The Rugby World Cup is now less than two years away. Most teams have already qualified and of those who haven’t we have a pretty good idea of who will be at the tournament.
So in the spirit of the IRB’s announcing kick-off times for the matches, we’d thought we’d take a look at the five must-see matches of the tournament.
1. Australia vs. England (October 3rd, Twickenham): Who reaches the quarterfinals from Pool A could come down to this match. With England, Australia, and Wales all in the pool someone is going to have to miss out. By the time the two teams meet England will have already played Wales while Australia will have yet to play Wales. If England beat Wales than a win against Australia would almost certainly secure first place in the pool. A loss for Australia would then put them in a must-win match against Wales.
2. Samoa vs. Scotland (October 10th, St. James’ Park): South Africa will likely top Pool B and barring anything crazy the second quarterfinal spot in the pool will come down to the winner of Samoa vs. Scotland. If the recent past is any indicator of how the match will go it could be heartbreak for Scotland. Either way, as the last match in the pool for both teams there should be plenty to play for. A loss for Scotland would be just another setback for a nation that has fallen dramatically over the last decade while a win for Samoa would validate them as a Tier I nation.
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3. England vs. Wales (September 26th, Twickenham): As we mentioned above, the Australia-England match will be big, but it will be even bigger if Wales can knock off the hosts at Twickenham a week before. All three teams will have picked up wins by this point. Wales will know that a win over England would almost certainly give them a spot in the quarterfinals. Given the amount of talent they have on their team anything less would be a disappointment. Anytime Wales and England get together something spectacular happens but expect more under the score of a World Cup.
4. Italy vs. Canada (September 26th, Elland Road): It’s been a while since a non-Tier I nation failed to secure one of the top twelve spots at the tournament. The best chance of that happening in 2015 comes when Italy faces Canada. Italy and Canada should lose to both France and Ireland but beat the team representing Europe 2. That means if Canada can upset Italy then they will claim third in the pool. It’s a long-shot but given the up and down form of Italy and the surging form of Canada over the last few years it’s possible.
5. South Africa vs. England/Australia/Wales (October 17th, Twickenham): The Springboks will take Pool B which means they will meet the runner-up from Pool A which could either be England, Australia, or Wales. No matter who the opponent is it will be one of the marquee match-ups. All are considered contenders for the final title and one will be going home early.