Rugby World Cup 2019: Five games you absolutely must watch in Week Three

With 10 games until our next rest day at the Rugby World Cup, we're into the real crunch time in pool play.

Many teams are now in must-win mode to advance to the quarter-finals, while others are now manoeuvring for the best draw in knockout play.

Two All Blacks games over those five days, but neither should provide too much drama. They're against the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition - Canada and Namibia - so strictly optional viewing.

The most contentious aspect of those encounters will be around those players (like Rieko Ioane) trying to break (back) into the top line-up… and whether beating up on the playground weaklings should count towards that end.

Those games aside, here's the pick of the others…

Ireland v Russia

6:15pm, Thursday, October 3

TAB: Ireland $1.001, Russia $151

Normally, this would be a yawner, with the Russians extremely unlikely to provide any real resistance to the recent world No.1 performers.

But after that shock defeat to Japan, all eyes are on the Irish to see how they will respond to this poke in the eye.

Ireland have already played the two next best teams in this pool, so if they can grab the bonus point wins from Russia and their last outing against Manu Samoa, they should ease into the next phase.

South Africa v Italy

10:45pm, Friday, October 4

TAB: South Africa $1.02, Italy $13

The Springboks showed enough in their opener against New Zealand that they shouldn't find the Italians too much of an obstacle - but after bonus-point wins over the tournament easybeats, the Azzurri currently top Pool B.

They're clearly the third best team in this pool and the most likely to pull off an upset, if South Africa come with their 'C' game.

Italy have only beaten the 'Boks once in 14 previous meetings.

England v Argentina

9pm, Friday, October 4

TAB: England $1.17, Argentina $4.65

In their opener against France, the Pumas seemed to have victory in the palms of their hands, only to let it slip away to a late drop goal.

They're capable of troubling England, who haven't really changed out of second gear yet, but this will be their last throw of the dice. Lose here and they're playing for a spot at the next tournament.

If the English lose, they face a must-win against the world's most unpredictable team. They should do themselves a favour and end their anxiety now.

Argentina haven't won this match-up in more than a decade.

Japan v Samoa

11:30pm, Saturday, October 5

TAB: Japan $1.13, Samoa $5.40

OK, so they beat Ireland and threw their pool into disarray - a group where finishing second is only marginally better than finishing third.

The 'Brave Blossoms' have been here before, after toppling South Africa in 2015, and still couldn't reach the quarter-finals, so this is just the kind of game that could derail their aspirations again.

Samoa's 34-0 drubbing from Scotland showed they are not the same team that pulled off some the greatest upsets in the history of this tournament - but they do have an 11-4 head-to-head record against the Japanese.

France v Tonga

8:45pm, Sunday, October 6

TAB: France $1.01, Tonga $12

Realistically, this shouldn't be a thing for the French, even if they have a bad day.

But they had just such a bad day eight years ago, when they lost 19-14 to the Pacific Islanders in Wellington.

We don't know too much about this version of the French - they will face the United States four days before this fixture - but they went close to winning that 2011 final despite the Tongan defeat, so absolutely anything is possible. 

We do know that this Tongan team isn't too flash, but France are also the only tier-one side they've ever beaten twice.  

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