Owen made a try-scoring debut for England in the end-of-season win over Wales

Owen made a try-scoring debut for England in the end-of-season win over Wales

Owen has become in demand for shirt presentations and end-of-season awards nights for girls teams too, and is humbled that she is being seen as an inspirational figure for the next generation.

“It’s really nice because I’m a role-model for all these young girls [at school] and I coach three rugby teams, so it’s really nice to see them progressing,” Owen said.

“They asked me lots of questions about it and say ‘Oh, Miss, do you think we’ll be able to do that as our job?’. It’s really nice to hopefully think women will either be able to do it part-time or full-time as a job.

“If we can achieve that working full-time, imagine what we could achieve if we had full-time contracts in the sport.”

York Valkyrie were crowned Women's Super League champions for the first time with a 16-6 Grand Final victory over Leeds Rhinos

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York Valkyrie were crowned Women’s Super League champions for the first time with a 16-6 Grand Final victory over Leeds Rhinos

York Valkyrie were crowned Women’s Super League champions for the first time with a 16-6 Grand Final victory over Leeds Rhinos

The achievements of York’s women in recent seasons have seen them become the city’s leading rugby league lights ahead of the men’s team, the Knights, in the Championship, and Owen is delighted Andrew Henderson’s squad have been fully supportive of their efforts as well.

The Women’s Challenge Cup has so far eluded the Valkyrie though and the aim for the 2024 season is to add that prize to the collection, along with retaining the League Leaders’ Shield and repeating their Grand Final success.

“We’ve done fantastic this year as a club and something we’ve focused on is reaching the pinnacle at the right time,” Owen said. “That’s something we did really well, but now it’s about us being consistent throughout next year.

“I think the treble is on the cards for us next year and we’ve got some great players to hopefully execute that. Obviously, we all know Super League rugby and finals rugby is very different.

“It’s when pressure is applied how we execute next year, but I’ve got us pinned for the treble – I hope so, anyway.”

Watch every match of the 2024 Super League season, including Magic Weekend, the play-offs, and men’s, women’s, and wheelchair Grand Finals, live on Sky Sports. Also stream with NOW.



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Women’s Super League: Can York Valkyrie swoop against Leeds Rhinos for latest Grand Final shot at glory?

Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

League Leaders’ Shield winners York Valkyrie and reigning champions Leeds Rhinos face off again in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final at the LNER Community Stadium; watch live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix from 2.30pm on Sunday (3pm kick-off)

Last Updated: 06/10/23 6:14pm


York captain Sinead Peach and Leeds skipper Hanna Butcher have their sights on lifting the Women’s Super League trophy on Sunday

The story of the York Valkyrie rugby league revolution has, up to now, been a case of so near yet so far.

The 2021 Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup final and last year’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final both saw them fall short of claiming one of the sport’s big two prizes. Earlier this year, York were denied a place in the first Women’s Challenge Cup final to be at Wembley as well in an agonising one-point defeat to St Helens as well.

However, the Valkyrie have another chance to put all those near misses to bed in the Women’s Super League showpiece on Sunday, live on Sky Sports. Once again, they already have the League Leaders’ Shield from the regular season in the bag and once again face Leeds Rhinos to be crowned champions.

This year, however, Lindsay Anfield’s side have home advantage courtesy of that top-of-the-table finish and will be playing in front of a bumper crowd at the LNER Community Stadium, with captain Sinead Peach under no illusion as to how significant it would be for the club to clinch a maiden BWSL title.

“It means everything,” Peach told York RLFC TV. “Starting out the season, you put out platforms for what you want to achieve and losing in the [Challenge Cup] semi-final, we were gutted, but we’ve bounced back since that.

“We’ve got an opportunity to lift another cup after the League Leaders’ and it’s everything we want, and I’m sure the girls are willing to do everything they can to make sure they come out victorious.”

For the second year in a row, York overcame Wigan Warriors to earn a place in the Grand Final, this time winning 22-6 thanks to another pivotal display from reigning Woman of Steel Tara-Jane Stanley, who scored one try and assisted two others after the visitors had taken an early lead.

Highlights of the York Valkyrie's win over Wigan Warriors in the Betfred Women's Super League semi-finals

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Highlights of the York Valkyrie’s win over Wigan Warriors in the Betfred Women’s Super League semi-finals

Highlights of the York Valkyrie’s win over Wigan Warriors in the Betfred Women’s Super League semi-finals

Reigning champions Leeds, meanwhile, needed a try from Sophie Robinson in golden point extra-time to defeat St Helens 20-16 at Totally Wicked Stadium in their semi-final clash and go some way to avenging their Wembley cup final loss to Saints in August.

Leeds have reached the Grand Final again despite England internationals Fran Goldthorp and Georgia Roche making the switch to Australia’s NRLW competition earlier this year and Caitlin Beevers, player of the match in last year’s 12-4 win over York in the title decider, hailed the togetherness of the squad.

“I think we’ve done really well,” Beevers told Sky Sports. “We’ve had a lot of adversity; we had players moving to the NRLW at the start of the season along with some injuries at the start, and I think we’ve really got to the point where we can compete in games like this.

“For the last two years we’ve managed to make it to the Grand Final and that shows how committed we are.

Caitlin Beevers says Leeds are raring to go for the women's Super League Grand final but wary of an in-form York side and their dangerous forwards

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Caitlin Beevers says Leeds are raring to go for the women’s Super League Grand final but wary of an in-form York side and their dangerous forwards

Caitlin Beevers says Leeds are raring to go for the women’s Super League Grand final but wary of an in-form York side and their dangerous forwards

“No matter the adversity we face at the start of the season, we come together and that shows what the environment at Leeds is all about.

“We’re ready and raring to go. Training for the last two weeks has been absolutely phenomenal, so we’re biting at the bit to get going.”

Last year’s final was played at the neutral venue of Totally Wicked Stadium and Leeds know how much home advantage does not always count after defeat on their Headingley home turf by St Helens in the 2021 decider.

Peach is adamant York are taking nothing for granted either, having been held to a 12-12 draw by the Rhinos at home in July after beating them 34-12 away in April, but the 2023 Woman of Steel nominee and her team-mates are excited they have the opportunity to be crowned champions for the first time in front of a partisan crowd.

Highlights of Leeds Rhinos' dramatic Betfred Women's Super League semi-final win over St Helens

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Highlights of Leeds Rhinos’ dramatic Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final win over St Helens

Highlights of Leeds Rhinos’ dramatic Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final win over St Helens

“It’s massive that we’ve got the home advantage and we’re comfortable playing here, but in the same sense we’re not complacent,” Peach said.

“We know there is a job to do, but mentally preparing that we’re going to be at our home ground with our home supporters is massive for us, and the girls are really excited to get out there and put on a good show.

“We know the fans will get behind us with the drums, so we’re looking forward to running out.”

Wilkin: Rhinos have the ability to win tight games

Sky Sports rugby league pundit Jon Wilkin on this year’s Women’s Super League Grand Final:

“Much like the men’s team from their golden era, Leeds just have an ability to win tight games and games they maybe shouldn’t win.

“I thought they did that against St Helens in the semi-finals – it was an incredible performance and a golden-point win, and rightly they find their way to the Grand Final.

