10 pivotal pool fixtures you don’t want to miss

With the World Cup less than one week away from kicking off, here’s the games you do not want to miss.

Saturday, September 21

13:45 local (05:45 BST, 04:45 GMT) – Australia v Fiji – An early start for those in the northern hemisphere but it’s well worth setting your alarms for this match. Pool D kicks off with the Wallabies facing Fiji in a game that could throw the group wide open, with Wales set to be watching intently. It would be a shock if the islanders come out on top but as they proved against France in November last year they are more than capable of it.

16:15 local (08:15 BST, 07:15 GMT) – France v Argentina – With England favourites to finish at the top of Pool C, this game is of great importance to Les Bleus and Los Pumas, who will both be determined to lay down an early marker in the tournament by securing a win in this match. Although these sides have been inconsistent over the past year, both will be hoping to hit the ground running ahead of their games against England later on.

18:45 local (10:45 BST, 09:45 GMT) – New Zealand v South Africa – These heavyweights of the game get things underway in Pool B in what is arguably the biggest pool match of this year’s tournament. With underachievers Italy as well as Canada and Namibia in the pool, the All Blacks and Boks are favoured to advance to the quarters. Who finishes atop this pool, however, should be determined from outcome of a match which will be a thriller.

Sunday, September 22

16:45 local (08:45 BST, 07:45 GMT) – Ireland v Scotland – These sides are the leading teams in Pool A and the game’s result should determine which team faces New Zealand or South Africa once the tournament advances to its knockout rounds. As the number one ranked team in the World Rankings, there will be plenty of pressure on Ireland while Scotland, although underdogs ahead of the clash, have plenty of classy players in their ranks.

Johnny Sexton and @IrishRugby are not underestimating Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2019#IREvSCO #JPNvIRE #IREvRUS #IREvSAM pic.twitter.com/uqiAeWlnHM

— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 14, 2019

Saturday, September 28

16:15 local (08:15 BST, 07:15 GMT) – Japan v Ireland – The host nation’s second pool match offers their first opportunity to put one foot in the knockout stages. They will be hoping to come into the game on the back of a resounding win over Russia on the opening day but this will be the first significant test of their credentials as a World Cup outside bet. The duo met twice in 2017, Ireland winning both games, but this will be a closer affair.

Sunday, September 29

16:45 local (08:45 BST, 07:45 GMT) – Australia v Wales – The big Pool D showdown takes place on the second Sunday as the Wallabies and Wales face off in a clash that is highly likely to determine who finishes top. The Pool winner will avoid Pool B’s top side, likely to be South Africa or New Zealand, in the semis, but in the quarters there’s little difference in England, France and Argentina. Whatever the result in Tokyo it should be a tasty tie.

Saturday, October 5

17:00 local (09:00 BST, 08:00 GMT) – England v Argentina – After what they hope will be a comfortable opener against Tonga, England face their first significant test against the Pumas in Tokyo. On form and paper few will envisage England coming unstuck in this match, but Argentina have proven in previous Rugby World Cups they can surprise the game’s best. If England lose they will face heightened pressure in their meeting with France.

For a player who has scored five tries in six starts, @EnglandRugby's Joe Cokanasiga doesn't seem too nervous in the big games… #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/5ORPOYIeim

— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 14, 2019

Wednesday, October 9

18:45 local (10:45 BST, 09:45 GMT) – Wales v Fiji – Many people’s second team this tournament, Fiji, have their second opportunity of a major scalp when they face off with Wales at Oita Stadium. Of course a shock win over Australia in their opener would give them massive confidence of progressing – after that they meet Uruguay and Georgia – but should they lose to the Wallabies, this game with Wales is their final opportunity to go through.

Saturday, October 12

17:15 local (09:15 BST, 08:15 GMT) – England v France – The final pool game for both and one which could have huge ramifications in terms of their qualification hopes. Equally, it may simply be a case of the two teams playing off for first and second should England and France beat Argentina. Either way, this is a game you don’t want to miss between a couple of rivals, who have had some titanic scraps in past Six Nations and World Cups.

Sunday, October 13

19:45 local (11:45 BST, 10:45 GMT) – Japan v Scotland – A match which many believe will decide the second place team in Pool A as the hosts look to gain revenge on the Scots. The Six Nations team were the side that ousted the Brave Blossoms from the 2015 World Cup with a dominant win in Gloucester, but the schedule is far kinder to the hosts this time around. Japan will be better prepared to face Scotland in what will be a thriller.