The Rugby World Cup is very close to the business end of the tournament. With the quarter-finals starting in less that two weeks. This weekend brings about the final round of matches with only Wales (Pool C) and England (Pool D) guaranteed of a QF place.
Despite Pool A not having a QF confirmed, it is fairly safe to say that the qualifiers will be France and New Zealand, with neither likely to lose in their last matches against Italy and Uruguay respectively, especially with the Italians still reeling from their demolition by New Zealand. Even without their talisman, Antoine Dupont (who is scheduled to be back for the QF), France will ensure they progress, as they did the hard work in the first game when they defeated New Zealand.
Pool C is fairly straightforward, with Australia having already completed their fixtures, and potentially already back home in Sydney. With their two losses, Fiji only requires one point against the bottom seeds Portugal. That can come as either a try bonus (TBP) or a losing bonus point (LBP). With that back up, I think that Fiji will win and set up a QF against England.
Pool D is a straight shoot out between Argentina and Japan for the runners up position. Though there is a very remote chance that Samoa can upset the party, if they beat England by 29 points, and the Argentina – Japan showdown ends in a draw. I can’t see that and expect Argentina to qualify, despite having had several poor showings throughout the RWC.
As for Pool C, this could be straightforward, with and Ireland victory over Scotland in Paris on Saturday night. That would put Ireland through as group winners and South Africa through as runners up, to potentially play New Zealand and France respectively. But and it is a big but, if Scotland defeat Ireland (it is 1st v 5th in the world rankings), all combinations of qualifiers and final positions are possible. Taking into account TBP and LBP, the outcomes would be:
Scotland 4 Ireland 0
SA win group (15pts) and Scotland (14) go through on head-to-head with Ireland (14).
Scotland 4 Ireland 1
Ireland (15) win group ahead of SA on head-to-head.
Scotland 4 Ireland 2
Ireland (16) win group on ahead of SA (15)
Scotland 5 Ireland 0
Ireland (15) win group on head-to-head with Ireland (15)
Scotland 5 Ireland 1
This is where it gets messy!!! All three teams will have 15 points. So the first tiebreaker is the points difference (pd) between the sides. Currently the pd is Ireland +122, SA +117 and Scotland +97. If Scotland win by 6 points (while securing the TBP), this would put SA through on the tiebreaker. The next tiebreaker is head to head, so that would put Scotland through! If they win by less Ireland win the group on pd, and SA finish as runners up due to their head-to-head with Scotland.
It may appear that SA through, but there is one scenario that will knock them out. If the 5-1 scenario occurred and Scotland won by 21 points, Scotland would win the group on pd, and then Ireland would secure the other QF place on their head-to-head against SA.