There are two games in addition to the big one between New Zealand and South Africa in Japan on Saturday. France and Argentina meet in Pool C – with England watching on and one of those three countries knowing they won’t make the quarter-finals. In Pool D, Australia meets a Fijian team that think they have the right tools to provide a huge early upset.
Australia vs. Fiji – Sapporo Dome, Sapporo
Australia will have their first choice back row in the starting lineup for the first time in what feels like forever as Michael Cheika has been able to name both Michael Hooper and David Pocock in his starting XV. The switch sees Lukhan Salakaia-Loto drop to the bench, with the flanker likely needed to come on in the second half and provide his typical heavy carries to the pack.
Fiji have named a team filled with their own brand of power and flair as they look to upset the Aussies. No. 8 Viliame Mata and wing Josua Tuisova are both game-changing players, but the questions for the Pacific Islanders will be focused on their discipline and their ability to defend from set-pieces. It will be fascinating to see Semi Radradra on the wing – where he can cause damage in open space – as opposed to his usual center position.
The Aussies are traditionally very good against Fiji and they have dominated them in the past. They also have an excellent record in the World Cup. With that in mind look for them to cover any least point spread up to -15.5 at 0.90.
France vs. Argentina – Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
The biggest question surrounding the France team to face Argentina in this opening Pool C encounter was the half-back partnership. Jacques Brunel has opted to run with Antoine Dupont at scrum-half, with Romain Ntamack starting in the No. 10 shirt. This means there is no place in the starting XV for Maxime Machenaud who will have to make his mark off of the bench.
Argentina has a squad largely based in their home country, but all three of the foreign-based players in the 31-man squad could see action here. Stade Francais fly-half Nicolas Sanchez starts at the pivot position, while Saracens’ prop Juan Figallo is also in the starting side. Benjamin Urdapilleta – who plays in France for Castres – is on the bench.
Best Bet – The importance of this contest simply cannot be understated with the pool favourites England sitting waiting in the wings. If England – as expected – beat both France and Argentina, then this game because essentially a quarter-final eliminator.
France finished fourth in the Six Nations and Argentina last in the Rugby Championship, so both countries need a good World Cup campaign. The French are the favourites to win at 0.80 with BetXChange, but can you trust a team as historically flamboyant as France? If not then Argentina can be had at 1.10 to win outright.