“York, although they’ve played great, they haven’t won that competition before, and I know as a player that’s in the back of your mind.

“That could be poisonous for the mentality of the York team and could play into Leeds’ hands.”

Watch York Valkyrie and Leeds Rhinos face off in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix from 2.30pm on Sunday (3pm kick-off). Also stream the Women’s, Men’s and Wheelchair Super League Grand Finals and more on with NOW for £21 a month for six months.



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Wigan Warriors lift League Leaders’ Shield as Warrington Wolves clinch play-off spot in Super League’s ‘Frantic Finale’

Megan Wellens

Digital Sports Journalist @MegWellensX

Wigan Warriors sealed top spot and the League Leaders’ Shield with a 10-6 win over close rivals Leigh Leopards; Catalans Dragons finish second and also head to the semi-finals; Warrington Wolves’ win over Huddersfield Giants sees them take the final play-off spot

Last Updated: 23/09/23 8:34am


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Wigan Warriors lift the League Leaders’ Shield after beating Leigh in their final regular-season game 

Wigan Warriors lift the League Leaders’ Shield after beating Leigh in their final regular-season game

The final round of the Super League season was billed as a ‘Frantic Finale’ and it did not fail to deliver. Let’s relive all the best moments here…

Wigan clinch League Leaders’ Shield as Catalans seal semi-final spot

Wigan Warriors can now sit back and relax after taking the spoils in a bruising 10-6 encounter against close rivals Leigh Leopards which saw them lift the League Leaders’ Shield.

Jai Field weaves his way through the Leigh defence to score the opening try for Wigan

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Jai Field weaves his way through the Leigh defence to score the opening try for Wigan

Jai Field weaves his way through the Leigh defence to score the opening try for Wigan

The Warriors did what they needed to do in the first half as tries from Jai Field and Jake Wardle gave them their 10-6 advantage, Lachlan Lam going over for the home side to make it a close game.

Both sides had tries wiped out in the second half, but the Leopards will be aggrieved by Oliver Gildart’s score being controversially disallowed as there was not clear enough evidence for the video referee to overrule the call of obstruction.

The Sky Sports Rugby League team analyse the two No Try calls in Leigh's clash against Wigan, including Oliver Gildart's controversial disallowed try

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The Sky Sports Rugby League team analyse the two No Try calls in Leigh’s clash against Wigan, including Oliver Gildart’s controversial disallowed try

The Sky Sports Rugby League team analyse the two No Try calls in Leigh’s clash against Wigan, including Oliver Gildart’s controversial disallowed try

However, the Warriors showed their defensive steel to stay top of the table and take the all-important trophy, Matt Peet’s side cementing themselves as firm favourites to be heading to Old Trafford on October 14.

The Catalans Dragons also did what they needed to keep second spot with a 19-8 win over the Salford Red Devils to claim a semi-final spot. St Helens now play Warrington Wolves in the third place vs sixth place eliminator after a 30-12 victory over Hull FC.

A late drop goal from Sam Tomkins helped Catalans beat Salford as they finished second in the table behind Wigan

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A late drop goal from Sam Tomkins helped Catalans beat Salford as they finished second in the table behind Wigan

A late drop goal from Sam Tomkins helped Catalans beat Salford as they finished second in the table behind Wigan

Wigan, Catalans and St Helens all finish on 40 points but the Warriors’ superior points difference proved to be the deciding factor.

What they said: Peet – I am proud of our club

Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet says how proud he is of his side after beating Leigh to finish top of Super League

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Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet says how proud he is of his side after beating Leigh to finish top of Super League

Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet says how proud he is of his side after beating Leigh to finish top of Super League

Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet…

“That is probably a game we needed, we will learn a lot from that.

“I don’t think we particularly played play-off rugby but we will learn a great deal from that and I thought it was a fantastic game.

“I am proud of everyone at the club.

“There were incidents throughout the game that were 50/50 but we will just control our team.

“It gives us that steel and it highlights some areas. We haven’t been in such a close game for a while.”

Warrington sneak into the play-off as Leigh travel to the Robins in Eliminators

Warrington knew that if they secured a win they were in the play-offs and they did just that against the Huddersfield Giants.

Matthew Storton finished off a sensational team try as Hull Kingston Rovers leapfrogged Leigh Leopards

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Matthew Storton finished off a sensational team try as Hull Kingston Rovers leapfrogged Leigh Leopards

Matthew Storton finished off a sensational team try as Hull Kingston Rovers leapfrogged Leigh Leopards

Tries from Matt Dufty and James Harrison, plus 12 points from the boot of Stefan Ratchford, helped the Wolves to a 20-8 win and kept them in sixth spot.

They now face the tough task of heading to reigning champions Saints, who now have nine wins in a row and want to make it five successive Super League Grand Final wins too.

The second eliminator is fourth versus fifth as Hull KR take on Challenge Cup winners Leigh Leopards.

Ryan Hall's try saw Hull Kingston Rovers ensure a home game vs Leigh in the Week 1 Eliminator

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Ryan Hall’s try saw Hull Kingston Rovers ensure a home game vs Leigh in the Week 1 Eliminator

Ryan Hall’s try saw Hull Kingston Rovers ensure a home game vs Leigh in the Week 1 Eliminator

The Leopards headed into the ‘Frantic Finale’ in fourth and with a 34-point cushion over the Robins.

However, Hull KR ran rampant in a 56-12 victory over relegated Wakefield Trinity and overturned that points deficit to move up to fourth and clinch a home tie.

The best of Super League’s Frantic Finale:

After a bruising encounter, Wigan beat Leigh in the final game of the regular season to win the League Leaders' Shield

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After a bruising encounter, Wigan beat Leigh in the final game of the regular season to win the League Leaders’ Shield

After a bruising encounter, Wigan beat Leigh in the final game of the regular season to win the League Leaders’ Shield

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves

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Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Salford Red Devils and Catalans Dragons

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Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Salford Red Devils and Catalans Dragons

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Salford Red Devils and Catalans Dragons

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers

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Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Wakefield and Hull KR

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Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Wakefield and Hull KR

Highlights from the Betfred Super League clash between Wakefield and Hull KR

What happens next?

You can watch the Eliminators live on Sky Sports on September 29 and 30.

The first game kicks-off at 8pm on Friday and sees Hull KR vs Leigh Leopards before St Helens vs Warrington Wolves on Saturday from 12.45pm.

The winner of Hull KR vs Leigh Leopards will then face Wigan in the semi-finals, with the winner of St Helens and Warrington Wolves travelling to face Catalans Dragons for that sought-after spot at the Grand Final.



