After an opening night to allow tournament hosts Japan to take a centre stage bow, the Rugby World Cup hits full throttle on Saturday, with three fixtures, featuring both Northern and Southern Hemisphere nations.
For the hardy rugby union fans setting an early alarms, Australia kick the day off against Fiji in Sapporo just before 6am UK time, before France and Argentina lock horns in Pool C, England’s group, ahead of what promises to a humdinger as favourites New Zealand and South Africa go toe-to-toe.
Australia v Fiji – Sapporo Dome – Pool D
Australia come into the Rugby World Cup 2019 among the names being banded about as favourites for the competition, but their recent form of just five wins from their last 10 Tests makes the Wallabies look somewhat vulnerable.
With two Rugby World Cups to their name, Australia are far from being discarded, but must remain on their guard to avoid any fatal faux pas, especially opening up against a ferocious looking Fiji in Pool D.
Fiji come into the tournament with a number of players gaining significant experience on the European club stage, which should bode well for them, and their success at Sevens level paves the way for some experimental and expansive rugby.
Matches odds with Coral: Australia 1/7 Draw 33/1 Fiji 11/2
BEN’S PREDICTION: Australia by 12 points
France v Argentina – Tokyo Stadium – Pool C
Pool C promises to be one of the most fiercely-contested groups – no surprises there with England included – but the first match pits Argentina against France, both of whom could feasibly be seen as last-eight contenders.
However, presuming England – the strongest side in the Pool on records and form – take top spot, this opening encounter in the group stage could define who joins Eddie Jones’ men in the quarter-finals.
France – as always – must wrestle their inconsistency issues, but have natural flair and a powerful pack at their disposal, while Argentina have locked horns with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa recently in The Rugby Championship so should come into the competition sharpened, possibly enough so to give them the edge.
Matches odds with Coral: France 5/6 Draw 20/1 Argentina 6/5
BEN’S PREDICTION: Argentina win by nine points
New Zealand v South Africa – International Stadium Yokohama – Pool B
Cooked breakfast ready, brunch if you prefer – Saturday’s primetime Rugby World Cup showdown promises to be a classic as the infamous All Blacks face off against two-time winners South Africa.
The Springboks come into the competition on the crest of a wave having won the 2019 edition of The Rugby Championship, seeing off New Zealand, who ended third in the standings – despite the sides drawing in the Southern Hemisphere showdown.
Three-times New Zealand have raised the William Webb Ellis trophy and, although not their most successful year on the Test scene, remain favourites with the bookmakers once again, but South Africa’s powerful pack and attritional style of play could just edge of the All Blacks on day one. An upset, of sorts, could be on the cards.
Matches odds with Coral: New Zealand 1/2 Draw 20/1 South Africa 2/1
PREDICTION: South Africa win by three points