Rugby World Cup LIVE: England announce Argentina team as Marcus Smith starts

Henry Arundell and Freddie Steward will start on the wing for England in the bronze final against Argentina on Friday, with Marcus Smith returning at fullback as coach Steve Borthwick made eight changes from the team beaten by South Africa in the semis. Giving opportunities to several players who have not featured much in the tournament, an all-new front row sees props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart either side of hooker Theo Dan, who has spent the last three matches as an unused replacement.

Ollie Chessum comes back into the second row while Sam Underhill, who joined the squad as an injury replacement two weeks ago, starts at openside flanker. Tom Curry, who will win his 50th cap, moves to the blindside to reprise the successful back row partnership from the 2019 tournament, with Ben Earl at number eight.

Owen Farrell captains the team from flyhalf and scrumhalf Ben Youngs starts his first game of the tournament to extend his caps record to 127, which will be his last in an England shirt, he said on Wednesday.

Jamie George, Bevan Rodd, Dan Cole, David Ribbans, Lewis Ludlam, Danny Care, George Ford and Ollie Lawrence are on the bench. Curry has been at the centre of an off-field storm this week after he accused South African hooker Bongi Mbonambi of racially abusing him in the semi-final. Farrell said that the flanker had been on the receiving end of "unacceptable" online abuse through the week.

Follow all the latest news and updates from Paris ahead of New Zealand vs South Africa, plus team news from the England and Argentina camps. Plus get all the latest odds and tips right here:

Rugby World Cup team news and final build-up

  • Steve Borthwick poised to name England team to face Argentina in third-place play-off at 12:30pm BST

  • How the incredible Barrett brothers rejuvenated the All Blacks

  • Rugby’s new Nations Championship is an answer to the wrong question

  • Marcus Smith in contention for England return against Argentina

  • Sale Sharks back Tom Curry amid investigation over alleged racial slur

Jean Kleyn: RWC final with South Africa ‘outside realm of thinking’ months ago

Wednesday 25 October 2023 12:17 , Jack Rathborn

Former Ireland international Jean Kleyn acknowledges being on the verge of becoming a world champion with his native South Africa was “outside the realm of thinking” just months ago.

Munster lock Kleyn represented Ireland under Joe Schmidt at the 2019 World Cup in Japan after qualifying on residency grounds.

But, having been repeatedly overlooked by Schmidt’s successor Andy Farrell, the 30-year-old was in June cleared to switch allegiance back to the Springboks before being included in Jacques Nienaber’s squad for France.

Reigning champions South Africa are on course to retain their crown going into Saturday’s final against fellow three-time winners New Zealand in Paris.

“I think I’ve caught myself thinking about it probably too often,” Kleyn said of his curious Test career. It’s a strange one because if you’d asked me six months ago if I at all thought I had any chance of being here at the World Cup final playing for the Springboks, I would have told you you are absolutely insane.

“I’ll probably wake up when it’s all said and done and think, ‘was that a dream or did it actually happen?’. It was outside the realm of thinking.

“It’s been a fantastic journey for me. It’s been an absolute pleasure being part of it.”

England vs Argentina referee: Who is Rugby World Cup bronze final official Nic Berry?

Wednesday 25 October 2023 12:10 , Jack Rathborn

Nic Berry has been named as the referee for the bronze final between England rugby and Argentina rugby at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Australian will be in charge of the third/fourth place play-off taking place at the Stade de France on Friday evening, with Andrew Brace of Ireland and Georgia’s Nika Amashukeli as his assistant referees on the touchlines. Ben Whitehouse (Wales) will be the TMO for the appetiser to Saturday’s final between the Springboks and All Blacks.

Berry made his tournament debut four years ago in Japan, and returned to the officiating panel for the tournament in France.

A former professional player, Berry impressed as a scrum half in Super Rugby, the French Top 14 and England’s Premiership.

England vs Argentina referee: Who is Rugby World Cup bronze final official Nic Berry?

Marcus Smith could form exciting back three for England against Argentina

Wednesday 25 October 2023 11:54 , Jack Rathborn

If Marcus Smith does indeed return to start for England against the Pumas, it would make for an exciting back three.

Smith alongside Freddie Steward and Henry Arundell, you would think.

Borthwick will be eager to maintain the momentum from a superb performance against the Springboks, despite heartache, and Smith could provide the spark.

Wales star Leigh Halfpenny announces international retirement

Wednesday 25 October 2023 11:35 , Jack Rathborn

Leigh Halfpenny will call it a career in international rugby with the Wales star set to retire following Wales’ match against the Barbarians on 4 November.

The 34-year-old has 100 caps and has contributed 795 points for the Dragons.

Sale Sharks back Tom Curry amid investigation over alleged racial slur

Wednesday 25 October 2023 11:21 , Jack Rathborn

A statement read: “Sale Sharks’ owners, players, coaches and staff are absolutely appalled by the nature and level of disgusting abuse directed at Tom Curry and his family in relation to an incident in the England v South Africa World Cup semi-final.

“Everyone at the club stands fully and proudly behind Tom and we look forward to welcoming him back to Carrington.”