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Rugby World Cup 2023 team guides: Pool D – England, Argentina, Japan, Samoa, Chile


England, Argentina and Japan are all in Rugby World Cup 2023’s Pool D

We look at everything you need to know from Rugby World Cup Pool D, as 2003 champions England, Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile clash…

Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool D fixtures

  • Saturday September 9: England vs Argentina (8pm, Marseille)
  • Sunday September 10: Japan vs Chile (12pm, Toulouse)
  • Saturday September 16: Samoa vs Chile (2pm, Bordeaux)
  • Sunday September 17: England vs Japan (8pm, Nice)
  • Friday September 22: Argentina vs Samoa (4.45pm, Saint-Etienne)
  • Saturday September 23: England vs Chile (4.45pm, Lille)
  • Thursday September 28: Japan vs Samoa (8pm, Toulouse)
  • Saturday September 30: Argentina vs Chile (2pm, Nantes)
  • Saturday October 7: England vs Samoa (14.45pm, Lille)
  • Sunday October 8: Japan vs Argentina (12pm, Nantes)

England’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Quarter-finals

1991: Runners-up

1995: Fourth place

1999: Quarter-finals

2003: Champions

2007: Runners-up

2011: Quarter-finals

2015: Pool Stages

2019: Runners-up

Key player

Maro Itoje. When England reached the Rugby World Cup final in 2019, second row Itoje was a player playing out of his skin, excelling at each and every aspect of Test rugby. His form has been patchy since, but with selection question marks all around Steve Borthwick’s side, if Itoje can reach his top levels, he could lead England far.

Maro Itoje was a pivotal performer in England's run to the 2019 World Cup final, and will be seeking to return to those levels

Maro Itoje was a pivotal performer in England’s run to the 2019 World Cup final, and will be seeking to return to those levels

Head coach

Steve Borthwick. England head coach since December 2022, Borthwick was also previously England forwards coach under Eddie Jones between 2016-2020, before coaching Leicester Tigers as head coach between 2020-2022, winning the 2021 Premiership title.

The 43-year-old has had just one Six Nations campaign to date, which saw no improvement on Jones’ displays as they finished fourth after defeats to Scotland, France and Ireland. They also suffered World Cup warm-up defeats to Wales and Ireland.

Steve Borthwick took over from Eddie Jones as England head coach, but has not started well in the role

Steve Borthwick took over from Eddie Jones as England head coach, but has not started well in the role

England’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (19): Dan Cole, Ellis Genge, Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Theo Dan, Jamie George, Jack Walker, Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Martin, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Lewis Ludlam, David Ribbans, Billy Vunipola, Jack Willis.

Backs (14): Danny Care, Alex Mitchell, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell (c), George Ford, Marcus Smith, Elliot Daly, Ollie Lawrence, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell, Max Malins, Freddie Steward.

Argentina’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Pool Stages

1991: Pool Stages

1995: Pool Stages

1999: Quarter-finals

2003: Pool Stages

2007: Third place

2011: Quarter-finals

2015: Fourth place

2019: Pool Stages

Key player

Julian Montoya. The Argentina skipper is a crucial leader for this Pumas squad, and pivotal to their scrum, lineout and maul efforts as a hooker. For Argentina to be a threat in this World Cup, their set-piece and discipline needs to be able to hold up and compete.

Leicester Tigers hooker Julian Montoya is Argentina's current captain

Leicester Tigers hooker Julian Montoya is Argentina’s current captain

Head coach

Michael Cheika. Argentina head coach since March 2022, Australian Cheika – Wallabies head coach between 2014 and 2019 – will depart the role after the World Cup, with Felipe Contepomi taking over.

Cheika has brought a noticeable improvement to Pumas displays, leading Argentina to a 2-1 series win over Scotland in July 2022, in addition to victories over Australia home and away, the All Blacks on Kiwi soil and Pool D opponents England at Twickenham.

Former Australia head coach Michael Cheika has improved the Pumas, overseeing wins vs New Zealand, Australia, England and Scotland

Former Australia head coach Michael Cheika has improved the Pumas, overseeing wins vs New Zealand, Australia, England and Scotland

Argentina’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Joel Sclavi, Thomas Gallo, Eduardo Bello, Julián Montoya (c), Agustín Creevy, Ignacio Ruiz, Matías Alemanno, Tomás Lavanini, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa, Pablo Matera, Juan Martín González, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Rodrigo Bruni, Pedro Rubiolo.

Backs (15): Gonzalo Bertranou, Tomás Cubelli, Lautaro Bazán Vélez, Santiago Carreras, Nicolás Sánchez, Santiago Chocobares, Lucio Cinti, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Matías Moroni, Emiliano Boffelli, Mateo Carreras, Rodrigo Isgró, Juan Cruz Mallía, Martín Bogado, Juan Imhoff.

Japan’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Pool Stages

1991: Pool Stages

1995: Pool Stages

1999: Pool Stages

2003: Pool Stages

2007: Pool Stages

2011: Pool Stages

2015: Pool Stages

2019: Quarter-finals

Key player

Kazuki Himeno. Just as Michael Leitch was an outstanding back-row forward and leader for Japan in 2015 and 2019, in 2023 the star man is No 8 Himeno. The 29-year-old’s performances have been so strong he spent a season playing for the Highlanders in New Zealand in Super Rugby, and is a superb carrier of the ball and breakdown operator.

Japan back-row Kazuki Himeno is a superbly talented player

Japan back-row Kazuki Himeno is a superbly talented player

Head coach

Jamie Joseph. Japan head coach since 2016, New Zealander Joseph will be departing after the World Cup in France. He led the Brave Blossoms to stunning World Cup victories over Ireland and Scotland as hosts in 2019 and to a historic quarter-final place, where they suffered defeat to eventual winners South Africa.

Jamie Joseph oversaw a stunning 2019 World Cup campaign for Japan on home soil, but they have largely struggled since

Jamie Joseph oversaw a stunning 2019 World Cup campaign for Japan on home soil, but they have largely struggled since

Japan’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Keita Inagaki, Craig Millar, Sione Halasili, Koo Ji-won, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shota Horie, Atsushi Sakate, Kosuke Horikoshi, Jack Cornelsen, Warner Dearns, Uwe Helu, Amanaki Saumaki, Pieter Labuschagne, Shota Fukui, Kazuki Himeno, Michael Leitch, Ben Gunter

Backs (15): Naoto Saito, Yutaka Nagare, Kenta Fukuda, Lee Seung-sin, Rikiya Matsuda, Jumpei Ogura, Ryoto Nakamura, Tomoki Osada, Shogo Nakano, Dylan Riley, Siosaia Fifita, Semisi Masirewa, Jone Naikabula, Lomano Lemeki, Kotaro Matsushima.

Samoa’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Not invited

1991: Quarter-finals

1995: Quarter-finals

1999: Quarter-final playoffs

2003: Pool Stages

2007: Pool Stages

2011: Pool Stages

2015: Pool Stages

2019: Pool Stages

Key player

Steve Luatua/UJ Seuteni. We’ve split Samoa’s key player into two, an outstanding forward and an outstanding back. World Rugby’s new eligibility laws, which mean players who do not represent a nation for a three-year period can return to play for the country of their birth or that of a parent/grandparent, has seen a number of talented players from the Pacific islands return to squads.

Flanker Luatua picked up 15 All Blacks caps until 2016, and is a fabulous operator who could grace any forward pack, while La Rochelle’s European champion Seuteni is one of the best centres in the world.

