New Zealand’s expected win over Georgia paves the way for an absorbing weekend of World Cup rugby, as England seek to avoid becoming the first host nation in the tournament’s history to be eliminated at the pool stage.
It’s not going to be easy for Stuart Lancaster’s men, as they go up against old enemy Australia at . Earlier on in the day, there are a couple more intriguing clashes to savour, with Samoa and Japan squaring off at Stadium MK, while South Africa will be hoping to take control of Pool B when they face leaders Scotland at St James’ Park.
Here’s a look at the weekend’s fixtures in full and a closer examination of two of the key games on Saturday.
|2015 Rugby World Cup: Upcoming Fixtures|
|Saturday, Oct. 3||Japan vs. Samoa||Stadium MK, Milton Keynes||B||2:30 p.m.|
|Saturday, Oct. 3||South Africa vs. Scotland||St James' Park, Newcastle||B||4:45 p.m.|
|Saturday, Oct. 3||England vs. Australia||Twickenham, London||A||8 p.m.|
|Sunday, Oct. 4||Argentina vs. Tonga||King Power Stadium, Leicester||C||2:30 p.m.|
|Sunday, Oct. 4||Ireland vs. Italy||Olympic Stadium, London||D||4:45 p.m.|
Full fixture list available via the tournament’s official website.
South Africa vs. Scotland
A solid start to the tournament for the Scots so far, with comfortable wins secured over Japan and the United States, sees them control Pool B. But this clash against the 2007 winners will give us a much clearer indication of where this Scotland team stands.
It will certainly show us just how much depth there is in Scotland’s ranks, with a whopping 11 changes made for this Pool B clash in Newcastle. Cotter defended his decision to field what looks very much like a second-string side, per Richard Bath of the Daily Telegraph:
This is our third game in ten days, so that had a big impact in how we treated the selection of this team. We have looked at workloads and potential injuries and there are players we feel that are better regenerating.
At the same time we are bringing players in fresh who have been watching their team-mates play and are keen to have a piece of the action.
A perfect start to the tournament gives Cotter that kind of luxury, but the same cannot be said of South Africa, who were upset in spectacular fashion by Japan in their first game of the World Cup. Their coach Heyneke Meyer has named what looks the team’s strongest possible XV on paper, but they will be without Jean de Villiers, who was ruled out of the tournament with a broken jaw.
Here’s a look at the side named in full, per the team’s official Twitter feed:
The Springboks got back on track after the disappointment against Japan, beating Samoa 46-6. Looking at the two teams picked for this one, there’s a clear gulf in class between both outfits. While this World Cup has shown us that we shouldn’t rule out shock results, it’d be a major surprise to see this end in anything but a comfortable South Africa win.
Prediction: South Africa 32-9 Scotland
England vs. Australia
It’s crunch time for Stuart Lancaster and his team, as they know anything other than a win against Australia would eliminate England from their own World Cup.
A crushing defeat against a beleaguered Welsh team has prompted plenty of criticism of this England side. In an difficult Pool A, a loss to Wales was always going to make qualification tricky for England and they now face a massive challenge if they’re to overcome a well drilled Wallabies squad.
Lancaster did not dodge the issue when discussing just how important a match this is for him personally and the team, per Owen Gibson of the Guardian:
This is the biggest game of my career. If we don’t win, we don’t qualify for the next stage. But I have to make sure the players are not focusing on the size of the game. The overriding message at the start of the week was to get up and get on with it after a hugely disappointing defeat. We can’t wallow in it feeling sorry for ourselves.
England need a massive performance, and shaking off the disappointment of the Wales loss will be extremely difficult. As we can see here courtesy of Sky Sports News HQ, Lancaster’s record against the world’s top teams does leave a lot to be desired:
Australia will be relishing the chance to spoil England’s party and ensure they make it through to the knockout stages themselves. Michael Cheika and his team are one of the favourites to go all the way in this tournament, but a loss in this match is likely to see them vying with a strong Wales outfit for a spot in the quarter-finals.
England are a team who seem a little devoid of rhythm, and while the return of Jonathan Joseph is a big boost for the home side, Australia are likely to have the edge in general play.
If the Wallabies can contain the England scrum and get their passing game going, they’ll run out comfortable victors and plunge Twickenham into a sorry malaise.
Prediction: England 17-24 Australia