Scrumhalf Aaron Smith’s dynamic contributions have enabled New Zealand to play with the fast tempo that has become their hallmark. Photograph:   Phil Walter/Getty Images

Go through the history of the Rugby World Cup and aside from having a celebrated number 10, the eventual champions invariably have the world’s best(...)

Jonny Wilkinson’s last minute dropgoal won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Getty

In the year leading up to the 2003 World Cup England had done something no other side had achievedbefore and beaten all of the other major nations. In(...)

Sam Burgess is among the replacements for England’s World Cup opener. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

All Black Sonny Bill Williams says England are using his fellow code-crosser Sam Burgess in the wrong role and that the English powerhouse would be be(...)

Conor Murray is confident going into his second World Cup. “We are in a very good place and I don’t think we should be shying away from that,” he says. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

This time four years ago it’s still remarkable to think that Conor Murray went into Ireland’s World Cup preparatory programme as fifth choice scrumhal(...)

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony, Isaac Boss, Chris Henry, Rob Kearney and Eoin Reddan during a reception for the team at Farmleigh House, Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

The shadows cast are often bigger than the objects they represent and so it was in the glory days. Peter Stringer and hoary old images of the s(...)

 Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip look on at the British & Irish Lions Training, Dolphins RFC, Noosa, Queensland. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The overwhelming consensus in the Twitter-sphere is that Lions coach Warren Gatland has erred in dropping Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll for Saturday’s th(...)