Samoan centre UJ Seuteni was outstanding as La Rochelle beat Leinster in Dublin to win the 2023 European Cup

Samoan centre UJ Seuteni was outstanding as La Rochelle beat Leinster in Dublin to win the 2023 European Cup

Head coach

Seilala Mapusua. Samoa head coach since August 2020, Mapusua picked up 26 Test caps as a centre for Samoa between 2006 and 2013.

It has been some time since Samoa have picked up a marquee victory in Test rugby, but with some of the players now available to Mapusua via World Rugby’s new eligibility laws, and Pool D not being a toughest group by any means, a quarter-final spot is not beyond the realms or aims.

Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua picked up 26 Test caps as a centre for Samoa between 2006 and 2013

Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua picked up 26 Test caps as a centre for Samoa between 2006 and 2013

Samoa’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (18): Michael Alaalatoa (co-c), Paul Alo-Emile, Charlie Faumuina, Jordan Lay, Seilala Lam, Sama Malolo, Luteru Tolai, Brian Alainuuese, Theo McFarland, Sam Slade, Chris Vui (co-c), Sootala Faasoo, Miracle Fai’ilagi, Fritz Lee, Steven Luatua, Alamanda Motuga, Taleni Seu, Jordan Taufua.

Backs (14): Ere Enari, Melani Matavao, Jonathan Taumateine, Christian Leali’ifano, Lima Sopoaga, Alai D’Angelo Leuila, Tumua Manu, Duncan Paiaaua, UJ Seuteni, Nigel Ah Wong, Ed Fidow, Neria Fomai, Benjamin Lam, Danny Toala.

Chile’s Rugby World Cup record

1987: Not invited

1991: Did not enter

1995: Did not qualify

1999: Did not qualify

2003: Did not qualify

2007: Did not qualify

2011: Did not qualify

2015: Did not qualify

2019: Did not qualify

Key player

Martin Sigren. The skipper is one of only three players in the squad who plays outside of Chile, with the 27-year-old back-row currently a Doncaster Knights player. The 26-year-old has spoken about his nation’s ‘remarkable qualification’ and will lead the side with enormous passion.

Doncaster Knights back-row Martin Sigren will captain Chile in their maiden Rugby World Cup

Doncaster Knights back-row Martin Sigren will captain Chile in their maiden Rugby World Cup

Head coach

Pablo Lemoine. Chile head coach since 2018, Lemoine picked up 48 caps for Uruguay as a prop between 1996 and 2010, and leads Chile into their first ever Rugby World Cup after beating Canada (54-46 on aggregate) and then the USA (52-51 on aggregate) in qualifiers.

Former Uruguay prop Pablo Lemoine has been head coach of Chile since 2018, as they beat Canada and the USA to qualify

Former Uruguay prop Pablo Lemoine has been head coach of Chile since 2018, as they beat Canada and the USA to qualify

Chile’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad:

Forwards (17): Javier Carrasco, Salvador Lues, Matías Dittus, Iñaki Gurruchaga, Esteban Inostroza, Augusto Bohme, Tomás Dussaillant, Diego Escobar, Javier Eissmann, Pablo Huete, Santiago Pedrero, Augusto Sarmiento, Alfonso Escobar, Raimundo Martínez, Clemente Saavedra, Martín Sigren (c), Ignacio Silva.

Backs (13): Lukas Carvallo, Marcelo Torrealba, Benjamín Videla, Rodrigo Fernández, Santiago Videla, Pablo Casas, Matías Garafulic, José Ignacio Larenas, Domingo Saavedra, Franco Velarde, Nicolás Garafulic, Iñaki Ayarza, Francisco Urroz.



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Ireland vs England: Teams and talking points ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup warm-up Test in Dublin


Ireland captain James Ryan admits to some nerves for the team ahead of the match against England

James Ryan admitted lack of competitive rugby in recent months for many of the Ireland team means there will be nerves for the hosts going into Saturday’s Rugby World Cup warm-up Test against England in Dublin.

It is a second preparatory international for world’s No 1-ranked team, who are regarded as one of the favourites to triumph at this year’s global gathering on the back of completing the Grand Slam in year’s Six Nations, but spluttered past Italy with a largely second-string selection a fortnight ago.

Since then, Andy Farrell’s squad have been on a week-long training camp in Portugal as they fine-tune themselves for next month’s tournament in France and skipper Ryan knows there is expectation on Ireland as they face an England side aiming to shake off two patchy performances against Wales.

“I think there’s a bit of nerves heading into this game,” Ryan, who deputises as captain with Jonny Sexton suspended, said.

“It’s the first game for a lot of us of this summer and playing England at home, there’s always a little bit of pressure. The lads are keen to make a statement with selection and everything coming up.

“This has never been a warm-up game for us. It’s been very much a Test match, that’s the way we’ve prepared for this game all week. It’s obviously a lot of the guys’ first appearance of the summer, so it’s going to be tough but we’re not going to make any excuses.”

England head to Dublin on the back of a 19-17 win over Wales at Twickenham, which saw them rebound from the defeat in Cardiff the week before but still left Steve Borthwick’s side facing plenty of questions about the potency of their attacking game.

George Ford secured England's win over Wales at Twickenham

George Ford secured England’s win over Wales at Twickenham

George Ford, who kicked the winning points for England against Wales and starts at fly-half for the visitors on Saturday, acknowledged there are improvements to be made but insists they are working on getting it right ahead of their tournament-opener against Argentina on September 9 in Marseille.

“My experience is that of all departments of the game, it takes the longest to get the attack functioning,” Ford said. “We want to speed it up, we want to get there as quickly as possible.

“We know there’s an urgency that we need to start attacking better and causing problems and scoring tries – we understand that.

“The main thing is how we can be more potent when we’ve got the ball, how we can get the outside backs in space with the ball to create damage and cause chaos.”

An unfamiliar-looking Ireland team stuttered past Italy in their World Cup warm-up match two weeks ago

An unfamiliar-looking Ireland team stuttered past Italy in their World Cup warm-up match two weeks ago

Ryan believes Ireland have their own issues in attack to iron out as well after head coach Farrell labelled their 33-17 victory over Italy in Dublin on August 5 “clunky”.

“We must have been distracted a little bit by something,” Ryan said, reflecting on that game. “We were a little bit off. I just thought our attack wasn’t where it needed to be, it wasn’t as cohesive or as fluid as it usually is.

“In fairness, they put us under a lot of pressure defensively. They like to get off the line quickly and be aggressive in their defence, so maybe we got a little bit spooked by that at times and we weren’t as calm maybe and accurate as we needed to be off the back of it.

“There were a few lessons in the game and we need to be better because England have a couple of games now under their belt and they will definitely be looking at this fixture as one which is as big for us as it is for them.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has criticised the

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has criticised the “circus” surrounding his son Owen, with the England captain’s World Cup participation in doubt.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has criticised the “circus” surrounding his son Owen, with the England captain’s World Cup participation in doubt.

The build-up to this match has been overshadowed by the controversy around England captain Owen Farrell’s red card for a dangerous tackle on Taine Basham which was subsequently not upheld by an independent disciplinary panel.

Farrell still faces a wait to see if he will be able to take part in the World Cup though after global governing body World Rugby chose to appeal the panel’s decision and he has been withdrawn from the England squad for Saturday’s match.

