Rugby World Cup: Five games to watch in week one of France tournament

Sure, all eyes will be on the World Cup opener between old rivals New Zealand and France, but the opening week of play also offers other match-ups, ranked in order of mouthwateringness.


England v Argentina, 7am Sunday

The English seem vulnerable, after falling to Fiji in their last hitout before the tournament. They'll also be without captain and first-five Owen Farrell, and their only specialist No.8, Billy Vunipola.

Latest world rankings have the Pumas (fifth) above England (eighth), and whoever loses here could be vulnerable to proven giantkillers Japan and Samoa in their pool.

TAB Odds: England $1.82, Argentina $2.05, Draw $18

Fiji celebrate a try against England.
Fiji celebrate a try against England. Photo credit: Getty Images

Wales v Fiji, 7am Monday

Fiji's victory over England has dramatically improved their world ranking (seventh) and outlook for the World Cup. Perhaps their most famous performance at the tournament was their 38-34 victory over the Welsh in 2007 poolplay, so they have history.

The Flying Fijians have swept Pacific rivals Tonga, Samoa and Japan this year, while also pushing France, so their confidence will be sky high.

Wales (10th) have won only two of their last 10 outings, including a historic defeat to Georgia, and bring little form to cheer about. 

TAB Odds: Wales $1.62, Fiji $2.30, Draw $18


South Africa v Scotland, 3:45am Monday

Any lingering doubts over the Springboks' title defence were swept aside by their record win over the All Blacks at Twickenham. Their scary seven-man 'Bomb Squad' off the bench threaten to overpower tiring opponents - especially if they happen to be a man short in their pack.

The Scots seem a much-improved prospect to the team eliminated from poolplay by Japan four years ago, but they've also drawn the toughest group, which features three of the world's top five teams, with only two to progress. The maths does not favour them.

TAB Odds: South Africa $1.17, Scotland $4.80, Draw $21


Australia v Georgia, 4am Sunday

Only mildly interesting, because this is a chance for Eddie Jones to notch up the first win of his second stint with the Wallabies, after five straight losses.

Georgia toppled Wales last summer, so they're knocking on the door, but defeat would surely see the Aussies out of contention early, with a pessimistic outlook for their home World Cup in four years.

Wallabies huddle against France.
Wallabies huddle against France. Photo credit: Getty Images

TAB Odds: Australia $1.03, Georgia $10, Draw $36


Italy v Namibia, 11pm Saturday

Totally inconsequential, except this is the other game in the All Blacks' pool. Namibia have yet to win at six previous tournaments, but have a 2-2 record against Italy in tests.

Realistically, the Azzurri should be a class above Namibia and Uruguay in this group - but a class below NZ and France.

TAB Odds: Italy $1.01, Namibia $15, Draw $51


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