There are 2 interesting North-South clashes in the Rugby World Cup to close out the midweek fixtures. Bet Central brings you all the key battles.
Japan v Samoa: Front Row Duel
2 veteran props who have been titans for their nations in the front row will square off. Keita Inagaki at loosehead prop for Japan goes up against Paul Alo-Emile at tighthead prop for Manu Samoa.
Both players will know each other well owing to their participation in the Pacific Nations Cup. Inagaki is mobile and has good skills. He carries hard and has an incredible engine for a front rower.
Alo-Emile on the other hand is abrasive on defence and is technically sound at the set-piece. The battle for supremacy will be intriguing in this Pacific Nations clash – you wouldn’t rule out either prop being influential in this fixture.
Japan v Samoa: Contrasting Wingers
One is a diminutive and speedy magician with dancing feet while the other is a lanky and bulky force of nature. The latter is Samoan winger Ben Lam while the former is Japanese winger Kotaro Matsushima.
They both possess quality in abundance that has defenders scrambling as they run at them. Ben Lam is playing in his 1st World Cup and will be looking to assert his physicality on the Japanese who are not renowned for their size.
Matsushima, 30, is playing in his 3rd World Cup and is one of the more experienced and senior players in the Japanese squad. If he fires it could spell trouble for Samoa as he is an elusive runner.
Italy v New Zealand: Gritty Openside Battle
In what will undoubtedly be a battle of attrition, Michele Lamaro takes on Dalton Papalii in a bruising openside flanker clash on Friday night.
Lamaro is Italy’s inspirational leader and talisman, a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and is terrier prone to slowing the ball down. He could be key in causing a major upset if the Azzuri continues to make steady progress.
For New Zealand, Papalii is the counter to Lamaro, although slightly more agile and athletic, they are similarly strongest as carriers and defenders as opposed to breakdown-savvy opensides. It’s similar to players going toe to toe and it should be a blockbuster.
Italy v New Zealand: Playmaker 15s
In the final key battle of the last 2 midweek Rugby World Cup fixtures, we have 2 flyhalves lining up against each other at fullback in Italy’s Tommaso Allan and the All Blacks legend Beauden Barrett.
The reality is there are better-attacking fullbacks in Ange Capuozzo and for New Zealand, there is Damian McKenzie. But for the nature of this tournament tactical versatility is important and that is why both Allan and Barrett make sense.
The smart money is on the 32-year-old former Blues man outfoxing Allan, but the Benanton man has shown before that he is a capable match-winner for the Azzuri.