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The Rugby World Cup is well underway and the first really big clash is on the cards on Saturday as England take on Wales at Twickenham. Both sides got off to fantastic starts last weekend, with England taking a 35-11 victory over Fiji to get things rolling last Friday night, and Wales running out 54-9 winners against a spirited Uruguay side.
England were far from impressive against Fiji and a stuttering performance saw them eventually grasp control of the game through a combination of superior fitness and poor Fiji kicking. Wales also struggled to find their rhythm in the Uruguay victory, and were hit with even more injury woes during the game. The two will lock horns on Saturday night in a match that will go a long way to deciding the outcome of Pool A.
In other matches on Saturday South Africa look to avenge their shock defeat to Japan when they take on Samoa, who currently lead Pool B after their 25-16 win over USA, while Italy and Canada are both looking to bounce back from heavy defeats to France and Ireland respectively. England are fancied to beat the handicap against Wales under the lights at Twickenham, but South Africa and Italy may struggle to score enough points to trounce the opposition in their games.
England v Wales
England had to work hard to get past Fiji on opening night last week, and the jittery performance could be put down to the nerves of raising the curtain on this illustrious tournament, but there can be no such excuses against Wales on Saturday. The scoreline of 35-11 established off the back of two Mike Brown tries doesn’t tell the full story as England had to wait until the last 20 minutes to pull away from Fiji and earn a bonus point. There have been glimpses of the quality rugby that England fans are hoping for in recent weeks though, and they need to fulfill some of that potential if they are to trouble the big boys in this year’s competition – starting with Wales.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster admitted that there had been a few nerves, and it was a “massive relief” when the last try was scored to secure the bonus point. Substitutions made a big impact on the game in the latter stages, and Lancaster also admitted to toying with the idea of changing the starting XV for the Welsh match.
Wales scored a wide-margin 54-9 win over Uruguay, scoring eight tries in the process, but it was a stuttering performance to match England’s. The Welsh dominated the forward exchanges but lacked composure behind the scrum and Uruguay came away with more credit for their battling spirit. Worse for the Wales squad was the sight of Cory Allen and Liam Williams leaving the field injured, and although Williams may make a return after sustaining a knock to the thigh, Allen is out of the World Cup with a hamstring injury. He scored a hat-trick of tries in the Uruguay win and will be missed, with Tyler Morgan earning the call-up to replace him. Wales had already lost Jonathan Davies, Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny to injury before the tournament, and there are also doubts over Samson Lee, Paul James and Aaron Jarvis after the Uruguay match.
If England hit the ground running on Saturday night it will be tough for an under-strength Welsh side to claw them back.
South Africa v Samoa
South Africa will be looking to bounce back from their horrific defeat at the hands of Japan, in what will go down as one of the biggest World Cup shocks in history. The Springboks must be hurting after that and they will want to show the world that they are contenders for the trophy. However, Samoa are a tough battling side and although we expect South Africa to win, it may not be by a landslide.
Samoa +21 at +100 with BoyleSports are worth a small bet to get within 20 points of South Africa.
The Samoans won their opening game 25-16 against USA in a scrappy affair, where the two sides were separated by USA indiscipline. The Eagles gave away too many penalties and were punished as Tusi Pisi kicked 12 points. Samoa dominated territory and possession but head coach Stephen Betham admitted their play wasn’t as fluid as he would have liked. They may not get as many chances to play in what will be a frenetic encounter with South Africa, but are good enough to stay in touch with their opponents.
Italy v Canada
Another chance can be taken on the underdog when Canada take on Italy in the early kick off on Saturday afternoon. Italy are a better side than Canada on paper, but the World Cup can throw up some strange results and Italy are not a side to rely upon in international rugby.
Canada +19 is priced at -105 with Bwin
The Italians have only managed to win one test in 2015 – the 22-19 Six Nations victory over Scotland – and although Canada represent a drop in quality of opponent, they can make life tough on Saturday. It was a thankless start to the World Cup for the Canadians as they fell to a 50-7 defeat at the hands of a rampant Ireland, but Italy are nowhere near that level, and aren’t necessarily 20 points superior to Canada.
France beat Italy 32-10 in their opening match in Pool D, and it looks like a fight for third place for the Italians, along with Romania and Canada. Italy ought to win this game but they might find it hard to overcome the handicap.
England (-8) to beat Wales
Saturday 26th September, 20:00 GMT
Samoa +21 to beat South Africa
Saturday 26th September, 16:45 GMT
Canada +19 to beat Italy
Saturday 26th September, 14:30 GMT
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