With 20 teams battling it out for supremacy in a tournament that lasts for more than four weeks, it can be easy to lose track of exactly what is going on and when.
As the Rugby World Cup pool stages enter their thrilling climax, let us mark your card with our full rundown of what’s happened so far and the excitement that still awaits us:
In the anticipated ‘group of death’ it is Australia and Wales who have prospered, winning all three of their respective matches to date. The Wallabies and the Dragons meet on Saturday to determine who will top the pool and thus book themselves an easier quarter-final tie; probably against Scotland. The loser will have to settle for a last eight encounter against a powerful looking South Africa.
As tournament hosts, England’s failure to qualify from Pool A has been met with derision in some quarters; particularly given Wales’ ongoing injury problems, with six of their first choice starting XV currently sidelined. It is likely that changes at the top, and in personnel, are likely to follow for England, who have been defeated by the Aussies (13-33) and the Welsh (25-28) on home soil.
Despite losing 32-34 to Japan in a result which sent shockwaves through the tournament, it has largely been business as usual for South Africa. With two wins out of two since, and a regulation fixture against the USA to come tonight (16:45 GMT), they should top Pool B with ease.
And that sets up an interesting battle for second place in the group between the Japanese and Scotland. The Scots have an advantage – they hold 10 points to Japan’s 8 – and they should overcome a tough but limited Samoa side on Saturday. But this Japan side has lit up this competition for all the right reasons, and should Scotland slip up – and they defeat the USA – then they will reach the quarter finals for the first time in their history.
New Zealand, the pre tournament favourites and with three wins from three thus far, have looked at their ominous best at times and top Pool C with ease. Ireland and France, the top two teams in Pool D, will be doing all they can to avoid a quarter final meeting with the All Blacks.
Argentina have all but booked their place in the quarter finals too, and need just a point against Namibia to secure their last eight spot. Tonga, who can mathematically still catch them, need the Argentines to lose by more than seven points and then need to beat New Zealand themselves. A tall order, then.
France and Ireland have already secured their berths in the quarter finals, and will meet on Sunday to decide who will play New Zealand in the last eight and who will take on Argentina; no prizes for guessing who both teams would favour.
Elsewhere, the other Pool D combatants – Italy, Romania and Canada – have fought hard with little reward.
By Craig Simpkin