Courtney Lawes will instead skipper the side and the flanker feels there are wider disciplinary issues England need to address after Henry Arundell, Freddie Steward and Ellis Genge were all sin-binned against Wales last week as well.

“We had a few silly cards that you really don’t want to get in Test match rugby,” Lawes said. “We’ve really been on the discipline from day one in camp, talking about how important it is at the World Cup.

Courtney Lawes says England have a talented squad that is capable of proving their critics wrong at the World Cup.

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Courtney Lawes says England have a talented squad that is capable of proving their critics wrong at the World Cup.

Courtney Lawes says England have a talented squad that is capable of proving their critics wrong at the World Cup.

“It was disappointing to get so many cards and give away so many penalties last week. It’s something we’re constantly working on and hammering down.

“We can’t afford those kinds of mistakes against Ireland. You’re not going to go a season without a card, but to the best of your ability you’ve got to be smart and streetwise with your actions.

“Even in those split seconds you’ve got to have a cool head and hopefully make the right decisions at the right time.”

Teams for Ireland vs England (5.30pm)

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Dan Sheehan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan (captain), 6 Peter O’Mahony, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Cian Prendergast.

Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Finlay Bealham,19 Joe McCarthy, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Keith Earls.

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 David Ribbans, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence.



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Challenge Cup final: Hull Kingston Rovers’ Elliot Minchella takes the long road to Wembley

Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

Elliot Minchella is relishing his first Betfred Challenge Cup final appearance after rebuilding his playing career in the lower leagues following his release from Leeds Rhinos in 2015; the Hull KR forward and his team-mates face Leigh Leopards in Saturday’s final at Wembley

Last Updated: 10/08/23 5:38pm


Elliot Minchella is looking forward to his first Challenge Cup final when Hull KR face Leigh

On Saturday, Elliot Minchella will play in the first major final of his career when Hull Kingston Rovers take on Leigh Leopards in the Betfred Challenge Cup showpiece at Wembley. However, the back row has taken a road less trodden to get here.

The former West Bowling junior had made a promising start to his professional career with Leeds Rhinos, bursting onto the Super League scene with a try-scoring debut as a 17-year-old in 2013. However, an off-field incident the following year led to him being loaned out to London Broncos in 2015 and being released at the end of the campaign.

Minchella was left to rebuild his career in the lower leagues, first with part-timers Sheffield Eagles, where he had to find a day job outside of the game, and then with home-city club Bradford Bulls before earning a second chance at Hull KR three years ago.

Since then, he has become a vital part of the Robins’ pack and even pushed himself into contention for an England call-up. Most importantly though, Minchella has the opportunity to be part of a team competing for one of rugby league’s biggest prizes.

“It’s tough,” Minchella told Sky Sports, reflecting on life outside the full-time game. “I’d gone from being in a changing room with legends of the game at Leeds to being on a building site or working at a builder’s merchant.

“It was hard, but you lean on those experiences to make you better as a person. That’s what I live by, really – learn from the tough time and enjoy the good ones.

“I’m proud of myself to stick with it and not take no for answer. I kept working hard, kept knocking on the door, and I believe that if you keep working hard you get your reward in the end.

Elliot Minchella in action for Sheffield Eagles in 2017

Elliot Minchella in action for Sheffield Eagles in 2017

“I haven’t had that just yet, but I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on. I’ve had that never-say-die attitude towards it and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

Even since his move to Sewell Group Craven Park, things have not always run smoothly. The Robins finished bottom of the table in the pandemic-affected 2020 Super League campaign and Minchella then suffered a season-ending ACL injury in only the second game of the following season.

Nevertheless, the 27-year-old has been able to excel with both Tony Smith and now Willie Peters in charge of the team and believes he has found a club in Hull KR which suits him as a person as well as a player.

“We’ve probably got similar values,” Minchella, who signed a four-year contract extension with Hull KR in April last year, said. “We’re not flashy, but we’re hard-working.

I believe that if you keep working hard you get your reward in the end. I haven’t had that just yet, but I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on.

Hull KR’s Elliot Minchella

“It’s a hard-working community and I love it, and it’s a great fit for me. I think we’re going places and we’ve been on a journey as a club.

“My first year we finished 11th out of 11, and we’re currently sitting in the play-offs. We’ve been in a few semi-finals and obviously the final on Saturday. I’m proud to be a part of it and long may it continue.”

After getting within 80 minutes of a first Super League Grand Final appearance in 2021, Hull KR missed out on the play-offs last year. However, former Gateshead Thunder and Wigan Warriors scrum-half Peters’ first season in charge sees them firmly in contention to make the play-offs.

They have reached Wembley for the first time in eight years too and have an opportunity to bring the Challenge Cup back to east Hull for only the second time in the club’s history, with their sole triumph coming in a 10-5 win against bitter cross-city rivals Hull FC in 1980.

Hull KR's Brad Schneider reflects on a successful start to life in England and outlines what he and his side must do on Saturday against Leigh Leopards in the Challenge Cup final.

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Hull KR’s Brad Schneider reflects on a successful start to life in England and outlines what he and his side must do on Saturday against Leigh Leopards in the Challenge Cup final.

Hull KR’s Brad Schneider reflects on a successful start to life in England and outlines what he and his side must do on Saturday against Leigh Leopards in the Challenge Cup final.

That final berth was secured courtesy of Brad Schneider’s golden-point drop-goal in the 11-10 semi-final win over Cup holders Wigan Warriors at Headingley last month and Minchella believes the attitude they showed that day is indicative of the approach instilled in pre-season.

“That’s something we pride ourselves on, never giving in and being relentless in what we do,” Minchella said.

“We didn’t go away in the semi-final; it took until the 84th minute but we got there in the end and that started in pre-season.

“We had a tough pre-season where we learnt some hard lessons about ourselves and your team-mates, and it brings you tight and connected as a team.

“It’s about never giving in and that’s what the city is about, that’s what east Hull is about, and that’s what we want to be as a team to represent them.”

Hull KR's only previous Challenge Cup win came in 1980

Hull KR’s only previous Challenge Cup win came in 1980

Minchella is aware of Hull KR’s Challenge Cup final history from both the good and the bad sides, insisting that even though none of the current squad were part of it, they will be learning lessons from the 50-0 defeat to his old club Leeds at Wembley eight years ago.

He is determined to ensure he is not just a participant in the final either as he goes in search of the first major rugby league honour of his career.

“There are people who would bite your hand off to be in these sorts of games,” Minchella said. “I appreciate it and enjoy it, but we’ve got a job to do and that’s win the Challenge Cup.

“I don’t just want to be a part of it, I want to win it and go down in history as a Challenge Cup winner.”



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Wales 20-9 England: Gareth Davies and George North help hosts to World Cup warm-up victory in Leigh Halfpenny’s 100th game

Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

Gareth Davies and George North both scored tries, while Leigh Halfpenny kicked two goals and two penalties; Marcus Smith kicked England’s points; England head coach Steve Borthwick names his squad for the World Cup on Monday, with the sides clashing again at Twickenham next Saturday

Last Updated: 05/08/23 8:59pm


Gareth Davies goes over for Wales’ first try against England

Second-half tries from Gareth Davies and George North saw Wales kick off their Rugby World Cup preparations with a 20-9 victory over an out-of-sorts England at the Principality Stadium.

