Rugby World Cup permutations: Drama loading in the race for knockouts

Dylan Coetzee
Split with France, All Blacks, Fiji, South Africa, Ireland and Scotland.

Split with France, All Blacks, Fiji, South Africa, Ireland and Scotland.

Things are heating up at the Rugby World Cup, with only one more round of action left before the global showpiece heads into the knockouts.

This means there is only one more chance for teams to secure a quarter-finals spot, with only Wales and England having booked their place in the final eight.

Elsewhere, it is a battle for those final places, and those who are just out of contention will be pushing for those all-important automatic qualification places for the 2027 Rugby World Cup (secured by finishing third in the Pool).

Pool A

France and New Zealand are the front-runners in the group and the two teams which most would expect to advance; however, there is the chance Italy could cause chaos.

The hosts have already qualified for the 2027 edition, as they cannot finish worse than third. For France, two points seals the top spot in the Pool if Italy does not win with a try bonus point. This would take the hosts to 15 points on the table, and even if New Zealand secure a bonus point win against Uruguay, France will be the top-placed side due to the head-to-head, which is the first differential. A victory for Les Bleus would take them clear on points.

The All Blacks will be gunning for a bonus point win in their first meeting with Uruguay, which would secure their qualification for the quarter-finals. New Zealand could finish top if they get maximum points and Italy beats France.

If it was a case of all teams ending on 15 (if New Zealand wins with a bonus point as does Italy whilst France claims two bonus points in their loss), then the top spot would go to the All Blacks because of their superior points difference. Italy would finish second because of their head-to-head result with France in that instance.

There is an extremely slim chance Uruguay can make the final eight. They would need to beat New Zealand by 80 points, and Italy would need to lose. Meanwhile, the Azzurri only need one point to secure automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027.

Los Teros would need to beat New Zealand with a bonus point win without their opponents taking anything from the game and Italy to get points from the France game for them to finish third. It is not possible for Namibia to get off the bottom of the table.

Pool B

No spots have been secured in the ‘Pool of Death’, with Ireland, South Africa and Scotland all able to advance. The automatic qualification will go to one of the three teams, with Tonga and Romania unable to challenge for third place.

The fate of the Pool rests on Ireland facing Scotland this weekend, with the Springboks finished for this stage of the tournament.

Two points guarantee Ireland’s top spot in this Pool, with a win guaranteeing top spot. One point could also do it, if Scotland does not get a bonus point win, as they would qualify ahead of South Africa by virtue of the head-to-head.

If Scotland beats Ireland with a bonus point and the side prevents their opponent from taking any points from the game, then South Africa will top the Pool over the Scots due to head-to-head.

Similarly, a bonus point win with Ireland taking nothing will see Scotland finish on the same points as the Springboks but second on head-to-head.

All three teams could finish on 15 points if Scotland got a bonus point win and Ireland claim a bonus point of their own in the loss. In that case, points difference will decide the top team and head-to-head for the second spot from the remaining teams.

There is only one scenario which would result in South Africa failing to reach the quarter-finals. Scotland would need to claim a bonus point win by a margin of at least 21 points, and Ireland would need to score four tries in the defeat.

Pool C

Wales only need one point to guarantee top spot, and were the first qualifiers for the next stage of any team in the tournament, thanks to wins over Fiji, Australia and Portugal. The race is now for second between Fiji and Australia, with Georgia and Portugal unable to challenge.

Fiji have themselves well placed after beating Australia, and one point against Portugal is enough to advance due to the head-to-head with the Wallabies.

Should the Pacific side lose to Portugal, without a losing or try bonus point, the Wallabies would advance and avoid being knocked out in the Pool stage for the first time.

Georgia and Portugal cannot finish in third place, which means that they have not gained automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027.

Pool D

England sit pretty in this Pool, having secured the top spot through wins against Argentina, Japan and Chile. The battle for second is primarily between Argentina and Japan, whilst Samoa has an outside chance.

The equation is simple for Los Pumas and the Brave Blossoms, who face off this weekend – the winner advances. A draw (without any try bonus points) would be enough for Argentina, who hold a superior points difference to Japan, who would only advance if they scored a try bonus point in a draw.

If neither side scored a try bonus point in the event of a draw, it opens the door ever so slightly for Samoa who, in that case, would need to beat England by 29+ points and get a try bonus point. Argentina would finish third and secure automatic qualification for the 2027 edition.

READ MORE: Loose Pass: Thrills, spills and pool length criticism; the half-way report of the Rugby World Cup