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An exciting first day ahead

By Ali Donnelly
Editor

It's almost here! The World Cup starts on Friday so here are my thoughts on how the opening day will go game-by-game. Feel free to disagree or give me your thoughts in the comment section below. I won't be mad - honest...

Canada V Scotland

Opening the tournament is a real moment of honour for these two teams but neither will let it overwhelm them. Canada opened their last World Cup campaign, which they hosted, against New Zealand and have openly said the occasion got to them so they will have learned from experience.

Canada will be favourites to win this on current form but the Scots have worked hard in the months after an average 6 Nations and Gary Parker will have his charges fired up.

Prediction: Canada to have the edge.

Wales V Australia

With far more test game experience under their belts this year, Wales will be hoping their match nous will take them to a first win of the tournament against an Australian team who promise much. The Australians are bound to be strong in attack - the presence of so many world cup 7s champions dictates so - but how they fare in the set-pieces and in defence is less well known.

In this pool of death both will want to get off to a solid start but the Aussies may just have too much scoring prowess against a side struggling for form.

Prediction: An opening with for Australia.

USA V Kazakstan

The USA will be favourites to win this and they simply must do so if they harbour any hopes of not just a semi-final spot but a top-6 finish. The USA are a more cohesive unit with far more preparation and games behind them coming into this competition, but the Kazakhs are tough and battling and will make life hard. The Americans though are nothing if not physical though and if they can match their opponents for muscle in the opening exchanges they should have enough ability to come through a tricky opening tie.

Prediction: USA to edge a bruising encounter.

New Zealand V South Africa.

The defending champions will be looking to make their mark early in this tournament but it won't all be one way traffic against the most improved team at this competition. South Africa will be realistic enough to know this game is probably out of their reach but they'll be looking to match New Zealand in the tight where they are very strong themselves. South Africa have nothing to fear so this could be an exciting game with both teams looking to score points.

Prediction: New Zealand to get off to a good start.

France V Sweden

Logic says that France should win this at a canter but this is the unpredictable France who can be beaten by Scotland one week and then almost topple England the next. They should be too strong for Sweden, am emerging European sides, but the French do have a habit of losing to lesser sides so they need to get off to a good start to get confidence up. Sweden know this could be their toughest pool game and are more likely to expect a points return from the other two teams in their pool.

Prediction: France to win.

England V Ireland

The game of the day and the one that will attract the most interest. Ireland have made strong noises this week about the confidence they have in their ability even against the undisputed European queens but will that be enough? Certainly history is against them - they have never beaten England - and though they are getting closer, I feel a result here is still beyond them against a team who are simply better on form and on paper.

A close tight match though would still give the Irish plenty to work with ahead of their last two games. England will be desperate for a good start to a competition they want more than anything to win.

Prediction: England to be too strong.