There are three Rugby Wolrd Cup pool games on tap on Saturday. This preview will look at the contests between a couple of Round 1 losers in Argentina and Tonga, and a matchup between Round 1 winners as Japan takes on Ireland.
Argentina vs. Tonga – Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka
Argentina are a team under immense pressure as they get set to face Tonga on Saturday. This is a team that made the semi-finals of the last World Cup, but they are facing an early exit already this time around after an opening game defeat at the hands of France.
Coach Mario Ledesma has made four changes from the side that lost the opener, with big names such as former captain Agustin Creevy and record-points scorer Nicolas Sanchez among those dropping to the bench. This means that Benjamin Urdapilleta will get the nod at fly-half and he will be tasked with making sure the Argentines don’t sleepwalk for the first 40 minutes as they did against France.
Tonga have also made a change in the No. 10 jumper, but their selection has been made because of an injury. Kurt Monrath suffered a tournament ending injury to his throat against England, so James Faiva will be taking his spot at fly-half in this one. The Tongans also make four changes, with centre Nafi Tuitavake also lost for the entire World Cup after breaking his arm in the Tongan opener.
Best Bet – Argentina will play this match like their World Cup lives depend on it. This is not a team that sulks and pouts after a defeat, but one that strikes out in their next game. Ledesma knows that beating England is likely a must now to advance from the pool, so he will have his players zoned in and hitting all their stuff here. Take Argentina to win with a winning margin in the 26-30 or 31-35 range, both at 5.00 with BetXChange.
Japan vs. Ireland – Shizuoka Stadium, Shizuoka
If the Japanese are to create a ‘Brighton Miracle’ in their home tournament then this will be the game in which they can shock the world. The Japanese famously beat South African in the 2015 World Cup in England, announcing their pedigree as a team to be reckoned with in one-off encounters.
Ireland will be down one key piece for the contest, with No. 8 Jack Conan missing out. The back-rower impressed as a sub against Scotland and was going to start this group game against Japan, but he has been ruled out after a teammate stepped on his foot in training earlier this week. He faces a nervous wait to see if his World Cup is over. Ireland will also be without Jonathan Sexton through injury.
Japan should look a different and more competent outfit than they did when beating Russia 30-10 in the opener. The nerves clearly got to the Japanese players, with mistakes and errors that are not common creeping into their play. With the pressure off, this should be a very different game for fly0half Yu Tamura and his compatriots.
Best Bet – The best bet Japan have here is to pressure Irish third-string fly-half, Jack Carty. Carty will be making just his second start for his country, and that is something that the Japanese defense simply has to exploit. Look for Conor Murray to try to exploit the weakness that Japan showed under the high ball against Russia with a succession of pinpoint box kicks.
I have a feeling Japan will keep this closer than expected. Take Japan and the points (+20.5 at 0.90) on BetXChange and the Brave Blossoms put a real scare into Ireland.