Ireland look to get their campaign back on track with a match against Russia while Georgia and Fiji clash in a game with bigger implications that just this one match.
Georgia vs. Fiji – Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka
There is more than just pride on the line in this one as, assuming later results go the way they are expected, third place in Pool D basically comes down to this contest. Third place in a pool is hugely important as the four teams that finish in that spot in their respective pools automatically qualify for the next World Cup in 2023.
This level of importance is reflected in the lineups selected by each coaching staff for this game. There has been plenty of squad rotation from Georgia in this tournament so far, with this game featuring their most experienced and talented first-string team. There are no less than 11 changes from the side that beat Uruguay last time out, meaning only four are playing on four-days rest. Regular skipper Merab Sharikadze makes his 2019 World Cup debut and will bring his powerful running into the midfield.
Fiji were stunningly disappointing in their upset loss at the hands of Uruguay and the changes have been rung from that team. There are 11 changes to the starting XV as the Fijians revert back to the bulk of the team that rattled Australia early in their tournament opener. While the depth may not be there yet for the Fijians, this particular starting lineup is built to win this game.
Best Bet – The point spread in this one is hovering at around a converted try which makes this one of the rare pool games that could be something of a contest. Fiji have been desperately disappointing this tournament, while Georgia still seem unable to really shock the big teams. They both know a win is important here, so expect a close game with Georgia covering the spread of +7.5 at 0.95 with BetXChange.
Ireland vs. Russia, Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe
Ireland face a no-win game here against Russia following their stunning loss to Japan last time out. That result means that the Irish are looking at a quarter-final matchup with New Zealand that they must be dreading, assuming the Japanese continue their form and beat Scotland to top Pool A.
Ireland are expected to be Russia comfortably, but anything less than a massive victory will now be seen as more chinks in the armour. The Irish have made a total of 11 changes to their starting XV, with the most important being the reintroduction to the team of World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton. Ireland just haven’t looked right without Sexton in the No. 10 jumper, and now he the 34-year-old is restored to get some needed minutes in before the games get tougher.
Russia have rung the changes themselves after naming the exact same starting XVs against Japan and Samoa. With attrition being a real thing at this tournament, only six of those starters have been able to retain their place with nine new faces joining the lineup. Captain and fullback Vasily Artemyev is one that retained his place, but changes to both half-backs suggest that this will be a different looking Russian outfit on Thursday night.
Best Bet – It would be stunning if Ireland were anything less than ruthless in this one. The Russian changes have only weakened their team after a pair of games where they focused on attempting to win. The line here is set at 54.5 points, a massive total, but needing a statement win the shade would be on Ireland to cover the spread and get their tournament into gear. All the best odds are found on BetXChange.