As the weekend draws to a close England’s 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign commences with a opening clash against Tonga, while Six Nations counterparts Ireland and Scotland renew their rivalry on the biggest stage of all.
Another European contender in Italy get their campaign underway in Pool B, bidding for what can only be a best case scenario of a third-place finish behind heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa.
Italy v Namibia – Hanazono Rugby Stadium – Pool B
Conor O’Shea’s Azzurri travel to Japan with no expectation of proceeding to the quarter-final stages thanks to the luck of the draw, but against an emerging nation the likes of Namibia will be favourites.
Namibia has featured in every Rugby World Cup since 1999, but are yet to win a match at the global showpiece event, leaving Italy with all expectation on their shoulders to produce a dominant performance.
Italy’s primary aim is ensure they are runners-up to the All Blacks and Springboks, albeit, O’Shea will believe his team could upset one of the big two. But before they get chance, they must dismiss Namibia, and do so well.
Matches odds with Coral: Italy 1/50 Darw 80/1 Namibia 16/1
BEN’S PREDICTION: Italy win by 25 points
Ireland v Scotland – International Stadium Yokohama – Pool A
Six Nations rivals Ireland and Scotland open their Rugby World Cup campaign in the early hours of Sunday morning, UK time, in a tantalising showdown in Yokohama.
Ireland, under the tutelage of Joe Schmidt, are outside contenders to win this Rugby World Cup and must prove their credentials with a solid start to their campaign against Scotland.
Quarter-finalists in 2015, Scotland will be desperate to prove they can make it to the knockouts once more, but they come up against a formidable Emerald Isle, who also ran out victorious back in February, winning 22-13 in the Guinness Six Nations.
Matches odds with Coral: Ireland 3/10 Draw 25/1 Scotland 3/1
BEN’S PREDICTION: Ireland win by 15 points
England v Tonga – Sapporo Dome – Pool C
Eddie Jones’ England march into the Rugby World Cup in Sunday’s final fixture, with what should be an easy entrance to the competition against Tonga.
Tonga are ranked 15th in the world ahead of the tournament and will hope to pull off a big upset in an attempt to reach the last-eight for the first time in their history, but England fans will be confident they will not fall for this.
Jones’ biggest priority will be tries on the board and to see England’s youthful back division get score under their belts ahead of more testing fixtures against France and Argentina later in the Pool stages.
Matches odds with Coral: England 1/250 Draw 100/1 Tonga 33/1
BEN’S PREDICTION: England win by 23 points