After Ireland's surprise win over Australia, tomorrow's match between Italy and Russia takes on added importance.
Most rugby fans expected Australia to win Pool C outright, leaving the final match between Ireland and Italy on October 2, as the winner-take-second decider, to see who advances to the quarterfinals.
But with the new tick in the loss column for the Wallabies, Italy has a real shot at advancing, but they must beat the Russians. Not only do they have to beat them, they have to beat them convincingly, in order to rack up as many bonus points as possible.
To ensure they score more than the six points they managed to scrape together versus Australia, Italy will rely on their forwards and pressure on the Russian scrum as a way to manufacture points. That should work in their favor. Italy is a strong team and their scrum may be their best weapon.
They are also effective in line-outs, which Russia must take note of, after their trouble getting the ball in play against the United States. The USA won most line-outs over Russia and even stole a few right out of the Russians hands.
But the Russians do not plan on rolling over for the Italians. They wanted to beat the United States and failed, now they have a chance to avenge the loss against the Italians and are playing with nothing to lose. That chip on their shoulder could serve them well.
Prediction: Though Russia will come out aggressive and ready to fight, the more experienced and seasoned Italians, under the direction of head coach Nick Mallett, will come away with the win, keeping their quarterfinal chances alive and kicking. Italy wins, 27-11.