It was a battle of the kickers in the first 40 minutes, with three successful penalties from the boot of Marcus Smith compared to two from Wales’ Test centurion Leigh Halfpenny, giving the visitors a 9-6 lead at half-time.

But the hosts seized the initiative eight minutes into the second half when Gareth Davies was on hand to finish for a try and they surged further in front thanks to George North going over from close range just before the hour mark, with Halfpenny converting both.

Louis Rees-Zammit was unfortunate not to add a third try for the hosts before full-time when he was adjudged to have knocked on after a TMO review, but that did not take the shine off the result or the performance from Warren Gatland’s new-look team.

Inexperience no barrier as Wales youngsters seize opportunity

Halfpenny may have been making his 100th Test appearance for Wales, but the relative inexperience of the rest of Gatland’s team was shown by the fact the only other members of the starting XV with more than 50 caps were North and scrum-half Davies.

They were dealt an early blow too when hooker Ryan Elias was forced off six minutes in with a suspected hamstring injury, which will be of particular concern to Gatland given Ken Owens has already been ruled out of the World Cup due to a back problem.

Nevertheless, several of those players with only a handful of caps to their name came to the fore, with lively fly-half Sam Costelow, making his first Test start, and skipper in only his 10th appearance Jac Morgan playing key roles in the first try of the game.

Wales: Tries – Davies, North; Conversions – Halfpenny (2); Goals – Halfpenny (2).

England: Goals – Smith (3).

Having kept in touch with England thanks to Halfpenny’s goals in the first half, Wales took a 48th-minute lead after 22-year-old Costelow put a deft attacking kick to the right wing for Aaron Wainwright. The No 8 then sent fellow back-row Morgan racing away, who in turn fed support-runner Davies to finish.

Then it was the turn of the big guns to make their mark, with Dan Biggar – off the bench in place of Costelow – putting in a testing grubber kick which set in motion an attack finished by North on 59 minutes after he stepped a defender to create space and ghost over from close range.

Exciting winger Rees-Zammit, still only 22 but with 26 international caps already, was unfortunate not to add his 10th Test try when he chased down his own chip kick, knocking on while trying to ground the ball. Nevertheless, it was still a dominant display from Wales and a proud day for the 23-year-old Morgan, who was named player of the match as well.

Disjointed showing leaves England with plenty of questions

For England, meanwhile, the intrigue beforehand had been as to how Harlequins club-mates Smith and Danny Care would perform alongside each other in the halves, although in the 49 minutes they were on the field together there was not much to show for their partnership.

George North dives in for Wales' second try against England

George North dives in for Wales’ second try against England

Care’s kicking game was solid and his determination to get quick ball from the ruck encouraging, yet he was unable to make any of his trademark sniping runs before being replaced by Jack van Poortvliet, while in the first half Smith was always looking to run and put in some good kicks along with booting three penalties to put the hosts in front.

England’s best chance for a try arguably came when the fly-half and two other Quins team-mates, Alex Dombrandt and Joe Marchant, linked up in the 29th minute for an attack which opened Wales up. However, Max Mallins was unable to finish and Wales regathered the ball after a wayward offload.

Handling errors were a concerningly recurring theme for England in the match and they ended with those in double figures by full-time, ceding scrum dominance and the foothold they had given themselves in the first half by gaining more metres and dominating the territory.

What they said

Wales head coach Warren Gatland, speaking to Amazon Prime:

“I was a little bit apprehensive this morning because I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to go. I know the players have been working hard.

“I was looking for a performance and it was a good start today. It was a performance I was looking for and I thought the guys out there gave a performance today.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick, speaking to Amazon Prime:

“I thought in the first half we created lots of opportunities, but we turned over too much ball in the opposite 22 and you can’t do that in Test rugby. There are areas for improvement, but I thought the positive was how many entries we got into the opposition scoring zone.

“This game is one piece of information to help build a full picture [for selecting England’s World Cup squad], and I’ll make the decision in the next 24 hours.”

England did look the better side in the opening period, their sloppiness in possession aside, but as Wales stepped up their intensity in the second half, the visitors inexplicably dropped off.

“Credit to Wales in that 50-65 minute period, they were very, very good,” Borthwick said.

“Every one of these experiences will be positive for us as we build over the next few weeks to the World Cup.”

What’s next?

Wales and England do it all again on Saturday August 12 when they reconvene at Twickenham for the second Rugby World Cup warm-up clash against each other. First, though, England’s players face a nervous wait to see who will make Steve Borthwick’s 33-player squad for the global gathering when it is announced on Monday.



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Marcus Smith: Can fly-half grasp England World Cup audition against Wales on Saturday?

England name their 33-man World Cup squad on Monday, with head coach Steve Borthwick expected to include Marcus Smith among three fly-halves for the tournament; Saturday’s game against Wales is the 24-year-old’s first start since England’s record 53-10 loss to France at Twickenham in March

Last Updated: 04/08/23 1:10pm


Marcus Smith will start for England on Saturday for the first time since a humbling home defeat to France in the Six Nations

Marcus Smith is determined to make the most of his starting opportunity against Wales on Saturday as he looks to cement a spot in England’s 33-man Rugby World Cup squad.

Smith – originally seen as the most likely out of Owen Farrell, George Ford and himself to miss out – is expected to be named in England’s squad announcement on Monday, with head coach Steve Borthwick indicating he intends to take three fly-halves to France for the tournament which starts on September 8.

The 24-year-old Smith, who possesses an “incredible skill set” according to Borthwick, will make his first start for England on Saturday since featuring in the humiliating record 53-10 loss to France at Twickenham in the 2023 Six Nations earlier this year.

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“Every time you get an opportunity to play for England, you’ve got to show the best of yourself because you know how competitive it is to even be in this building, let alone play,” Smith told Sky Sports.

“With that comes a responsibility that we’ve got to deliver this weekend. If and when we do, fingers crossed for [the squad announcement] Monday.

“I don’t want to look too far forward. I’m very excited for the weekend, [Cardiff] it’s a special place to play and a big Test match against Wales – there’s nothing that comes bigger, especially in a World Cup year.”

England suffered a record 53-10 home loss at Twickenham to France in the Six Nations earlier this year

England suffered a record 53-10 home loss at Twickenham to France in the Six Nations earlier this year

Smith added to reporters: “France was a long time ago now and I’ve played a lot of rugby since then.

“It was a tough afternoon and I have learnt a lot of lessons. It has definitely put me in a much better position as a person and on the field as well as a player.

“I would not say I want to rectify it, but I am a very competitive person.”

Borthwick hails Smith’s ‘incredible skill set’

Borthwick hinted at Smith’s potential inclusion in his World Cup squad in Thursday’s press conference, saying: “Right now I have got a pretty clear framework.

“In those key positions you need to have depth, three players who can play in that position.”

Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith and Harlequins team-mate Danny Care to make the most of their on-pitch partnership when they face Wales for England on Saturday.

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Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith and Harlequins team-mate Danny Care to make the most of their on-pitch partnership when they face Wales for England on Saturday.

