We are treated to another big day of World Cup action on day seventeen with three matches from pool C, A and D. We will say goodbye to a couple of teams as well, Argentina will run out one final time, joining them will be the feel good story Russia and the hot and cold Fijians, will all be playing their final pool games. The group stages are a real highlight of the Rugby World Cup and it’s always a sad time to see teams for the final time. Four years is too long….
Argentina vs USA – Pool C
The World Cup dream is well and truly over for the Argentinians after loses to both France and England and will have their final match of the tournament on day seventeen. They would have had high hopes of pulling off an upset against one of those side big sides and the two point loss to France really has been the nail in their World Cup. With the final match against the USA they have thrown out a side which has not seen much World Cup action. Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Rodrigo Bruni all come in to bolster the pack after watching most of the tournament from the sidelines. The trial of no Nicolas Sanchez against England turned out to not be the answer, although you could argue that was far from the only issue, he returns to partner Felipe Ezcurra in the halves. Juan Cruz Mallia, Bautista Delguy and Joaquin Tuculet all feature in the backline to close out their campaign with hopefully some positive performances after what has been an amazing year for Argentina rugby until the World Cup.
USA have a box seat finish to do some real trouble making in the final week of the Rugby World Cup. Two games in and zero points on the board but with a weakened Argentina named to face them, they must back themselves for a bit of a tier one scalp. If they do manage to rock the world of Argentina, they then go into their final pool game against Tonga where only a win will secure them third spot. This is not a game without consequence for both sides. Argentina still need to win to secure automatic qualification for 2023 in France. The Eagles have not been so light with their selections, naming a very strong side for their third match. Only a couple of minor changes set this lineup apart from what would be their prefered lineup. Ruben De Haas will start at scrum half and with a shift of position to Marcel Brache to the wing allows Bryce Campbell to move out one to outside centre and Paul Lasike into the side at inside centre. The only other change from the side that pushed France to the very limited for over an hour is Greg Peterson coming into the second row for Nick Civetta. If USA can keep that momentum up from the French game, they will be extremely tough to put away. Also throw into the mix the poor discipline from the Pumas and add some frustration at missing the quarterfinals and there’s a volatile situation on our hands. This is a golden chance for the USA, that would really transform the closing days of pool C, but I think Argentina will do enough to hold it together. There’s no Lavanini to have a brain fade and there’s too many faces desperate to impress with their chance on the global stage.
RESULT = Argentina by 4
Scotland vs Russia – Pool A
A huge night for pool A on day seventeen where Scotland have to do nothing less than smash the Russians to keep their World Cup quarterfinals dreams alive. Then on the final day of pool play they will have to do the job against the hosts, Japan. But first things first, Russia, and boy its a bit of a surprise the lineup they have named. Obviously wanting to keep players fresh for Sunday’s clash with Japan they have made a number of changes to their starting lineup. You would expect the Scots would have enough to take care of Russia regardless of lineup but at the Rugby World Cup against a very passionate and determined Russian side, it’s always a risk when if this job falls apart then the World Cup dream is over! Then there is always the situation of what Ireland will do, but that is another discussion for another day. Scotland will be captained by John Barclay on the blindside flank will be part of a powerful back row with Fraser Brown and Ryan Wilson. George Horn and Adam Hastings will run the show in the halves and the only man backing up again will be electric Darcy Graham who will be on the left wing. Duncan Taylor comes back into the midfield after being in and out of the side during the tournament so far. Blair Kinghorn will fill the big shoes left by Stuart Hogg at fullback and I’m extremely interested to see how their attack unfolds with neither Hogg or Finn Russell in the lineup. Scotland have also named a forward heavy 6-2 split on the bench, expecting a torrid night in a pack they will want to be fresh and injury free.
Russia have won the hearts of a lot of World Cup viewers with their positive, determined and passionate performances so far. Will they leave Japan happy with their impact and development of their game over the last three weeks? You can bet they will be. They have shown the world they know how to play, they won’t back down to any opposition and will give all they have every game. The hard work starts now for Russia to build on this opportunity for the future. The likeable captain Vasily Artemyev starts again at the back and has played every match for the Russians as they will say goodbye to Japan at the conclusion of this match. A number of players have stood up over the last couple of weeks at this higher level. Hooker Stanislav Selskii who came into the World Cup with a growing reputation has certainly built onto that, he starts again in the middle of the front row. His propping partners Valery Morozov and Kirill Gotovtsev have held the Russian scrum strong from time to time. Once again their back row will be worth looking out for, Vitaly Zhivatov, Tagir Gadzhiev and Nikita Vavilin have been consistently standouts for Russia. Overall they will struggle to stop Scotland getting that bonus point and running away with the match, but if any side will give an 80 minute committed display to the game, it will be Russia. Although any Scottish fans won’t want to see anything from them, Russia have been one of my highlights of this Rugby World Cup.
RESULT = Scotland by 20
Wales vs Fiji – Pool D
Wales have approached this game with a take no risks mentality against Fiji, naming a full strength side to secure their place in the quarterfinals. It’s not a silly move from the Welsh, the Fijians are certainly a side who could upset anyone in world rugby on their day. The only changes to their starting fifteen from the side who defeated Australia is in the back row where Ross Moriarty takes the number eight jersey from Josh Navidi who moves to the blindside and Justin Tipuric departs the 23 for James Davies on the openside. Aaron Wainwright will slip back to the bench. The rest of the side is unchanged and looks to be one of the top performing sides so far despite only being tested by Australia, they stood up to the big test. I’m surprised many are discounting this Welsh side so early in the piece, they are playing like a well drilled side who will definitely test any side in this tournament. The fact Warren Gatland is going in all guns blazing against Fiji shows the intent this team is coming with, discount them at your peril.
It took three matches but we finally saw what the flying Fijians were capable of against Georgia. They did not disappoint either, running in seven tries of typical Fijian flair, offloads and explosive running. They can’t go back into their shell for their final pool match if they want to finish on a high. No side in world rugby can plan and predict the way Fiji play on their day and with the momentum of that Georgian performance on the mind, they have made only one change to the starting fifteen. At number eight Peceli Yato will move to the bench and Viliame Mata will start in his place. As with Wales, the rest of the side remains unchanged and you can bet if this Fijian side gets those juices flowing we could be in for a treat. Wales will want to shut this down to a structured style of play away from the open, expansive Fiji. If Wales get dragged into playing the Fijian game we could be set for a thrilling encounter, but don’t expect Gatland to let that happen.
RESULT = Wales by 12
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