Do you find the group stage of this Rugby World Cup very long? Rest assured, it's almost over. The competition is entering its final week of these group matches, which are expected to set the table for the knockout phase and quarter-finals, scheduled for the weekend of 14-15 October. Here are the stakes of the matches of these last qualifying matches.
Pool A: the Blues must ensure against Italy, the All Blacks are almost there
The fate of this pool will be decided in the suburbs of Lyon, with two matches scheduled in 24 hours in Décines-Charpieu. New Zealand, which walked Friday in the Rhône against Italy (96-17), needs only one victory with the bonus Thursday (21h) against Uruguay to validate its ticket for the quarterfinals. Logically nothing too complicated for these All Blacks against a team that has only beaten Namibia in this tournament.
The Blues face the next day, Friday, October 6 (21h), the Italians with a fairly simple deal: a victory, with or without bonus, against the Transalpines, and it is the qualification and the first place of the group assured. A draw would even be enough for the French to finish first with 15 points, the maximum total that the New Zealanders could reach with a victory with bonus.
Pool B: Scotland dreams of a feat against Ireland, South Africa can wait serenely
By offering themselves the offensive bonus Sunday night against Tonga (49-18) in Marseille, the Springboks took a huge step towards qualification. Barring an incredible arithmetic scenario where Ireland and Scotland would each take an offensive bonus as part of a large victory of the XV of the Thistle, the reigning world champions will go to the quarter-finals after a final day from which they are exempt.
The fate of this pool of death will be played Saturday night (21h) in Saint-Denis, with this explanation between Irish and Scots. With 14 points at kick-off, the world number one team will pass with a win, a draw, and even a defeat with a defensive bonus. To advance to the quarters, Scotland (ten points before this match) must win by more than seven points or win with the bonus without letting the Irish take the defense. Or by ensuring the unlikely scenario mentioned above.
Pool C: Welsh are already there, Fiji must finish the job
They have already qualified for a week. With three wins in as many games including a very solid 40-6 against Australia, the Welsh already have their ticket to the quarter-finals. The XV of the Leek faces Georgia on Saturday at 15h, with the opportunity to ratify the first place of the pool that extends its arms. Even a defeat with a bonus would make them finish first, since they would win in any case against Fiji by the principle of direct confrontations with this success (32-26) on the first day.
The Fijians face Portugal on Sunday (21pm), with the ambition of playing their third World Cup quarter-final in their history after 1987 and 2007. Only a disaster against Patrice Lagisquet's men would prevent them, since even a defeat with bonus would allow them to finish equal on points, 11, with the Wallabies and ahead of them thanks to their victory in their opposition (22-15). Virtually eliminated and exempt on the last day, Eddie Jones' men can only hope for a miracle.
Pool D: an Argentina-Japan duel, England already sure to be first
They have a last match on Saturday (17:45) against Samoa, but the English have absolutely nothing more to play for in the last day of their pool. With a five-point lead over Japan and Argentina, two teams they have already beaten, the XV de la Rose will finish first in their group, even in the event of an unlikely rout against the Pacific players.
The real issue of this group D lies in the opposition between the Japanese and the South Americans Sunday (13h) in Nantes. With equal points, both teams must win to finish second and advance to the quarter-finals. A draw would turn to the advantage of the Pumas who have a better point-average (+ 46 against + 14) than the Brave Blossoms.