Rugby World Cup: Four big games left in final week of poolplay to decide quarter-final match-ups

With one weekend remaining in Rugby World Cup poolplay, quarter-final spots are still wide open in all four groups - including the All Blacks' Pool A.

Here are the four key games to determine who progress to the knockout stages and who go home early from France.

Saturday, October 7 - France v Italy at OL Stadium, Lyon

By this stage, the All Blacks will hopefully have clinched their passage from Pool A into the final eight with a resounding victory over 17th-ranked Uruguay. A bonus-point win would put them atop the group on 15 points, two clear of France and five ahead of Italy.

Italy and France meet in 2023 Six Nations.
Italy and France meet in 2023 Six Nations. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Azzurri will be smarting from their massive defeat to New Zealand, but can still upset the apple cart by toppling the hosts out of their home tournament. 

They also can force a threeway tie with a highscoring, but narrow victory, but despite their opening loss, the All Blacks currently hold a points-difference advantage on countback.

France dominate the history of this match-up, winning 44 of 47 previous encounters, including 2015 World Cup poolplay, and Italy have not prevailed for more than a decade, but only lost 29-24 in this year's Six Nations.

TAB Odds: France $1.01, Italy $12, Draw $41


Sunday, October 8 - Ireland v Scotland at Stade de France, Saint-Denis

The world No.1 Irish have underscored their tournament favouritism with their pool win over champions South Africa and appear headed for a quarter-final crossover with the All Blacks, whom they have beaten in four of their last six meetings.

Lurking in the bushes are the Scots, who have crept up to fifth on world rankings and present a very real threat to their Six Nations rivals.

The head-to-head between these two is nowhere near as onesided as France-Italy, with Ireland enjoying a 69-66 edge and five draws. They have won the last eight encounters, with a 22-7 victory at Edinburgh in March the most recent.

A 21-point Scotland win, with an Ireland bonus point, would tip the Springboks out of the tournament early, but a lowscoring Scottish victory with no bonus points would see the the Irish gone. Still plenty of intrigue here.

TAB Odds: Ireland $1.13, Scotland $5.75, Draw $26


Monday, October 9 - Japan v Argentina at Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes

England have already secured their passage from Pool D, so this fixture is a straight playoff for second between two teams locked on nine competition points.

The Pumas are ranked ninth in the world, the Brave Blossoms 12th, and Argentina enjoy a 5-1 dominance of their previous meetings, with their most recent being 2016 at Tokyo.

The South Americans have twice reached the World Cup semi-finals, but the Japanese have pulled off some of the event's biggest upsets over the years, including pooltopping results over Ireland and Scotland at their home tournament four years ago, and South Africa in 2015.

Shota Horie in action against England.
Shota Horie in action against England. Photo credit: Getty Images

If Manu Samoa were to hijack England in their final game, either Japan or Argentina could still finish level with the English atop the pool, but both suffered losses in their head-to-heads earlier in the schedule.

TAB Odds: Argentina $1.16, Japan $5, Draw $26


Monday, October 9 - Fiji v Portugal at Stadium de Toulouse

With Wales safely through to the next stage, the Fijians still need at least a bonus point to join them.

The Pacific Islanders have been the revelation of the tournament, unlucky not to beat the Welsh in their opening game and dominant in victory over Australia.

They probably should have clinched a quarter-final spot by now, but were scratchy against Georgia, raising fears that the inconsistency that has traditionally plagued their programme may yet return to thwart them.

Fiji celebrate their win over Australia.
Fiji celebrate their win over Australia. Photo credit: Getty Images

Fiji are currently ranked eighth in the world, while Portugal are 16th, so that bonus point should be safe, even if they were somehow to stumble against the European underdogs.

The woeful Wallabies have already completed their pool schedule and have had to stick around an extra week - presumably training for a potential quarter-final - before finally learning their fate. Surely they can't still make the playoffs?

TAB Odds: Fiji $1.02, Portugal $11, Draw $31

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