William Webb Ellis trophy
Twenty nations will do battle for the greatest prize in international rugbyGetty Images

The eighth edition of the Rugby World Cup will be hosted in England and take place between 18 September and 31 October. Twenty teams from across the world will compete to dethrone reigning champions New Zealand in what is expected to be the biggest competition in the sport's 28-year professional history.

Rugby World Cup groups and fixtures

Group A: Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, Uruguay

Chris Robshaw
Chris Robshaw leads England into a home World CupGetty Images

18 September: England v Fiji. 20 September: Wales v Uruguay. 23 September: Australia v Fiji. 26 September: England v Wales. 27 September: Australia v Uruguay. 1 October: Wales v Fiji. 3 October: England v Australia. 6 October: Fiji v Uruguay. 10 October: Australia v Wales, England v Uruguay.

Group B: South Africa, Samoa, Japan, Scotland, USA

Stuart Hogg
Scotland's hopes rest on the shoulders of the adaptable Stuart HoggGetty Images

19 September: South Africa v Japan. 20 September: Samoa v USA. 23 September: Scotland v Japan. 26 September: South Africa v Samoa. 27 September: Scotland v USA. 3 October: Samoa v Japan, South Africa v Scotland. 7 October: South Africa v USA. 10 October: Samoa v Scotland. 11 October: USA v Japan.

Group C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Georgia, Namibia

Julian Savea
Savea begins the tournament as the outstanding finisher in world rugbyGetty Images

19 September: Tonga v Georgia. 20 September: New Zealand v Argentina. 24 September: New Zealand v Namibia. 25 September: Argentina v Georgia. 29 September: Tonga v Namibia. 2 October: New Zealand v Georgia. 4 October: Argentina v Tonga. 7 October: Namibia v Georgia. 9 October: New Zealand v Tonga. 11 October: Argentina v Namibia.

Group D: France, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Romania

Sergio Parisse
Can Parisse take Italy to the knock-out phase for the first time?Getty Images

19 September: Ireland v Canada, France v Italy. 23 September: France v Romania. 26 September: Italy v Canada. 27 September: Ireland v Romania. 1 October: France v Canada. 4 October: Ireland v Italy. 6 October: Canada v Romania. 10 October: Italy v Romania. 11 October: France v Ireland.

Quarter-finals: 17 October: Quarter Final 1: Winner of Group B v Runners-up of Group A. Quarter Final 2: Winner of Group C v Runners-up of Group D. Quarter Final 3: Winner of Group D v Runners-up of Group C. Quarter Final 4: Winner of Group A v Runners-up of Group B.

Semi-finals: 24 October: Winner of Quarter Final 1 v Winner of Quarter Final 2. 25 October: Winner of Quarter Final 3 v Winner of Quarter Final 4.

Bronze final: 30 October, Rugby World Cup final: 31 October.

Overview

The biggest Rugby World Cup in the sport's history promises to be as open as any of the previous seven editions. With an expected global audience of four billion and with ticket sales having reached record-breaking levels above 2.25 million, the tournament will reach all corners of the globe and looks set to capture the nation's imagination.

On the pitch, as many as five nations begin the showcase event with genuine ambitions of ending October with the William Webb Ellis trophy. Southern Hemisphere giants New Zealand, Australia and South Africa naturally start the tournament as contenders, while from the Northern Hemisphere, successive Six Nations champions Ireland and hosts England are the major threats.

However, both Australia and England will have their attention firmly on getting out of the Group of Death, which also includes Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. Warren Gatland's side might be without Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb but they still pose a threat, while Fiji have added structure and a decent scrum to their tradition of playing the ball in hand.

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny's absence if a huge blow for WalesGetty Images

Elsewhere, former finalists France and Argentina are among the dark horses in the competition. Philippe Saint-Andre takes his bow at French boss and despite having sorted out the pack, with Freddie Michalak at fly-half, Les Blues' performances could go one of two ways. The Pumas, meanwhile, are once again resolute at scrum time and showed in the form of Juan Imhoff's hat-trick in victory over South Africa that they have the flare to frighten teams.

As with every major tournament, the minnows of world rugby will hope to more than make up the numbers and force their way into the knockout stage, or just grab a valuable win that would inspire their nation. Aside from the Pacific island trio of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, 2019 hosts Japan will be keen to make an impression to satisfy their dedicated support and they may fancy a victory over another emerging rugby nation in the form of the United States. Namibia and Romania, meanwhile, will likely fight it out for the wooden spoon.

Betting odds (William Hill):

Winners: New Zealand 6/5, England 9/2, South Africa 13/2, Australia 7/1, Ireland 9/1, France 14/1, Wales 20/1, Argentina 50/1.

Top try scorer: Julian Savea 5/1, Nehe Milner-Skudder 7/1, Bryan Habana 11/1, Waisake Naholo 12/1, Ben Smith 12/1, Israel Folau 16/1.