While often it’s the case that the Rugby World Cup doesn’t get going until the knockout matches, the 2015 edition has already featured some memorable matchups as well as a tournament-record crowd of nearly 90,000 at Wembley Stadium. And with all but two teams now having played two of their four Pool matches, it’s time to take stock of what’s happened so far and what lies in store as the teams jockey for position ahead of the quarterfinals.
Here’s a Pool by Pool rundown.
The biggest game of the World Cup so far delivered on Saturday when an injury-ravaged Wales upset hosts England in a nail-biter at Twickenham to put themselves in pole position for a spot in the last eight. All is far from decided, however. A battered and bruised Wales, which lost two more players to tournament-ending injuries against England, have to take on a tricky Fiji side off a short rest on Thursday. England, meanwhile, will now play for their World Cup lives against Australia back at Twickenham in another titanic contest between two of rugby’s biggest rivals on Saturday. Australia have impressed so far, but any slip up on Saturday and the two-time champions could yet regret not collecting a bonus point against Fiji.
Wales vs. Fiji (Thursday, Oct. 1, 11:45 a.m. EDT, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
England vs. Australia (Saturday, 3 p.m. EDT, Twickenham, London)
Fiji vs. Uruguay (Tuesday, Oct. 6, 3 p.m. EDT, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes)
Australia vs. Wales (Saturday, Oct. 10, 11:45 a.m. EDT, Twickenham, London)
England vs. Uruguay (Saturday, Oct. 10, 3 p.m. EDT, Manchester City Stadium, Manchester)
Scotland weren’t favored by many entering the tournament, but Vern Cotter’s team are the pace-setters in Pool B after bonus-point victories over Japan and the United States. A meeting with South Africa at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Saturday will now be a true test of just how far this Scotland team can go. Yet it will be on South Africa that the greater pressure lies. After their stunning upset against Japan, the Springboks know that they can’t afford any further slipups. Still, the champions in 1995 and 2007 could hardly have bounced back from that loss any better than when hammering Samoa 46-6, although it came at the cost of a fractured jaw to Jean de Villiers that has ruled the Springboks captain out of the World Cup and prompted his retirement from international rugby. While South Africa and Scotland should progress, Samoa will be waiting to take advantage.
Samoa vs. Japan (Saturday, Oct. 3, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes)
South Africa vs. Scotland (Saturday, Oct. 3, St James’ Park, Newcastle)
South Africa vs. USA (Wednesday, Oct. 7, Olympic Stadium, London)
Samoa vs. Scotland (Saturday, Oct. 10, 9:30 a.m. EDT, St James’ Park, Newcastle)
USA vs. Japan (Sunday, Oct. 11, 3 p.m. EDT, Kingsholm. Gloucester)
Favorites to retain their title, New Zealand have so far fulfilled expectations with victories over Argentina and Namibia. But there is reason to believe veteran Dan Carter when he says that they have plenty of room for improvement. The All Blacks will look to start showing that in remaining Pool matches against Georgia and Tonga before taking their inevitable place in the quarterfinals. Argentina should also have little trouble taking their expected place in the last eight after annihilating their closest rivals for second spot, Georgia, 54-9 last Friday. Georgia are likely to be left playing to ensure a third-place finish in the Pool and a qualifying spot for the 2019 World Cup.
Tonga vs. Namibia (Tuesday, Sept. 29, 11:45 a.m. EDT, Sandy Park, Exeter)
New Zealand vs. Georgia (Friday, Oct. 2, 3 p.m. EDT, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
Argentina vs. Tonga (Sunday, Oct. 4, 9:30 a.m. EDT, Leicester City Stadium, Leicester)
Namibia vs. Georgia (Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3 p.m. EDT, Sandy Park, Exeter)
New Zealand vs. Tonga (Friday, Oct. 9, 3 p.m. EDT, St James’ Park, Newcastle)
With 94 points and 13 tries scored in wins over Canada and Romania, the World Cup could not have started much better for Ireland. Against Romania they even had the luxury of making 12 changes and still recording an emphatic victory. But France, too, have begun with successive wins, and, as was expected ahead of the tournament, their clash with Ireland in the Pool’s final match will surely decide top spot. With the runners-up likely to face New Zealand in the quarterfinals it promises to be a tantalizing and highly pressurized contest. Italy will need to beat Ireland on Sunday to maintain their hopes of a first ever quarterfinal spot, but that looks a hugely unlikely prospect after the Azzurri only narrowly escaped with a victory against Canada following a comprehensive defeat to France.
France vs. Canada (Thursday, Oct. 1, 3 p.m. EDT, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes)
Ireland vs. Italy (Sunday, Oct. 4, 11:45 a.m. EDT, Olympic Stadium, London)
Canada vs. Romania (Tuesday, Oct. 6, 11:45 a.m. EDT, Leicester City Stadium, Leicester)
Italy vs. Romania (Sunday, Oct. 11, 9:30 a.m. EDT, Sandy Park, Exeter)
France vs. Ireland ( Sunday, Oct. 11, 11:45 a.m. EDT, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)