England rally around Tom Curry amid Bongi Mbonambi racism investigation

Wednesday 25 October 2023 11:07 , Jack Rathborn

England insist Tom Curry is ready for Friday’s World Cup bronze final as squad and management rally around the flanker caught in a racism storm.

World Rugby is investigating an allegation made by Curry that he was racially abused by South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi in the first half of Saturday’s semi-final defeat.

Curry claimed to referee Ben O’Keeffe that he was called a “white c***” by Mbonambi and, after a complaint made by the Rugby Football Union, audio and video footage is being examined for evidence.

England rally around Tom Curry amid Bongi Mbonambi racism investigation

RFU confirm conversations underway over possible British & Irish league

Wednesday 25 October 2023 10:52 , Jack Rathborn

Bill Sweeney, the chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), has confirmed that “tentative” discussions have been held over a possible British and Irish league.

The long-mooted idea would unite club rugby in the British Isles into one competition.

The loss of London Irish, Worcester Warriors and Wasps in the last 13 months has highlighted financial problems in the English domestic game, with the top-flight Gallagher Premiership now containing just 10 teams.

The four Welsh regions have also had their funding cut for the new season of the United Rugby Championship (URC), which features competing teams from Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Italy.

RFU confirm conversations underway over possible British & Irish league

Will Jordan joins exclusive try-scoring club as New Zealand find the perfect ‘combination’

Wednesday 25 October 2023 10:37 , Jack Rathborn

It’s pretty illustrious company. The World Cup semi-final between New Zealandand Argentina may come to be a contest best forgotten, but All Blacks wing Will Jordan will remember it as the night where he joined a group of try-scoring greats - and should have surpassed them.

With a hat-trick in Paris, Jordan became the fourth member of an exclusive club, in alongside Bryan Habana, Julian Savea and Jonah Lomu as the only men to have scored eight tries in a single tournament. With 31 tries in 30 Tests, it is a statistical probability that the All Black takes the record outright in the final.

Had Richie Mo’unga elected to pass rather than dummy, Jordan would already have it. Late on at the Stade de France, the game long since decided and New Zealand electing to play with 14 men in a show of their superiority, Jordan was had clear run ahead of him with the Argentina defence narrowed. Jordan bellowed for the ball; his fly half ignored him, going it alone in search of a try of his own to leave Jordan left with arms and mouth agape.

Will Jordan joins exclusive club as All Blacks find the perfect ‘combination’

Marcus Smith in contention for England return against Argentina

Wednesday 25 October 2023 10:36 , Jack Rathborn

Marcus Smith could return for England after sitting out the semi-final defeat to South Africa.

The England playmaker suffered a head injury against Fiji in the quarter-final, and also suffered a swollen lip after passing the in-game head injury assessment.

Smith would fail a second assessment early in the week, ruling him out of the match against the Springboks, but Steve Borthwick could now bring him back to start against Argentina on Friday.

“Marcus was unavailable for selection due to the return to play protocols,” Borthwick clarified last week. “He took a knock in the [Fiji] game. As you are well aware, he passed the first parts of the HIA process which meant he finished the game. Then there are subsequent parts of the HIA process and one part of that, he did not pass. And then it was confirmed to me he was unavailable for selection.

“He is perfectly fine in terms of symptoms – he doesn’t feel anything. And I understand we’d expect him to be available for selection after this weekend. Player welfare is critical and vital to us.”

All Blacks prop explains plan to combat Springboks’ ‘bomb squad’ in World Cup final

Wednesday 25 October 2023 10:22 , Jack Rathborn

New Zealand prop Tamaiti Williams believes the All Blacks have what it takes to defuse South Africa’s vaunted bench “bomb squad” in the Rugby World Cup final.

The impact of the Springboks’ replacement tight five forwards was crucial to swinging the semi-final against England their way, with Ox Nche, Vincent Koch and RG Snyman all prominent.

The bench was similarly impactful in South Africa’s warm-up win over New Zealand, with Jacques Nienaber introducing seven forwards at once to dominate the second-half set-piece battle and seal victory.

New Zealand, however, fared much better in the Rugby Championship meeting between the two nations earlier in the year, a game in which Williams made his debut.

All Blacks prop explains plan to combat Springboks’ ‘bomb squad’

‘We are the bomb squad’: How South Africa’s not-so-secret weapon turned Rugby World Cup semi-final

Wednesday 25 October 2023 10:07 , Jack Rathborn

“We are the bomb squad and we knew we had to play a massive role.” If South Africa’s narrow win over England in the Rugby World Cup semi-final could be summed up in one sentence, then this proclamation from Vincent Koch after the game would probably be it.

When Koch emerged from the replacements on 55 minutes to take the place of starting tighthead prop Frans Malherbe, Owen Farrell had just slotted a drop goal from downtown Paris to give England a 15-6 lead. Nine points may not seem a lot but, with the final quarter of the match beckoning and the rain and wind increasing at the Stade de France, it was a comparatively huge deficit.

Throughout the first few minutes of the second half, the Springboks had more or less emptied their bench as Ox Nche, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Deon Fourie, Faf de Klerk and Willie Le Roux all entered the fray to go alongside the controversial 30th-minute substitution of starting fly half Manie Libbok for Handre Pollard.