Steve Borthwick has called on Marcus Smith and Harlequins team-mate Danny Care to make the most of their on-pitch partnership when they face Wales for England on Saturday.

The England head coach added: “I rate Marcus exceptionally highly. He has an incredible skill set and an ability to find space. He recognises when there are defenders that he can pick off.

“He can either pull them out of the line and put other people through space or find space himself. I’ve been hugely impressed with Marcus throughout this camp but also in all my interactions with him.

“He’s a young man who has already achieved a lot in the game, but he’s got even more exciting things to achieve in the future.”

Borthwick also told Sky Sports that he is keen for his players to grasp their final chance to push their case for selection against Wales on Saturday, even if it doesn’t result in them making the initial 33-man group.

“I want to see them bring all of their talent, that they’ve got so much of, onto the pitch on Saturday night,” he said. “I’ve picked these players because of what strengths they have and what they can bring.

“There’s a number of places to be absolutely confirmed but I’m also well aware that over these next weeks before the tournament starts that things change. There are always bumps and bruises – there are players not named on Monday that could well feature within the tournament itself. There’s always opportunities.”

Ellis Genge will captain England against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday

Ellis Genge will captain England against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday

Danny Care joins Smith at half-back for the visit to Cardiff, while Ellis Genge captains an otherwise inexperienced side littered with fringe World Cup contenders.

“It’s the ultimate, captaining your country,” Genge said. “It fills me with joy and pride. And I get that from the messages from my family.”

Watch New Zealand vs Australia live on Sky Sports

England’s clash with Wales isn’t the only international being played out on Saturday, with Scotland hosting France and Ireland facing Italy among the northern hemisphere sides.

From the southern hemisphere, New Zealand and Australia will face off in the early hours of Saturday morning – live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 3.30am.

Tate McDermott will lead Australia out for the first time in the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday

Tate McDermott will lead Australia out for the first time in the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday

Australia will have a new captain and the All Blacks will field a new-look line-up when they meet in Dunedin in the second Bledisloe Cup Test.

Scrum-half Tate McDermott has been named to lead the Wallabies four months after he was left to consider his future when left out of coach Eddie Jones’ first squad of the season.

McDermott is the fourth captain the Wallabies have used in as many matches this season after Michael Hooper, James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa.

Highlights of the Rugby Championship clash between Australia and New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne.

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Highlights of the Rugby Championship clash between Australia and New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne.

Highlights of the Rugby Championship clash between Australia and New Zealand at the MCG in Melbourne.

His elevation is due to Hooper’s continuing recovery from a calf injury and Alaalatoa’s Achilles tendon injury which saw him carried from the field in last weekend’s 38-7 first Test defeat to the All Blacks, seeing them retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 21st straight year.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made 10 changes to his starting 15 for the second Test, handing debuts to back-rower Samipeni Finau and winger Shaun Stevenson.

Also live on Sky Sports Action on Saturday is Argentina’s clash with South Africa, with kick-off in Buenos Aires at 8.10pm UK time.



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Magic Weekend 2023: What the head coaches said on Day 2 of Super League’s big event in Newcastle


Tommy Makinson played a starring role in St Helens’ win over Wakefield

We round up all the key quotes from the Betfred Super League head coaches on Day 2 of Magic Weekend, which saw wins for Leigh Leopards, St Helens and Hull FC…

Contrasting emotions for Applegarth and Lam

Mark Applegarth is still confident he is the right man to lead Wakefield Trinity whichever division they are in next year after they fell to another defeat, this time going down 30-4 at the hands of Leigh Leopards.

The loss was Wakefield’s 14th defeat of the Super League season, and they are now six points behind 11th-placed Castleford Tigers after their neighbours defeated Leeds Rhinos in the last game of Day 1 in Newcastle on Saturday.

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Leopards.

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Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Leopards.

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Leopards.

Trinity were beaten despite Leigh having to play a significant part of the match with 12 men following Ben Reynolds’ first-half red card and while Applegarth admitted his frustration at his side’s failure to get off the mark so far in 2023, he still thinks he is the one to oversee their rebuild whether they survive in Super League or end up being relegated to the Betfred Championship.

“I do,” Applegarth said. “It’s a horrible experience to go through, but you’ve got to front it up head on and make sure you’re doing everything you can.

“I feel like I’m doing everything I can, whether that’s making sure we’re as best prepared, looking at our opposition and where we feel there are going to be some weaknesses.

“This week, for example, I think we’ve had really good prep, we’ve just not served up the quality on the Sunday and that’s the part I’m looking at now.

Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards after punching Wakefield's David Fifita.

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Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards after punching Wakefield’s David Fifita.

Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards after punching Wakefield’s David Fifita.

“Is it a tactical error? Is it some messages I’m giving or the quality of what we’re trying to do? That’s the frustrating part about it.”

Leigh, in contrast, have now won seven games in a row in all competitions and even found themselves with 11 players on the pitch at one point after Tom Nisbet was sin-binned. Head coach Adrian Lam was therefore naturally delighted with the character shown by the team.

“Down to 11 men with the last 10 minutes before half-time where we defended our line, I thought that was a really special moment for us as a club,” Lam, who was named Super League coach of the month for May, said.

“In hindsight, looking back now, you can’t train those moments and it’s about having trust in each other, I thought the way we scrambled in that period was unbelievable, so I’m really proud of them for that.”

Wellens heaps praise on record-breaker Makinson

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between St Helens and Huddersfield Giants.

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Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between St Helens and Huddersfield Giants.

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between St Helens and Huddersfield Giants.

Four tries and seven goals from Tommy Makinson saw the St Helens winger rack up a Magic Weekend record of 28 individual points as his side trounced Huddersfield Giants 48-6 in Newcastle.

The England international’s haul helped make it back-to-back wins for the reigning Super League champions and lifted them into the play-off places on points difference from Hull Kingston Rovers.

Saints head coach Paul Wellens was quick to sing the praises of Makinson for his efforts, although typically as a coach he focused on his defensive contributions as well as his attacking ones.

“I’m delighted with Tommy,” Wellens said. “Whilst he has not been playing poorly, what I really liked today was it will be about him scoring four tries, but I loved his strong defensive work and making strong decisions.

St Helens' Tommy Makinson believes that their comprehensive victory against Huddersfield Giants can help them turn the season round after they moved into the top six.

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St Helens’ Tommy Makinson believes that their comprehensive victory against Huddersfield Giants can help them turn the season round after they moved into the top six.

St Helens’ Tommy Makinson believes that their comprehensive victory against Huddersfield Giants can help them turn the season round after they moved into the top six.

“When Tommy gets that side of his game right, as well as the finishing which undoubtedly he’s wonderful at, you’ve got the complete winger and that’s why he’s up there as one of the best wingers in the world.”

It was a frustrating afternoon for Wellens’ opposite number Ian Watson though as the defeat left Huddersfield six points off the play-offs and the Giants boss had a stark warning for the players he believes are under-performing.

“It was nowhere near the level of performance we need to be,” Watson said. “Some individuals are way of the mark at the moment and it’s up to them to get better or for us to make a choice on whether to replace them going forward.

