Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup Quick Hits: Struggling England could stumble against Argentina

Courtney Lawes
Courtney Lawes must lift England for their tournament opener

England launch their World Cup campaign against Argentina but Simon Mail thinks the team will struggle to win their opener...

  • England under major pressure

  • Ireland set for strong start

  • Wallabies' worrying form

England v Argentina
Saturday, 20:00
Live on ITV

England face dangerous Pumas

England's buildup to the World Cup has been turbulent and Steve Borthwick's unconvincing team face a major challenge in their tournament opener against Argentina. Defeat against Fiji at Twickenham was their fifth loss in the last six matches and expectations for the 2003 champions are at an all-time low.

Captain Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola are both suspended from this match, with Courtney Lawes leading England against Argentina. Scrum-half Alex Mitchell is a surprise starter, in preference to Danny Care, alongside fly-half George Ford.

The Pumas have been developing solidly under Michael Cheika and he guided them to a memorable 30-29 victory over England at Twickenham last November.

Argentina will surely fancy their chances of repeating the win with England heading into the World Cup lacking form and confidence.

The teams can hardly be separated in the betting, with Argentina 2.01/1 to win Marseille. This looks worth backing with struggling England likely to be exposed by the experienced Pumas in their pool opener.

Back Argentina to win @ 2.01/1

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Ireland v Romania
Saturday, 14:30
Live on ITV

Ireland to show top-ranked status

Ireland have never entered a World Cup with greater expectations on their shoulders, with the top-ranked team on a 13-match winning streak. If they are to go the distance, Andy Farrell's side will have to do it the hard way though with France or New Zealand likely quarter-final opponents.

This gentle start should allow the Six Nations grand slam champions to ease their way into the tournament before tough tests against South Africa and Scotland.

Johnny Sexton plays his first match since March, following his return from injury and suspension, with the captain joined in the backline by Keith Earls and Garry Ringrose.

Romania will not pose a threat to Ireland, with the favourites asked to cover a 64-point handicap mark. Ireland should be able to run in a big win and with Romania likely to tire as the game progresses, a bet on a higher-scoring second half stands out at 4/5.

Back second half of Ireland v Romania to be highest scoring @ 4/51.80

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Australia v Georgia
Saturday, 17:00
Live on ITV

Wallabies need convincing start

Australia head into the competition without the form to suggest they are genuine contenders. The Wallabies have lost all five Tests this year and the appointment of former England coach Eddie Jones has failed to pay off. Jones has gone with a young squad and hit back at stinging media criticism but Australia look a shadow of previous teams.

Georgia will sense this is an opportunity to trouble a team on a run of just one win in nine matches.

Renowned for their physical pack, Georgia were beaten 27-8 in their sole match against the Wallabies at the last World Cup. This is a weaker Australia team and Georgia appeal as a bet with a 20-point handicap advantage.

Back Georgia +20 @ 10/111.91

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Italy v Namibia
Saturday, 12:00
Live on ITV

Italy eye winning start

Italy and Namibia are pitched in a daunting pool featuring hosts France and New Zealand. This match offers Italy the chance to make a promising start, with huge tests to come. Italy were competitive in the Six Nations this year but again failed to win a match.

Namibia are handed a 33-point handicap advantage and the underdogs look worth backing with this head start. Four years ago, Namibia only lost by 24 points against Italy at the World Cup in Japan. Italy, spearheaded by exciting wing Ange Capuozzo, should win comfortably enough but Namibia can stay within the handicap mark.

Back Namibia +33 @ 10/111.91

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Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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