The Rugby World Cup started in fine fashion over the weekend with a number of fascinating battles. The competition continues in midweek as Scotland and Australia make their World Cup bows. The Scots face Japan, who shocked the Rugby world over the weekend with an incredible win over South Africa, and it will be a huge test for coach Vern Cotter and his men. Australia take on Fiji, who went down gallantly to the host nation in the tournament curtain-raiser, while France play their second game of the competition, against Romania, with all three matches on Wednesday.
The Story so Far
England got things underway on Friday night but they were made to work hard to secure a 35-11 bonus point win over Fiji, who might have made much more of a game of it if they landed their kicks. Head coach Stuart Lancaster said he was relieved by England’s bonus point win, but they will have to improve upon a disjointed display which could have been much tighter than the scoreline suggests.
France and Ireland picked up heavy wins against Canada and Italy respectively on Saturday, while Georgia got the better of Tonga by 17-10. However, the shock of the day was saved for the South Africa v Japan game, with the Japanese running out surprise 34-32 winners. With the Springboks among the favourites for the whole competition, the results ranks up there as one of the biggest World Cup shocks in history. The Brave Blossoms were full value for the win though, playing with pace and power throughout and eventually getting their reward with a last-minute Karne Hesketh try.
New Zealand stuttered to a 26-16 victory over Argentina on Sunday, with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw accused of having a “brain explosion” by head coach Steve Hansen, when he was sin-binned during the game. They will be expected to improve as the tournament goes on though, and Namibia may feel the backlash when they take on New Zealand on Thursday night. Samoa grabbed a 25-16 win over the USA, while Wales thumped Uruguay 54-9 in Pool A.
Scotland start the midweek action when they take on Japan on Wednesday afternoon, but it might not be the perfect start they desire.
Scotland v Japan
Japan are worth a punt at +650 with SkyBet to shock Scotland after their sensational win over South Africa.
Pool B should have provided a simple route to the knockout phase for South Africa and Scotland – and it still might – but the Japanese result has thrown the group wide open. Lightening may not strike twice, but Japan will be buzzing after that huge result and can be given a chance to prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan against Scotland.
Japan hadn’t won a World Cup game since 1991, but they put the 2007 champions to the sword with a impressive display. Early tries from Louw and Du Plessis had put the Springboks 12-10 up, but Japan’s Goromaru contributed 24 points, including a try, to help the underdogs stay in touch throughout the game. Their confidence was evident when, as the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark, they twice chose not to kick penalties that could have earned a draw and instead spread the ball to Hesketh on the left flank for the match-winning try.
Scotland had been warming up for the World Cup in good fashion with a pair of wins over Italy, but they were beaten by France in their final friendly, and the two Italy wins are their only victories of 2015. Fly-half Duncan Weir said Scotland were ‘not surprised‘ by Japan’s result against South Africa, but insisted that they have the players to trouble the up-and-coming Rugby nation. The Scots have won all four previous meetings against Japan, including two World Cup clashes in 1991 and 2003, but they have been vulnerable all year and we’d rather side with Japan at a fancy price.
Betting is about getting value, and although the Scots may come out on top, we don’t want to pass up the +650 on offer because we feel that the price is a point or 2 too generous.
Australia v Fiji
Australia open their account against Fiji and it’s a hard game to call after the latter gave England a great game on Friday night. However, the Aussies are a professional outfit if nothing else, and extra fitness will be a big factor in this tie.
The Aussies come to this tournament less fancied than the likes of New Zealand, South Africa and England, but they are always competitive in World Cups and will be itching to get started. Fiji will have put a vast amount of effort into the England match on Friday night, and the hosts superior fitness shone through in the end. A match against a fresh Australia side just five days later is a big ask for the Fiji players, and they are expected to find it tougher and tougher as the game goes on.
France v Romania
France are also worth backing to overcome a sizable handicap against Romania as they continue their campaign in Pool D.
The French got off to a good start with a 32-10 win against Italy last weekend, and are head and shoulders above this Romania team. They’ve made 13 changes to the starting line-up from that first fixture with Picamoles and Nakaitaci the only two to keep their places. Centre Wesley Fofana returns after a thigh injury to partner Fickou in midfield. The team that takes the field may not be full-strength, but they should still be far too good for Romania and the players will be fresh and raring to try stake their claims for places in the team for the latter stages.
Japan to beat Scotland
Wednesday 23rd September, 14:30 GMT
Australia (-26) to beat Fiji
Wednesday 23rd September, 16:45 GMT
France (-44) to beat Romania
Wednesday 23rd September, 20:00 GMT
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