World Rugby

Three Most Crucial Matches in Week Two of Rugby World Cup

Three Most Crucial Matches in Week Two of Rugby World Cup

Discover the pivotal moments of Week Two in the World Cup – our analysis of the three most crucial matches at Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

Sep 15, 2023
Three Most Crucial Matches in Week Two of Rugby World Cup

The opening round of the Rugby World Cup offered up some truly memorable clashes, with plenty of action and drama to unpack.

From the curtain raiser in Paris between France and New Zealand, arguably two of the tournament favourites, to England’s bout with Argentina, which had reputations and quarter-final qualification on the line, it didn't disappoint. 

There was also the intensely physical meeting between Scotland and South Africa and the drama-filled encounter between Fiji and Wales, which went right down to the wire.

It’s fair to say all these match-ups made the opening weekend of the competition a delight to behold, and the hope is the rest of the rugby can match the high bar set.

With the games on offer this weekend, it’s hard to imagine the drama will be quite so high, given there will be fewer clashes between the top-ranked sides.

However, there’s still plenty of top-class action which awaits, especially as all of the Pacific Island nations are in action this weekend. Here are three matches with plenty of the line for the teams involved.

Ireland vs Tonga 

Almost everyone expects Ireland to beat Tonga when they face off on Saturday night. That’s because the real threats in Pool B are supposedly Scotland and South Africa. To top the group, Ireland will have to beat both those nations, as well as Tonga.

That’s no mean feat, especially since Tonga have their strongest squad in over a decade, with a backline containing William Havili, Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa - that's a lot of firepower.

At the moment, the Pacific Islanders are not expected to progress from the group, but with a win over the number-one-ranked team in the world, they could set in motion a surprise run.

Meanwhile, Ireland will need to win this game to put themselves in the best chance of topping the group. If they lose, panic will begin to set in as the world champions await them further down the line.

Andy Farrell fully appreciates the threat Tonga possess, which is why he’s putting out an almost full-strength side captained by Johnny Sexton.

Australia vs Fiji 

This one’s very simple. Pool C has three teams viably fighting for a spot in the knockouts, meaning a win is imperative for both if they want to progress.

Following their heartbreaking loss to Wales, Fiji must win against Australia to keep hopes of a first quarter-final appearance since 2007 alive.

They have all the tools to dissemble the Wallabies and exhibited flashes of attacking brilliance on Sunday. But in the end, they fell short and, as a result, will probably be facing an early tournament exit if they lose again this weekend.

The stakes are not quite as high for Australia. If they lose, they can still make amends by beating Wales. In that, eventually, the points differences between the three nations will come into play, as they would all sit on three wins - provided they beat Portugal and Georgia.

It all makes for a fascinating match-up, which hopefully will result in some electric rugby, especially if Fiji find themselves with their backs to the wall with nothing other than a win on the menu.

England vs Japan 

In the wake of their thrilling win over Argentina, the pressure seems to have eased off England a little. They were always expected to beat Japan, but with a win under their belt, the match no longer provides a ‘win or go home’ narrative.

That being said, England are now expected to top their group and to do so, they will have to brush aside the Brave Blossoms, who in turn are aiming to replicate their feat of four years ago, where they qualified for the knockouts.

Japan have started positively, beating Chile in the opening round, but will have to pick up two wins against either England, Argentina or Samoa to keep the door to the quarter-finals ajar.

They have the players to turn the tide in their favour, yet with their form being so shaky, the question remains whether they can deliver when the spotlight shines their way. 

Comparatively, if England were to lose, all the praise they collected for beating Los Pumas would quickly dissipate, and the negative aura surrounding the team would resurface.  

Therefore, a win is integral, not just to keep the team on track but also to sweeten the tune of their fanbase.