Courtney Lawes: England could not have done any more to prepare for this Rugby World Cup
Giant lock says team will be 'ready and firing' for their opening clash against Tonga in Japan
If England fail to shine at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, it will certainly not be down to lack of preparation, according to lock Courtney Lawes.
Eddie Jones' men launch their bid to wrestle the Webb Ellis Trophy from New Zealand when they clash with Tonga at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday.
Arriving in Japan as joint-second favourites alongside South Africa and behind the All Blacks.
"We can't be more committed to winning the tournament. We've given everything over the last four years that we could to prepare for it," said Lawes.
"We want to go all the way, but it is one step at a time with Tonga first so all eyes are on them. We've had to contain ourselves a little bit this week because we don't want to peak too early, but I know we will be ready and firing."
Tonga will be big-hitting opponents who field the heaviest player in world rugby in 24-stone prop Ben Tameifuna.
Seven of their starting XV play in England including their captain Siale Piutau, the Bristol centre, and the nation's record points scorer in fly-half Kurt Morath.
England have picked their strongest available team against Tonga with Lawes partnering Maro Itoje in the second row, forcing George Kruis onto the bench.
Ireland may go into the tournament ranked No 1 in the world, but will be going up against the most experienced Test team in Scotland rugby history, in their opening Pool A match on Sunday.
Hooker Stuart McInally will captain a side with 630 caps, considerably more than the previous record of 581 against England in 2011 and France in 2003.
"To get a squad that has this experience for such a big game is a real bonus," coach Gregor Townsend said. "Experience is important. Experience with form, recent form, and really good physical shape makes it even more valuable and that is what we have with this group this weekend."
Townsend has close to his top match-day 23 available, including a backline stacked with British and Irish Lions, while Ireland are beset by injury with Rob Kearney, Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls all missing.
The loss of their combined experience could be a telling factor when Scots fly-half Finn Russell starts directing play at the International Stadium Yokohama.
When Italy's Sergio Parisse runs out against Namibia in the Pool B clash on Sunday, he will join a very select band to have played five World Cups.
When he first pulled on the Italy shirt, as an 18-year-old against New Zealand in 2002, he did not yet have the bald head that makes him immediately recognisable on the field but coach Conor O'Shea is in no doubt as to Parisse's place in the history of Italian rugby.
"It is difficult to put into words what Sergio brings to the team on and off the pitch," the Irishman said, ahead of the match at the at the Hanazono Stadium. "The most important thing is his ability and he is probably the best Italian rugby player of all time."
Parisse's 141st cap will put him equal with Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll and behind only All Black flanker Richie McCaw. And his fifth World Cup will put him alongside countryman Mauro Bergamasco and Samoan legend Brian Lima.
Namibia have been forced to make a change to their bench after Ospreys wing Lesley Klim failed a late fitness test on his calf problem.
Klim, who would likely have started were it not for the injury cloud hanging over him, will be replaced by PJ Walters, the only uncapped player in Namibia’s World Cup squad.
Updated: September 21, 2019 05:05 PM