“You don’t want to have to drop players or take them out, you want them to do their job, but sometimes players go through a bit of a dip and it’s a cut-throat business. You have to be that way and make those calls on people.”

How Hull FC turned defence into attack

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between Hull FC and Warrington Wolves.

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Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between Hull FC and Warrington Wolves.

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League clash between Hull FC and Warrington Wolves.

Things are looking up for Hull FC, who have now won four of their last five Super League matches after defeating Warrington Wolves 30-18 in the final game of this year’s Magic Weekend.

A hat-trick from second row Josh Griffin after the break helped them fight back from being 12-0 down early on and having to defend their own line for large parts of the first half.

Black and Whites head coach Tony Smith felt it was those defensive efforts which helped set them up for the second-half fightback which moved them to within four points of the play-off places.

“Sometimes defending your own line can take the petrol out of you for the rest of the game but it did quite the opposite,” Smith said.

Josh Griffin completed his hat-trick for Hull FC against Warrington after a wonderful team move from within their own half.

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Josh Griffin completed his hat-trick for Hull FC against Warrington after a wonderful team move from within their own half.

Josh Griffin completed his hat-trick for Hull FC against Warrington after a wonderful team move from within their own half.

“It energised us actually and we were all ready to go in the second half. I thought Josh turned back the clock with having to use his speed to score tries. It was terrific and I was pleased for him.”

Warrington had led through tries from Connor Wrench and George Williams, with Wrench’s second temporarily putting them back in front during the second half.

They were unable to close the game out though and Wolves head coach Daryl Powell lamented not taking the opportunity to return to the top of the Super League table.

“The way we started the first half was class, but the start of the second half was non-existent really,” Powell said.

“We’ve lost a bit of confidence at the moment and we’re working hard to get it back. We feel like when we fix up one part of our game another part is not quite there, and there’s a bit to do defensively.”



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Wakefield Trinity 4-30 Leigh Leopards: Play-off chasers survive Ben Reynolds red card to down Super League strugglers

Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards in the first half of the first game of Day 2 of Magic Weekend in Newcastle, but two tries from Lachlan Lam, plus Robbie Mulhern, Edwin Ipape and Josh Charnley crossing helped them pile more misery on winless Wakefield Trinity

Last Updated: 04/06/23 2:30pm


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Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League match between Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Leopards

Highlights from the Magic Weekend Super League match between Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Leopards

Two tries from Lachlan Lam helped 12-player Leigh Leopards strengthen their Betfred Super League play-off ambitions with a 30-4 victory over struggling Wakefield Trinity in the opening game of Day 2 of Magic Weekend.

Scrum-half Lam and Robbie Mulhern helped the Leopards into a 10-0 lead at half-time at St James’ Park, but they were being forced to do things the hard way after Ben Reynolds was sent off for punching, with the incident swiftly followed by Tom Nisbet being sin-binned.

Trinity were unable to capitalise on that numerical advantage before the break and fell further behind in the 48th minute when Edwin Ipape was sent streaking clear to score, with Josh Charnley’s 16th Super League try this season and Lam’s second of the game securing their seventh win in a row.

The defeat ensured Wakefield, who grabbed a late consolation try through Max Jowitt, remain winless at the bottom of the table after 14 rounds of the regular season. But of greater immediate concern for them is the health of Jack Croft after he was taken off the field on a stretcher in the second half.

Story of the game

Wakefield, bottom of the Super League table and without a win in 2023 heading into this game, had been on something of a signing spree in a bid to boost their hopes of avoiding relegation and it was no surprise to see David Fifita named on the interchange bench after his midweek return to the club.

Leigh showed just why they had won their previous six matches in all competitions right from the start though and it needed some fine defence from Trinity to gang-tackle Zak Hardaker into touch and end a promising early attack from a scrum following a knock-on.

Nevertheless, the Leopards took the lead in the seventh minute thanks to the vision of former Sydney Roosters player Lam, who took the ball around 25 minutes out and spotted a gap to nip through and then out-pace the defence to finish on the left for an unconverted try.

Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards after punching Wakefield's David Fifita

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Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards after punching Wakefield’s David Fifita

Ben Reynolds was sent off for Leigh Leopards after punching Wakefield’s David Fifita

Charnley was then denied adding to his tally for the season when the video referee deemed he had been held up over the line, but Leigh were soon in again on the quarter-hour mark as the front row combined, with hooker Ipape and Tom Amone shipping the ball on for fellow prop Mulhern to finish followed by Reynolds converting.

Trinity were unable to make the most of a Leopards error close to their own line following the restart, knocking on themselves soon after, but the play-off chasers found themselves down to 12 players in the 28th minute when stand-off Reynolds was dismissed for punching Fifita.

The Leopards then lost second row Nisbett to the sin bin for a dangerous contact on Jay Pitts, leaving them reduced to 11 players for 10 minutes.

Wakefield, however, could still not find a way through before half-time though and the closest they came was Tom Lineham being held up over the line followed by the winger knocking on as he dived for the corner moments later.

Leigh Leopards' Josh Charnley voiced his admiration for the touch judge's handling of a high ball

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Leigh Leopards’ Josh Charnley voiced his admiration for the touch judge’s handling of a high ball

Leigh Leopards’ Josh Charnley voiced his admiration for the touch judge’s handling of a high ball

Indeed, it was Leigh who moved further ahead eight minutes into the second half when Ricky Leutele broke down the left wing and then passed back inside for the returning Nisbet to send Ipape racing away for another try.

Hardaker converted and then added a further two points from a penalty goal in front of the posts with 53 minutes played, but play was then halted to allow Croft to receive treatment before being taken from the field on a stretcher.

When play resumed, it was not long before the Leopards pushed 24 points clear as Lam and Leutele sent the ball wide to the left for winger Charnley to cross for another converted score on 61 minutes followed by Lam putting the seal on the win. Jowitt’s late try, meanwhile, provided scant consolation for Trinity.

What they said

Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam

“We have had a lot of changeover with 14 new players coming in [during the off-season]. The players we brought in are not only great players, but good people and I think that has really helped to grow the team.

“They are very close, but I still think we have two or three levels to go. If we keep driving that the only way is up for us.”

Man of the match Lachlan Lam feels that his Leigh Leopards team are building something promising as they overcame Wakefield Trinity 30-4 at the Magic Weekend to boost their Grand Final hopes.

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Man of the match Lachlan Lam feels that his Leigh Leopards team are building something promising as they overcame Wakefield Trinity 30-4 at the Magic Weekend to boost their Grand Final hopes.

Man of the match Lachlan Lam feels that his Leigh Leopards team are building something promising as they overcame Wakefield Trinity 30-4 at the Magic Weekend to boost their Grand Final hopes.

Player of the match Lachlan Lam

“We talked about it at the start of the year, we said our goal is to just work hard each week and hopefully we can keep jumping the ladder as we do that. The sky is the limit for us.

“We are making progress up that ladder which is exciting for our team and that town. We are building something here.”

What’s next?

Wakefield face one of their West Yorkshire rivals next when they welcome Leeds Rhinos to Be Well Support Stadium on Sunday, June 11 (3pm). Leigh are back in action on Friday, June 9 when they host Hull FC.



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