‘The bomb squad’: How South Africa’s not-so-secret weapon turned World Cup semi-final

World Rugby insist new ‘Nations Championship’ competition will benefit all despite criticism

Wednesday 25 October 2023 09:52 , Jack Rathborn

World Rugby have insisted their new plans for a “Nations Championship or Cup” are “for the many, not the few” despite critics suggesting that it will block the progress of emerging nations.

The sport’s governing body have unveiled a new global calendar that will include the creation of a new, two-tier competition in 2026.

The top tier will include the four Rugby Championship teams, the Six Nations and two more sides yet to be confirmed but expected to be Japan and Fiji.

Below this will sit a second tier of a further 12 teams, with the earliest that one of those dozen could feature in the top tier being 2032.

World Rugby insist new competition will benefit all despite criticism

Springboks set for rematch of day that ‘changed South Africa forever’

Wednesday 25 October 2023 09:37 , Jack Rathborn

It remains the most iconic image in rugby history. In fact, it has legitimate claim to be up there with the likes of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston, Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s black power salutes on the Olympic podium and Diego Maradona leaping above Peter Shilton for his ‘Hand of God’ moment as one of the most iconic photos in all of sport.

Nelson Mandela shaking hands with Francois Pienaar and handing him the 1995 Rugby World Cup after a South Africa victory over New Zealand in front of 63,000 people at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

If a picture is normally worth a thousand words, this one was worth considerably more and carried a greater power than any speech.

Springboks set for rematch of day that ‘changed South Africa forever’

All Blacks in the red: Why New Zealand need a World Cup win more than you might think

Wednesday 25 October 2023 09:22 , Jack Rathborn

It landed in late August, rocking New Zealand like a flanker’s perfectly timed tackle to the ribs. The All Blacks were already on their way to France, finishing their final preparations for the Rugby World Cup when a panel conducting long-awaited review of governance released a damning report declaring the constitution and structures of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) “not fit for purpose”.

The report did not paint a pretty picture. “In the panel’s view, New Zealand Rugby has too many professional players,” it explained. The NPC, New Zealand’s provincial competition, is “unsustainable in its current format”. The five franchises that play in the top-level Super Rugby Pacific competition “are struggling financially”.

“New Zealand Rugby in the professional era is a large and complex business,” said chair of the review panel David Pilkington. “The structure it sits within was not designed for a business of this size and complexity.” The financial reports are anything but all black – NZR reported a financial loss of just over NZ$47m (£22.5m) last year.

All Blacks in the red: Why New Zealand need a World Cup win more than you might think

Rugby’s new Nations Championship is an answer to the wrong question

Wednesday 25 October 2023 09:06 , Jack Rathborn

“It is really, truly, a historic day,” smiled Alan Gilpin, CEO of World Rugby. He would go on to use the word ‘historic’ another three or four times in the following few minutes of his press conference.

After years of wrangling – 16 years, according to Gilpin, since discussions about how to sort out rugby’s messy global calendar first took place in the salubrious surroundings of Woking, Surrey (don’t worry, the location wasn’t the reason it took more than a decade and a half to reach an agreement, a chuckling Gilpin assured everyone) – World Rugby had finally come up with a solution that will transform rugby “for the many, not the few” ushering in a “new era of opportunity, certainty and growth for the game.”

It’s fair to say they were pretty pleased with the outcome of the seemingly endless negotiations. Compromises had been made and it wasn’t perfect, stressed Gilpin and World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, but rugby would be “more relevant and more accessible to more people around the world.”

Rugby’s new Nations Championship is an answer to the wrong question

How the incredible Barrett brothers rejuvenated the All Blacks

Wednesday 25 October 2023 08:56 , Jack Rathborn

The old story goes that when Kevin Barrett hung up his boots, the man they called ‘Smiley’ was asked what he was going to do next. “I’m going to go breed some All Blacks,” Smiley replied, returning to the family dairy farm and setting to work.

By that stage, sons Beauden, Scott and Jordie had already been born, and how they’ve lived up to their father’s assertion. On Saturday night, they will become the first trio of brothers to appear in a Rugby World Cup final, all close to certain starters for the All Blacks ahead of a meeting with South Africa.

There are many tales of successful sporting siblings, from the Williams sisters to the Kelce brothers; the Waughs or the Charltons. But for three brothers to be so integral to a potential World Cup win is special. Smart international rugby coaches build their side around a spine of players from a single club; Ian Foster has been able to build his All Blacks around a single family.

How the incredible Barrett brothers rejuvenated the All Blacks

Rugby World Cup team news and build-up to New Zealand v South Africa

Wednesday 25 October 2023 08:56 , Jack Rathborn

Welcome as the Independent brings you all the latest news from Paris ahead of the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

New Zealand battle South Africa in a mouthwatering clash at the Stade de France.

Before that, England look to go again after their agonising defeat to the Springboks, with a chance to claim third in Friday’s play-off against Argentina.

Follow all the latest updates, analysis and reaction with our reporters Luke Baker and Harry Latham-Coyle in Paris.