Three games on Sunday with two-thirds of the Six Nations teams in action. The highlight of the day looks to be the clash between Ireland and Scotland in Pool A (Japan’s pool), while England start their campaign against the always hard-hitting Tongans.
Italy vs Namibia – Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka
Sergio Parisse will play in his 141st Test for Italy as he captains the side on Sunday. The Italians have named a very experienced side as they look to their veteran players to make sure there are no mistakes here. Tito Tebaldi and Tommaso Allan will combine in the halves to push the team forward. Namibia will also name a veteran squad, with Tjiuee Uanivi captaining the side from the second row.
Best Bet – Italy may be the Tier 1 nation in the worst form but they should still have far too much for the African minnows. Take Italy to win and to have a margin in the 21-30 (2.50) or 31-40 (2.20) range.
Ireland vs Scotland – International Stadium, Yokohama
It is going to be a tough road for the loser of this match who will likely be looking at second spot in Pool A. Ireland have a could of late injury withdrawals to deal with, as Andrew Conway (wing) and Jordan Larmour (fullback) are into the lineup for Keith Earls and Rob Kearney. Replacement No. 10 Joey Carbery is also still out with an ankle issue.
Scotland are at pretty much full strength with Gregor Townsend going for the combination of Sam johnson and Duncan Taylor in the centres. They will be the key to a backline that has the ability to cause Ireland problems in loose play.
Best Bet – Ireland looked great in their final warm-up match against Wales, but that level of play is something we have hardly seen from them in almost a full year. Scotland are a very good team through their first 15 to 18 players, but their bench is the weakest of any of the Tier 1 nations (with the exception of Italy). Ireland should have enough to overcome the Scots here and they are 2.20 to win by 11-20 points.
England vs Tonga – Sapporo Dome, Sapporo
Tournament favourites England get their campaign underway against Tonga in Sapporo on Sunday. England have spent the warm-up games developing an adaptable squad that can play in a number of ways, with coach Eddie Jones opting for George Ford at No. 10 and Owen Farrell at inisde-center in this one. Look for the dynamic play of young back rowers Tom Curry and Sam underhill to be important against the physical Tongans.
Tonga have never beaten England, but the parents of Billy and Manu Vunipola hail from the islands and the brothers will make sure that there is no complacency in the England camp. They will also be very aware of the stepping skills of Telusa Veainu with the Tongan dangerman playing his club rugby for Leicester.
Best Bet – England are off the board in this one at BetXChange while Tonga can be had at 30.00 to win outright. Form would suggest that England should destroy the Tongans, but the islander’s backline is a bit of an unknown quantity and there are players in the team who can score from nothing. That, plus the likelihood of first-match jitters, means that the Tongans could well cover the -42.5 point spread at 0.90