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As part of Rugby Today’s coverage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which will take place in England from September 18th through the final on Halloween, our site will have several pieces previewing the event.
While most of the coverage will focus on the Eagles and their progress leading up to Pool B competition, some of the attention will deal with the rest of the tournament.
In the first installment of our 2015 Rugby World Cup preview, we examine five of the potential best pool play matchups.
1. England vs. Wales, 09/26 at Twickenham in London: In their last meeting, which took place in this stadium in last year’s Six Nations tournament, England picked up a 29-18 win over Wales. Both teams will meet again ahead of the World Cup in the first game of this year’s Six Nations on Feb. 6. England and Wales are ranked fourth and six, respectively, in the current world rankings.
2. New Zealand vs. Argentina, 09/20 at Wembley Stadium in London: The All Blacks and the Pumas have met previously in the Rugby Championship and Argentina (No. 9) picked up its first win in the tournament against Australia in October. It also played South Africa to a two-point game. The win against Australia was Argentina’s first vs. the Wallabies since 1997 and ended a winless streak in the tournament that stretched since its first appearance three years ago.
3. England vs. Australia, 10/03 at Twickenham: If both teams hold or advance on their current world rankings (England #4, Australia #5), this has the potential to be a meeting of the highest ranked teams in pool play. These two sides have split their last 10 meetings dating back to a 2007 Rugby World Cup semifinal, which England won 12-10. It was also the matchup in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, which England captured.
4. France vs. Ireland, 10/11 at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff: In last year’s Six Nations, Ireland – which is now ranked No. 3 in the world after topping South Africa this fall – beat France (No. 7), 22-20. Among the many storylines surrounding this game, most of which will be ironed out after the Six Nations, include what 35-year old Paul O’Connell’s role with be with Ireland and how some of France’s newcomers perform (wing Noa Nakaitaci and flyhalf Camille Lopez).
5. U.S. vs. Japan, 10/11 at Kingsholm in Gloucester: Because of how this game falls, as the Eagles last game in pool play, it could conceivably be both the United States’ best chance for a win at the tournament and the last it will play. Except, it’s far from a ‘gimme’ game – Japan, ranked eleventh in the world currently, has beaten the sixteenth-ranked U.S. 37-29 and 38-20 in their last two meetings. Overall, this game presents the U.S. with the best chance to steal a win: South Africa, Scotland and Samoa are also in Pool B. Playing against the Springboks is akin to playing the All Blacks. While it is conceivable that the U.S. can play competent games with Scotland (as it did last summer) and Samoa, a victory against either would be an enormous accomplishment.