Rugby World Cup Pool B



South Africa suffered four successive defeats, including a 37-25 home loss to Argentina before responding with a win in Buenos Aires. There is still a reliance on established stars like Fourie de Preez, Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Duane Vermeulen. The two-time winners’ tournament could unravel if their leading lights do not find form quickly.

Captain: Jean de Villiers

The Springbok skipper returned from a horrific knee injury only to break his jaw on his first start back, against Argentina. He will likely miss the first two pool games, but the classy centre is a key figure for his side.

Star player: Duane Vermeulen

The number eight is a barnstorming back-row presence. He will move from the Stormers to Toulon after the tournament, where he will hope to make his presence felt after a recent neck injury.

World Cup history

Who could forget South Africa’s win in the 1995 tournament, when Nelson Mandela wore the Springbok jersey, uniting a nation? South Africa won again 12 years later in France and can be considered among the favourites, despite their quarter-final elimination four years ago.



The Pacific Island side pushed New Zealand close in Apia in July and had mixed results in clashes with the United States, Canada and Fiji, beating the North American sides and drawing one and losing another to their fellow islanders. They have beaten Scotland in recent years and will fancy their chances of advancing.

Captain: Ofisa Treviranus

The London Irish back-row has made a huge impact with his destructive defence and strong ball carrying after he was spotted during the 2011 tournament.

Star player: Kahn Fotuali’i

The physical and nimble scrum-half has demonstrated his supreme talent with Ospreys and Northampton in recent years and can be the catalyst to get a potent Samoa back division moving.

World Cup history

Samoa reached the quarter-finals in their first participation in 1991 and four years later. The last three tournaments have seen them unable to exit the pool. That will be the target in 2015 and it is a realistic one.



The perennial Asian champions, the Brave Blossoms often win the continental championship but find other opposition challenging. Consecutive losses to the United States, Fiji and Tonga were followed by a win over Uruguay. Eddie Jones’ side will be targeting a second World Cup win when they face the USA.

Captain: Michael Leitch

The New Zealand-born back row is of Fijian descent and moved to Japan to study. He liked it so much he stayed and is now captain. He is returning to Super Rugby with the Chiefs in 2016.

Star player: Male Sa’u

Another New Zealand-born player, the centre or fly-half plays his club rugby for Melbourne Rebels. He starred in Japan’s win over Wales in 2013.

World Cup history

Japan have qualified for every World Cup since 1987, but have never progressed past the pool stages. The defeat of Zimbabwe in 1991 remains their only victory, but their draw in 2007 against Canada was arguably a more unexpected and impressive result.



A first win of 2015 came in the World Cup warm-up contest with Italy in Turin after another Six Nations whitewash. Victories in November 2014 over Argentina and Tonga had provided some confidence but there is still plenty of room for improvement and coach Vern Cotter is looking to imports to provide it.

Captain: Greig Laidlaw

Laidlaw has captained Scotland of late, but his own scrum-half position has come under threat from Henry Pyrgos and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. Laidlaw is a fine goalkicker.

Star player: Stuart Hogg

The Glasgow Warriors full-back is versatile, confident under the high ball and a fine and elusive runner from deep. It is down to whether Scotland can use him.

World Cup history

Semi-finalists in 1991 and five-time quarter-finalists, Scotland failed to advance from the pool stages for the first time in New Zealand four years ago. New Zealander Cotter has made improvements, but whether it is enough remains to be seen.



The US Eagles enter the tournament after two confidence-building wins over neighbours Canada. That followed a victory over pool rivals Japan, a result which was sandwiched by losses to Samoa and Tonga. There are talented individuals in the squad, it is just whether there are enough.

Captain: Chris Wyles

The impressive wing or full-back is a mainstay for Saracens and will be playing in his third World Cup, after featuring in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments.

Star player: Samu Manoa

The number eight is one of the best in European club rugby, so good that Toulon have handed him a four-year contract to prise him from Northampton.

World Cup history

The USA have won three games in 21 attempts in tournament history, the most recent coming in 2011 against Russia. The Eagles also won twice against pool opponents Japan, in 1987 and 2003 and they are still to advance from the group stages.

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