South Africa v Canada
Damian Willemse is straight into the lineup at full-back, having been called up to replace the injured Jesse Kriel, and this could be just his sort of match. The Springboks have picked a very mobile pack, with Elton Jantjies at fly-half and lots of pace out wide as usual, and I suspect they intend to play a fast game and they should run up a big score.
The defence is unlikely to be too heavily tested against a Canada team that has scored just 7 points so far, against Italy in their opening match, and this will be another bonus-point win for the Springboks.
South Africa by 68
Argentina v USA
There isn’t much time for reflection on their disappointing World Cup campaign for Argentina, as they are pressed into action again for the final pool match against the USA. I wonder how motivated they’ll be for this one, and I can see it being quite tight, given that the USA have been quite stubborn so far, particularly against the France. The USA might well fancy a win here, with a week’s recovery since their last match, but the smart money is still on the Pumas.
Argentina by 13
Scotland v Russia
To qualify for the quarter-finals, Scotland know they have to score 4 tries in the process of beating Russia and then overcome Japan on Sunday by more than 7 points. The first big should be straightforward enough, and it’s a chance for several second-string players to press their claims for selection in that key fixture at the weekend. The Russians have been better value than I expected so far, but this should be a comfortable Scotland victory.
Scotland by 33
Wales v Fiji
The Welsh are not taking anything for granted here, rolling out their first-choice side knowing that a victory will see them win the group, delivering a kinder potential route to the final. Fiji bounced back from that shock defeat to Uruguay by thrashing Georgia, displaying a few glimpses of flair, but Wales’ defence is likely to keep them at bay and I’d expect a relatively comfortable victory.
Wales by 26
Australia v Georgia
The Wallabies go into their final group game determined to work on their discipline, having conceded more penalties than Uruguay in their last match, and they had two players sin-binned. Ill-discipline is unlikely to cost them against Georgia, but it could be a problem come the knockout stages. The Georgians have been slightly disappointing for me, and haven’t challenged Wales or Fiji so far, and I suspect this will be another heavy defeat.
Australia by 33
New Zealand v Italy
Any suspicions that Italy might have challenged New Zealand and South Africa in this pool were put to bed last week, with the Springboks thrashing them 49-3. The lineups are not out yet, but it’s likely to be a strong Kiwi lineup, given that most of them were rested against Namibia, and this will probably be another big win.
New Zealand by 56
England v France
Let’s be honest, France have been poor so far in this tournament, and on form, England really should win this match and top the group. That first-half effort against Argentina in their opening match has proven enough to make the quarter-finals, but they left it late to dispatch the USA and were very nearly caught out by a late Tongan rally. You know they are capable of that miracle match, but you can never predict that, and given they are through already and might rather play Wales than Australia, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few players were rested for this one. I might revise nearer the time, but I’m going for a big England win.
England by 23
Ireland v Samoa
There’s some concern over Typhoon Hagibis causing problems at the weekend, and a cancellation would be a disaster for Ireland. I’m no meteorologist, but I suspect the chances of the match not being played are remote, and the various reports are just adding to the drama. Ireland need a bonus point win and a favour from Scotland if they are to avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-finals, and they should get the first bit done here.
Ireland by 38
Namibia v Canada
A tough pick and I’ll see how Canada fare against the Springboks first, but at this stage I’m leaning towards the Namibians, who have shown a bit more fight so far.
Namibia by 7
USA v Tonga
Tonga have had the better of recent fixtures against the USA, and again I’ll wait and see the result of the Argentina fixture, but given the short turnaround and with little at stake, I’m giving it to Tonga at this stage.
Tonga by 9
Wales v Uruguay
This will be Wales’ second-string side, but they should still have enough to beat Uruguay and top their group.
Wales by 28
Japan v Scotland
This is a huge fixture, with the fate of both teams and Ireland at stake, and it should be a fitting finale to the World Cup pool stages. Scotland won by 35 points when the teams met at the last World Cup, which was a few days after Japan’s victory over the Springboks, and they also met in 2016 with Scotland winning both Tests by 13 and 5 points respectively. Japan’s victory over Ireland was no fluke and they were the better team on the day, but I just wonder if there was some complacency amongst the Irish and they were caught out, where the Scots should be much better prepared. Instinct says a narrow win for Japan, who would win the group and face South Africa in the quarter-finals, but this is one that I’ll probably change back and forth all week.
Japan by 2
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James