We’re down to the business end of the Rugby World Cup pool stages, with places for the quarter-finals still not resolved heading into the last round of pool matches and pride at stake for other nations.
Here at The Rugby Blog is your guide to what each of the countries in the running for the quarters needs to make it through to the next stage of the competition.
1. New Zealand: P: 3 W: 3 BP: 3 Pts: 15
The pool stages have been a breeze for the host nation; even that possible upset from bogey side France didn’t come off. The All Blacks are pretty much qualified for the quarters, and will finish top of the pool as they only have a match against Canada left to play.
2. France: P: 3 W: 2 BP: 2 Pts: 10
It’s been a mixed pool stage for France. They had to fight back in the second half in their opening match against Japan while Marc Lievremont’s selection of scrum-half Morgan Parra in the 10 jersey has left some thinking “What on earth?” with others going “Typical France.”
With just Tonga left to play, France should win that clash and finish second in the pool.
1. England: P: 3 W: 3 BP: 2 Pts: 14
Though currently top of Pool B, there have been some very unconvincing performances from the 2007 finalists. Whether it has been their discipline, not knowing their strongest side or a bad kicking display from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson, England will need to step up their game against Scotland on Saturday to ensure that they qualify top of the pool.
2. Argentina: P: 3 W: 2 BP: 2 Pts: 10
The injury blighted Argentina narrowly beat Scotland on Sunday and they now have a great chance of a 5 point win against Georgia, which would result in them qualifying for the quarters. The Pumas ending in first or second place will be determined by the England vs Scotland result.
3. Scotland: P: 3 W: 2 BP: 2 Pts: 10
Scotland has qualified for the knock-out stages in every single Rugby World Cup. This year’s event could spoil that record though. Having lost to Argentina by a single point on Sunday, the onus is now on them to beat their old foes: England. If Scotland beat England by 8 points or more then they go through to the quarters at the expense of England.
They will finish level on 14 points and the first rule is that if in the event of tied points in the table then the winner of the match between the two nations will be deemed as the higher ranked side.
If both England and Argentina win then Scotland are out.
1. Ireland: P: 3 W: 3 BP: 1 Pts: 13
Having beaten Australia in the best match of the tournament so far, Ireland are favourites to go through to the quarters as the top side in Pool C. They just have to navigate their way past an Italy side that nearly beat them in the Six Nations earlier this year. With their goal kickers superior to Italy’s this should be a win for the Irish.
2. Australia: P: 3 W: 2 BP: 2 Pts: 10
With just Russia left to play, Australia should finish second in the pool. Injuries in the match against USA have hit their backs hard, resulting in Number 8 Radike Samo being picked on the wing but it should be a comfortable end to the pool stages for the Wallabies.
1. South Africa: P: 3 W: 3 BP: 2 Pts: 14
The reigning champions have played with ease since their nerve-wracking opening game against Wales. The Springboks have Samoa left to play, which will be a test for their forwards but a match they should win comfortably to progress to the quarters.
2. Wales: P: 2 W: 2 BP: 2 Pts: 10
In a repeat of their last match of the 2007 event, Wales play Fiji this weekend. The only difference is that Fiji has nothing to play for now, as they cannot qualify for the knock-out rounds. Wales will not underestimate Fiji but they will have learned their lessons from past encounters and should win to finish second in the pool.
New Zealand (Winner of Pool A) v Argentina (Runner-up of Pool B)
England (Winner of Pool B) v France (Runner-up of Pool A)
Ireland (Winner of Pool C) v Wales (Runner-up of Pool D)
South Africa (Winner of Pool D) v Australia (Runner-up of Pool C)