Tired of the hotdog and grassy knoll hype of the PGA, the Ryder Cup or Major League Baseball? Well look no further than rugby’s monster Test matches, the Rugby World Cup on its way soon and two at the top of the rugby world right now.
Ireland (winless in three matches) hosts Argentina (3-0) in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Friday in a crucial clash in the Rugby World Cup qualifying race. The Wallabies just started their Australian tour with a blowout win over Fiji while the Springboks (2-1) have rolled over Georgia and Romania and are also unbeaten in 2017.
The Irish came oh-so-close to earning a win over the Springboks, down by just a couple of points in the final minute. The Irish must also take care of two-time world champions South Africa in Dublin next week to secure their spot in Japan in 2019.
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For Argentina, this will be the first test on the road to making a tournament run in the Rugby World Cup. Argentina knocked off a European side in two of its three World Cup qualifiers so far, edging Scotland and the U.S. in June.
The winner of the Irish vs. Argentinian Test gets the four points behind New Zealand (3-0), South Africa (2-1) and Australia (2-1). The loser must win their final two World Cup qualifiers against the Boks on Sept. 22 and Italy in Cardiff in November to guarantee a ticket to Japan.
Let’s keep in mind Ireland has not won a World Cup match in 30 years and Argentina has not won an international Test match in more than four years. It also must face the U.S. and Argentina (again) in November.
Though the number of official matches available on Saturday have been trimmed for the World Cup qualifying, the BBC will air live matches in Ireland and France on Sky channels with two more on pay-per-view. DirecTV will air matches in America, while CBS and Fox will provide regional rights for the Americas and Europe.
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The 70th International Test between Australia and South Africa is Friday night in Sydney. That match is a great example of why rugby is so popular on this side of the Atlantic; it is a historically phenomenal match with both teams fielding a top five World Cup seeded side. But there’s one big difference: No one outside of South Africa gives these Aussies a chance; many pundits are writing off the Springboks as a team destined for low to middle world status in future years. The Australians on the other hand seem to be on fire, with an undefeated record and five tries in two matches.
France plays Australia next Saturday in the only other World Cup Qualifier remaining. You can watch both matches here.