Pool C: France and Argentina bidding to join England in the quarters

An opening round clash between Les Bleus and Los Pumas is a mouth watering start

Pool C

England - 3rd (9-2)
France - 8th (33-1)
Argentina - 11th (40-1)
USA - 14th (1500-1)
Tonga - 15th (1000-1)

The Contenders

England's dismantling Ireland at Twickenham in August - bringing back memories the opening game of the 2019 Six Nations - has provided the world with a devastating glimpse of what Eddie Jones's side are capable of. They head into the tournament as second favourites and if they can bring their power game to the table consistently they will be very difficult to stop, with the likes of Billy and Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje among some of the world's most effective forwards on both sides of the ball. Consistency is the key however, with Wales providing a blueprint on how to blunt and then beat England during Six Nations. France meanwhile have probably never gone to a World Cup with their stock as low. Les Bleus remain enigmatic and capable of sporadic brilliance but have too often looked a haphazard mess over recent years. Jacques Brunel will turn to youth, and a core of 2018 Under-20 world champions - to try and salvage something from a tournament which looks doomed from the outset.

Argentina meanwhile look to have the credentials to make it into the quarter-finals, as they bid to emulate their thrilling run to the semis in 2015. Super Rugby franchise the Jaguares only joined the competition in 2016 but they reached the final this year and will be bulk suppliers to Mario Ledesma in Japan, with Los Pumas offering the traditional balance of grizzled forwards and flying backs. Confidence has been tempered somewhat by a disappointing Rugby Championship - which saw three defeats - but Argentina seem to come alive at the RWC. The USA and Tonga will battle it out for the scraps, with the latter eager for another crack at France following their famous win over the eventual finalists in 2011.

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The crunch fixture

England’s meetings with France and Argentina will be huge but it is the opening round clash between Les Bleus and Los Pumas which catches the eye. A French victory could be the catalyst for a young side to explode into life in Japan, while a victory for Argetina will emphasise their potential to make it into the tournament’s latter rounds.

The X-Factor

A beleaguered Jacques Brunel has a number of exciting young players at his disposal, with three in particular ready to leave their mark in Japan. The Toulouse halfbacks of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack enjoyed fine domestic seasons and have limitless potential, while rampaging 21-year-old Lyon prop Demba Bamba has all the attributes to become one of the world's best.

The verdict

With the core of their side playing their club rugby together for a successful Jaguares side, Argentina are the polar opposite of a France team who too often play like they are strangers. While both squads are richly talented, this could prove the difference when they meet in Chofu, Tokyo. Elsewhere Tonga have the firepower to ruffle a few feathers, and should clip the wings of the USA’s Eagles.

1 England
2 Argentina
3 France
4 Tonga
5 USA