PARIS (AP) — Wales and England are through to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals and are the only teams which can rest easy in the last set of group-stage games.
The other six spots are still there for the taking and the big four of top-ranked Ireland, No. 2 France and the southern hemisphere powers of South Africa and New Zealand can’t yet make any plans for the knockouts.
Title favorite Ireland has won three from three in Pool B but still must beat Scotland on Saturday to be certain of a place in the quarterfinals. That game at Stade de France has all sorts of possibilities if Scotland pulls off an upset. Ireland or defending champion South Africa, which has played its four pool games and can only watch, could still be eliminated to shake up the Rugby World Cup.
Scotland has made a late surge, collecting bonus-point wins against Tonga and Romania to stay in contention.
France also has a 100% record in Pool A and also must win its last group game, against Italy, to be sure. France is likely to be without captain Antoine Dupont, the pivot around which the French operate, after his facial fracture against Namibia.
France is still heavy favorite to win and make it 14 victories in a row over the Italians, even without Dupont.
New Zealand probably has the easiest task of all of those teams when it faces rank outsider Uruguay needing a bonus-point win to reach the last eight. New Zealand crushed Italy 96-17 in its last outing, a resounding response to doubts over the three-time champion’s form.
Uruguay is a very long shot to reach the quarters but at least won the meeting of the minnows with Namibia.
Fiji held off a determined effort by Georgia to put itself on the brink of the quarters, where it would join Wales from Pool C. The Flying Fijians found Georgia tough to break down and were losing 9-0 before two tries in the last half hour turned the game around and ensured the World Cup’s surprise package didn’t get surprised themselves.
Fiji is now expected to beat Portugal to qualify and seal an historic early exit for two-time champion Australia, the first time the Wallabies have been eliminated in the group stage.
Argentina and Japan face a winner-takes-all clash in Pool D to follow England through after Los Pumas won the first South American derby ever at the Rugby World Cup by beating Chile’s Los Condores 59-5.
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