Wales v Uruguay and Japan v Scotland Preview
We are now deep into the Rugby World Cup group stages and will discover the fate of a couple of the home nations on Sunday as Wales takes on Uruguay and Scotland does battle with host nation Japan. The number one ranked side in the world is expected to win at a canter and take control of the pool, progressing as champions.
The match involving Scotland is less obvious. Japan has been the surprise package so far, exploding out of the traps and shaping like a team more than capable of making it to the latter stages of their own tournament. Could they go on to win the World Cup? It’s certainly possible at this stage. Their fast start could cost Scotland a place in the next round. It’s so close at present it could even come down to bonus tries scored.
Wales v Uruguay
Wales went into this competition as the form side and is also ranked the number one international rugby team in the world. The side achieved that thanks to an extended unbeaten run against strong opposition and have carried this form into the World Cup, winning the first few matches. The Welsh started by hammering Georgia 43-14 on 23 September in their opening match. The victory was expected against a limited Georgia side, but Wales had to be given credit for the way they claimed the win and the bonus points. It was as close to a perfect performance as you’re likely to see in an opening match.
That was followed by the most impressive outing from this Wales team we have seen so far when edging Australia in a cracker on 29 September in Pool D game two. Wales attacked their opponents from the off that day and opened up a sizeable lead. They went into the half-time break with the scores sitting at 23-8. A hammering, but Australia fought back and went close to pulling off a massive upset. The Aussies rallied and came to within four points of getting what would have been the unlikeliest of draws. Parkes and Davies scored tries for the winning team, but they did much more damage with their kicking, Patchall alone knocking over three penalties, a conversion and an all-important drop goal.
Will Wales win again here? The bookmakers make it a case of how many they score and punters will find the favourites available at no better than the 1/100 trading on the Betfair Exchange at the time of writing. There’s no joy to be had in that for casual punters, even in stacked accumulators, so we’re pushed into the specials. Wales -46 points on the handicap is 10/11 at Betfair.
Underdogs Have Nothing to Lose
Uruguay goes into this match with nothing to lose. All the talk in the build-up has focussed on how many Wales will win by and how many points they will score. Will the favourites rest players and play a second-string team? No one has mentioned the possibility of an upset. That’s because Uruguay winning would be unthinkable, but we have already seen a fair share of upsets at this competition so far. It’s never safe to completely write a team off but there won’t be too many backers with their stake money down on Wales losing this one.
Uruguay always knew they were going to be up against it when dropped into Pool D alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia. They were happy just to be involved and dreamed of holding their own against world-famous opposition. The team got off to a dream start when beating Fiji by 30 points to 27 in their opening match on 25 September. Arata, Diana and Cat scored the tries that won them that match, Berchesi adding three conversions and a trio of penalties. Team morale was high on the back of that result, but they were quickly brought back to earth.
Uruguay was hammered 33-7 by Georgia in their second match on 29 September and that’s when the reality started to sink in for them. They then met Australia last Saturday and everyone feared the worst. Uruguay didn’t win the match, but they didn’t suffer the humiliation of a heavy beating or even a whitewash. 45-10 was the score that day, all things considered, that wasn’t too bad. Betfair has the underdogs priced at 100/1 but +46 points on the handicap is sure to be popular at 10/11, especially if Wales play a weakened side. Uruguay lost by 35 points to Australia.
Japan v Scotland
It was feared that Japan would be knocked out of their own tournament early and the interest amongst the locals would end there. A tournament always loses a bit of sparkle when the home team are eliminated but there has been no chance of that happening in Japan’s first few games. They beat Russia 30-10 in their opening match and followed that with a confidence-boosting 19-12 victory over a very talented Irish side in game two on 28 September. That’s the same Irish team that beat Scotland without fuss the game before.
Japan was last seen adding their third win of the World Cup when beating Samoa last Saturday. It was another dominant display that saw the victors grab the desired result thanks to a 38-19 scoreboard. Very few people saw this level of performance coming from Japan and the side goes into this round of matches sitting top of Pool A with 14 points on the board. Japan has played three, won three, scored 87 points, conceded 41 and landed two bonus points.
It’s difficult to oppose a free-scoring Japan against a Scotland side who have failed to impress so far. Bookmakers are struggling the separate the pair, but they have priced Japan as second-favourites and that goes as a massive upset in our eyes. Backers can get their hands on a tempting 6/5 at Betfair for the home win and that will be extremely popular with value hunters. The form alone makes that a bet well worth having and we struggle to see where the money men are coming from with that one. Japan with a two points start on the handicap is 10/11 at Ladbrokes.
Blues Must Rally
Scotland lost their opening match against Ireland and they only had themselves to blame with the victors benefiting from several mistakes and gifts. Scotland is a talented team going forward, but their style of play relies on everyone being on top of their game and making as few errors as possible. If one or two fumble or drop the ball in advanced areas of the pitch, we often see attack turn to defence and the Scots have looked weak at the back.
They bounced back from that 27-3 loss to Ireland with a 34-0 win over Samoa and we witnessed everything great and good about Gregor Townsend’s team that day. Maitland, Laidlaw and Penalty scored tries, Laidlaw also chipped in with a couple of conversions and a penalty while Hogg nailed a drop goal. They must be just as sharp with the boot if they are to out-smart Japan on Sunday and silence a home support that’s yet to see their team suffer defeat.
We will need to see the best of Townsend’s team if they are to edge a plucky and ambitious Japan. Perhaps one thing working in their favour is the home side may just believe they have already secured their place in the next round and will take their eye off the ball and rest a few players. Without that, bookies still believe Scotland can win and have them marked up as 17/20 favourites, market best price offered by Unibet. That’s better than the 8/11 you’ll get with most other firms. Scotland -2 points is 10/11 at bet365.