Ireland and England take the Rugby World Cup stage

Super Saturday, or Sumo Saturday as one station called it, was always going to be a tough act to follow. And sadly, there will be no other day like it. Every other multi-game day is filled with at least one mismatch. Oh well.

Italy vs Namibia (2.15pm)

Among the big guns, South Africa and New Zealand have clearly got the easiest pool, with only Six Nations whipping boys Italy, and lightweights Namibia and Canada, for company.

There is the very slightest chance that Italy will be a threat to the Springboks (zero chance against New Zealand), but before that, the Azzurri have to first gain some confidence and rhythm by swatting little Namibia out of the way.

With all due respect, I’ll have the TV on for this one but will probably do something else.

Ireland vs Scotland (4.45pm)

This is likely to turn out to be a pivotal game in Pool A, which is probably the toughest group, with hosts Japan and unpredictable Samoa also in contention.

If you asked rugby watchers about 10 months ago, many would have said Ireland were World Cup favourites. But much has changed this year: they were not themselves in the Six Nations and were hammered by England in the warmup series. They looked like a team that had suddenly going over the hill collectively

But are coach Joe Schmidt, team leaders Jonny Sexton and Connor Murray all foxing? Will Ireland turn up and play like the World’s Number One-ranked team, which is what they are?

The Scots have never been a team I like to watch: they’re the rugby equivalent of an action movie.

But they do possess two of the finest and most exciting running-rugby players around in flyhalf Finn Rusell and fullback Stuart Hogg. Those two alone are worth the admission money.

England vs Tonga (7.15pm)

England coach Eddie Jones has said from day one when he took over to judge him at the World Cup. Everything leading up has gone to his plan, he says, including poor form in the third year (which happened, with England finishing fifth in the Six Nations and losing a series to South Africa).

But, the World Cup is finally here and it’s judgment day. And the evidence from England’s form in the past 10 months has been good and his key men are finally all fit and looking fit.

Tonga will be cannon fodder but as cannon fodder go (goes?), they’re not to be taken lightly. No chance of an upset, but lots of hard hits and some fine running will be seen – for a short while.

England are an interesting mix of power, athleticism, fitness, skill and speed. But will they be good enough to topple the All Blacks? We should get an idea tonight.

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