The 2015 Rugby World Cup has already tossed up a number of impressive performances and shock results, none more incredible than Japan’s incredible upset win over South Africa on Sunday morning.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup enters its second week from Saturday and will see a number of key clashes between Pool rivals that could very well determine what nations gain passage through to the knockout phases of the competition.
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Australia’s campaign at the 2015 Rugby World Cup will officially get underway at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium early Thursday morning (1:45am AEST), against consistent Pacific Island nation Fiji.
Coach Michael Cheika has named a strong Wallabies side boasting tried and true halves, a mobile and physical forward pack and slick back line.
Captain Stephen Moore has been named to start at hooker and will lead a forward pack which includes both Michael Hooper and David Pocock; Cheika electing to start the latter at number 8 to allow arguably the Wallabies’ two biggest game breakers as much time on field as possible.
Cheika appears to be taking absolutely no risks in posting a first-up win over Fiji, having named a full strength back line including Israel Folau, Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper.
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Fiji were far from disgraced in their tournament-opening 35-11 loss to host nation England and are sure to have taken plenty of benefit from the hit-out ahead of their meeting with Australia.
Fiji’s back line is known for their free-flowing and fast tempo and that was certainly on display in their last game at Twickenham, but it was their vastly-improved forward pack and scrummaging that was arguably most impressive.
Coach John McKee has again named a full-strength squad to face the Wallabies, headlined by fly half Ben Volavola who plies his trade for the Waratahs, Crusaders stalwart Namani Nadolo and captain Akapusi Qera.
Fiji are sure to fly the gates and place plenty of pressure on the Wallabies from the outset, but probably don’t have the legs to match it with Australia for a full 80 minutes.
New Zealand began their 2015 World Cup campaign well in seeing off a spirited Argentinian outfit on Sunday night, and are understandably clear favourites to breeze past Namibia early Saturday morning Australian time.
South Africa’s shock loss to the Cherry Blossoms has completely opened up Pool B and their match with Samoa on Sunday has become an absolutely crucial tie.
The Springboks appeared home and hosed despite their less than impressive performance against Japan, but their inability to withstand a late charge is sure to result in wholesale changes to their line-up.
Coach Heyneke Meyer could not hide his disappointment following the Boks first-up loss but is sure to have absolutely drilled his players in the lead-up to Sunday’s tie with Samoa, and it is unlikely the team will lose again in the Pool stage.
Samoa will be brimming with confidence after seeing off a spirited USA Eagles on Sunday night but are wary of a wounded South Africa. Many expected these two nations to progress from Pool B, but South Africa’s loss could mean this match is a must-win for Samoa, particularly if Japan beat Scotland on Wednesday night.
Samoa’s pack is always one of the biggest at the Rugby World Cup and their backline in 2015 is also distinctly large; making them a tough prospect for any team. South Africa in full flight are far too classy however, and they should bounce back to form with a healthy win.
Undoubtedly the headline match of the weekend at the 2015 Rugby World Cup however will take place at 5am AEST on Sunday morning when England and Wales lock horns at Twickenham.
In 126 meetings between the bitter British rivals, England have won 58 to Wales’ 56 triumphs; a further 12 matches ending in a draw.
England did enough to weather an impressive Fiji in the World Cup opener last week, but undoubtedly face a far tougher assignment in a Welsh side who comfortably saw off a reasonable Uruguay side on Sunday night.
England revel in slow, forward-driven matches however there is perhaps no nation that knows how to counter their play better than Wales, who employ a somewhat faster speed through the middle of the field owing to the likes of Captain Sam Warburton and lock Alun Wyn Jones.
England deserve to be clear favourites to win this fixture but could very well feel the extreme pressures of playing such a bitter rival in front of their home fans, and the Welsh are more than worth consideration for a bet at current $3.75 odds in win-draw-win markets.
In other matches at the 2015 Rugby World Cup this weekend, Argentina are clear favourites to see off Georgia early Saturday morning, while Canada are not expected to pose much of a threat to Italy late Saturday night.