An action-packed weekend kicks off at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France on Friday night, as New Zealand and Italy take centre stage.
Reigning champions South Africa go up against Tonga in Marseille on Sunday, right after sorry Australia attempt to avoid another slip up against minnows Portugal.
Saturday sees a South American derby between Argentina and Chile, before Fiji meet Georgia and Scotland play Romania.
New Zealand vs Italy – Pool A
New Zealand continue to settle into their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign when they face Italy in Lyon on Friday.
The All Blacks can expect something of a middle ground against their fellow tier one nation, after their opening two fixtures brought a dramatic defeat and an emphatic victory.
A 71-3 battering of Namibia preceded a blank weekend for Ian Foster’s men, as they whacked a welcome bonus point victory on the board.
Nine different try scorers did the business, as the 2019 semi-finalists came through in thumping fashion despite a red card for Ethan de Groot.
That result – and the break that followed it – were a welcome turnaround from their opening night anguish.
Host nation France rose to the occasion in Paris in front of a partisan crowd, coming out of the curtain-raiser with a 27-13 win.
It’s left the former champions and recent world number one nation decidedly under the radar.
And that may well prove handy for Foster and Co, as Les Bleus jostle for the favourites tag with Ireland and reigning winners South Africa.
Markers of improvement are the order of the day for Italy, who have emerged from a grim sequence of years propping up the annual Six Nations Rugby Championship table.
Two wins from two were far from guaranteed for the Europeans at this stage of the tournament.
Seven different try scorers and the trusty boot of Tommaso Allan combined to demolish Namibia 52-8 on the opening weekend.
The Azzurri then stepped up a gear to earn a 38-17 success against impressive Uruguay, who had already given the French a fright in their own back yard.
New Zealand make nine changes from their Namibian demolition job, with Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea and Beauden Barrett keeping their places.
Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan and Jordie Barrett all come into a freshened up back line.
Codie Taylor, Scott Barrett and Shannon Frizell all come into the pack, meanwhile, with regular captain Sam Cane making it as far back as the bench after a back injury saw him miss the opening two World Cup matches.
Rookie lock Dino Lamb replaces Niccolo Cannone for Italian coach Kieran Crowley.
Stephen Varney returns at scrum-half, while Luca Morisi slots in at inside-centre as the Azzurri look to test themselves against some of the most iconic names in the game.
RWC 2023: Predictions Round Four
|Team 1||Win % 1||Win % 2||Team 2||Predicted margin|
New Zealand Starting XV: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Dalton Papali’i , 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Italy Starting XV: 15 Tommaso Allan, 14 Ange Capuozzo, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Montanna Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Simone Ferrari 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Toa Halafahi, 22 Martin Page-Relo, 23 Paolo Odogwu.
Kick Off Time: 21.00.