Scrum Five – The Rugby World Cup Matches You Can’t Miss
The talking is over, the squads are finalised, and the scene is finally set; the eyes of the sporting world are cast to the far side of the world, as the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan this weekend.
Joe Schmidt’s green army carry the hopes of a nation, but the competition is set to be fierce; the likes of the All Blacks and South Africa potentially await in the quarter-finals, while everyone from the auld enemy England to fierce RWC rivals Argentina will be in the mix in the later rounds too.
But that’s us getting ahead of ourselves; there’s a whole lot to take care of before the knockout stages arrive – including a handful of absolute barnburners in the Pools. So throw on eir Sport (Virgin TV 410) and bask in the brilliance of the global showcase; these are the early fixtures you’d be foolish to miss…
NEW ZEALAND v SOUTH AFRICA
10.45am, Saturday September 21st
Well, that didn’t take long, now did it?! The second day of the tournament, and two of the finest sides in world rugby will be going at it, hammer and tongs, in the Pool B opener! The All Blacks are eyeing up a three-peat, but their southern hemisphere rivals will be looking throw an early spanner in the works. Following a Rugby Championship stalemate earlier this summer, it’s got all the makings of a stunning contest – and, being paired with Ireland’s group for the quarter-finals, it’s one that will have major ramifications for our tournament too!
IRELAND v SCOTLAND
08.45, Sunday September 22nd
Well duh, says you! The green machine gets rolling on Day Three – and nothing but a win against our Celtic cousins will do. Now, OK, all is not lost if it ends badly, but an opening victory would definitely make progression a whole lot easier! The form favours the Irish, winners in the last two Six Nations clashes, but the quadrennial tournament can sometimes see form books firmly out the window – so there’ll be no chicken counting before this one!
AUSTRALIA v WALES
8.45, Sunday September 29th
While the Welsh enjoyed a (brief) stay atop the World Rankings last month, all that will be completely forgotten about in Japan – and a tussle with the Wallabies is just the thing to focus the mind! The tournament marks the end of Warren Gatland’s tenure in the principality, and he’ll be determined to go out on a high; it’s only fitting that long-time sparring partner Michael Cheika will have an early opportunity to rain on the parade, then!
ENGLAND v ARGENTINA
9.00am, Saturday October 5th
The oft-discussed Group of Death tag surely belongs to Pool C, where one of England, Argentina and France will learn the painful lesson that three into two simply does not go. Eddie Jones’ charges will need no reminding of what an early exit from the competition feels like – wounds from 2015 still raw for the red rose faithful – and the Pumas, a side who’ve made outperforming pre-tournament expectations something of a specialty, are just the type of opponent who might bring those bitter memories flooding back…
JAPAN v SCOTLAND
11.45, Sunday October 13th
At the rist of tempting fate, we’re hoping Ireland will be home and hosed long before their Pool A rivals square off in Yokohama, and a contest to secure the second spot in the Pool could be just the way to round off the opening stage! Four years ago, the Japanese stunned the world against South Africa, yet didn’t make the knockout rounds – largely due to defeat against the Scots. What’s that they say about revenge being best served cold?!
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