Rugby World Cup 2019: best photos from the group stages

When the Rugby World Cup 2019 kicked off three weeks ago, did anyone predict Japan vs Ireland? It has been the host’s tournament so far, with this performance a standout result.

There have been others. The heavyweight clash between South Africa and New Zealand was predictably fascinating. Wales’ gritty defeat of Australia was a blood and thunder contest for the ages.

And all of it has been captured on Canon, official sponsors of Japan 2019. Here’s our pictorial record of three weeks of brilliance, braun and breathtaking rugby…

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20 Sept - Japan vs Russia

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer
Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

It’s a truism that international tournaments are better when the hosts do well. Japan got off to a flying start by beating Russia 30 - 10. Here photographer Cameron Spencer (Getty Images) captures Kotaro Matsushima of Japan scoring his team’s second try. Cameron explains: “He had serious pace and I swapped to my 70-200mm f/2.8L for this frame thinking he would score in the corner.”


21 Sept - France vs Argentina

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer
Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

A photographer’s dream, Virimi Vakatawa of France appears to fly through the air for his side’s first try in the hard fought 23-21 victory over Argentina. Cameron Spencer (Getty Images) captures the shot: “Fortunately he scored a try right in front of me and I was using the 70-200mm lens and f3.2 to separate the action from the background with a shallow depth of field and a shutter speed of 2000th to freeze the action.”


22 Sept - Ireland vs Scotland

Photo: WorldRugby / Getty / Warren Little
Photo: WorldRugby / Getty / Warren Little

It’s hard to lose any World Cup rugby match; even harder to lose to an old adversary. Scotland left the pitch well beaten 27- 3, and Warren Little (World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images) captured an integral part of high level sport: the dejection of the losers. He explains: “I positioned myself to capture the best angle. I raised my camera using a 27-70mm lens to capture a wider and unique higher angle which highlights the dejection in the Scotland players.”


23 Sept - Wales vs Georgia

Photo: Getty / Mike Hewitt
Photo: Getty / Mike Hewitt

Rugby is a game of strength, speed, and skill, but also of strategy and positioning. Mike Hewitt (Getty Images) captures the bigger picture as Wales thrash Georgia 43 - 14. Mike says: “I really like how the attack and defence is symmetrical and this is visible through patterns and leading lines making this an aesthetically pleasing image.”


25 Sept - Fiji vs Uruguay

Photo: World Rugby / Getty / Warren Little
Photo: World Rugby / Getty / Warren Little

A Rugby World Cup is about action, but it’s also about the rugby community coming together to celebrate the sport wherever it is played in the world. The small Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, set against stunning mountain scenery, was a fitting venue for an early upset, with Uruguay running out 30 - 27 winners against the fancied Fijians. Warren Little ((World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images) captured the scene.

29 Sept - Japan vs Ireland

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer
Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

The upset of the World Cup so far saw Japan beat Ireland 19 - 12, and Cameron Spencer (Getty Images) captured the joy and dejection. “Japan were seconds away from the shock result. With this in mind I was focusing on the nearest Japanese player to me which was Lomano Lava Lemeki...I used my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM so that I had full control of the composition of the image with my zoom.”


29 Sept - Australia vs Wales

Photo: Getty / Mark Kolbe
Photo: Getty / Mark Kolbe

The moment you know the score is yours. Mark Kolbe (Getty Images) captures Gareth Davies of Wales seconds from scoring a try in his side’s 29 - 24 victory over the Wallabies. Mark says: “The faces of the Wallabies’ defenders and the celebrating of the Welsh player behind just before Davies scored captured the moment perfectly.”


30 Sept - Scotland vs Samoa

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer
Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

Like the All Blacks’ Haka, Samoa perform the Siva Tau before every game, and here Cameron Spencer (Getty Images) captures the warlike ritual in all its glory. He says: “In this shot I went up in the stands and shot front on to them on the EF 400mm f/2.8 which I think shows the emotion nicely as Scotland look on in the foreground.” Scotland weren’t phased, running out 34 - 0 winners.


5 Oct - Japan vs Samoa

Photo: Getty / Mike Hewitt
Photo: Getty / Mike Hewitt

Determined to score. Determined to stop a score. Two sides of the game are revealed in this close up shot by Mike Hewitt (Getty Images). Japan’s Timothy Lafaele goes on to score his side’s first try in a 38 - 19 win, but it’s a close run thing as Alapati Leiua of Samoa hangs on for dear life.


8 Oct - South Africa vs Canada

Photo: Getty / Adam Pretty
Photo: Getty / Adam Pretty

It takes two South African defenders to stop rampaging Tyler Ardron of Canada in this shot from Adam Pretty (Getty Images). The strength of will is clear to see. “The fast shutter speed allows me to freeze the moment of impact from the other players whilst they are all off the ground,” says Adam. South Africa won the game 66 - 7.


9 Oct - Wales vs Fiji

Photo: Getty / Adam Pretty
Photo: Getty / Adam Pretty

Welsh defenders finally get to grips with the flying Dominiko Waqaniburotu of Fiji. Wales eventually ran out 29 - 17 winners but, as Adam Pretty’s shot shows, this was a tough, full-blooded encounter. Adam says: “Fiji are one of the most dynamic teams to photograph, they start with lots of energy and the players always look to make fast breaks. This shows how hard it is to contact Fiji.”


9 Oct - Argentina vs USA

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer
Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

Fast passing interchanges are at the heart of rugby’s appeal, and here Cameron Spencer (Getty Images) captures a classic Argentinian counter attack as Cruz Mallia offloads the ball to Gonzalo Martin Bertranou. Argentina won the match 47 - 17. Cameron went high in the stands late in the game for this shot: “I wanted to go up there as late as possible so the shadows were long and defined - without the light this image would be far less graphic.”


11 Oct - Australia vs Georgia

Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer
Photo: Getty / Cameron Spencer

Marika Koroibete of Australia breaks Georgia’s defensive line to score his side’s second try in a 27 - 8 win. Cameron Spencer (Getty Images) captured the despairing lunges of the Georgia defence: “Koroibete is such a strong runner...I like the opposition players flying off him as he powers upfield.”


12 Oct - Ireland vs Samoa

Photo: Getty / Michael Steele
Photo: Getty / Michael Steele

The pain and the glory...The aftermath of a daring lunge for the line sees Johnny Sexton lying prone on the ground after scoring Ireland’s fourth try in a 47 - 5 win. Photographer Michael Steele (Getty Images) says: “This was shot on a 70-200mm lens which was perfect to show Jonny Sexton of Ireland celebrating after scoring his second try of the game.”


13 Oct - Japan vs Scotland

Photo: Getty / Stu Forster
Photo: Getty / Stu Forster

A massive game saw Japan take another major scalp - running out 28 - 21 winners - and top their group with four wins out of four. Here, Stu Forster (Getty Images) captures Yu Tamura running in Japan’s third try. He says: “Yu Tamura had already scored two tries when he managed to get away from the Scottish defensive line. I used my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM as he approached to touch down. I shot the photograph wide so that you can see the elation on the faces of his Japanese teammates and the dejection of Stuart Hogg of Scotland.”


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