|Hosts: France Dates: 8 September to 28 October|
|Coverage: Full commentary of every game across BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and Radio Scotland, plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.|
A word of warning. Are Tonga better than their performance against Ireland last weekend suggested? Yes, massively so.
The cruelty of that game for the Tongans is that they had a bye in round one and round one is not when you want a bye, especially when you have to play your first game against world number ones who have already had a match under their belt.
So that, in part, explains why Tonga were poor against the Irish. They weren’t ready for it.
My gut feeling is that they will be nowhere near as poor again. That was an implosion against Ireland. Poor discipline, a disastrous lineout – they just didn’t function. If they can fix the problems, look at what they have in this team.
Pita Akhi, an incredible athlete in the centre, has won everything with Toulouse. He’s one of the best 12s out there. Everybody knows how good Malakai Fekitoa is. Charles Piutau, Ben Tameifuna, Vaea Fifita – these boys are some of the best individual players who are walking the earth right now. They are incredibly dangerous.
I was talking to big Ben in Bordeaux in the summer and he told me what this game meant to the Tongan lads. It’s their final and I’m not sure if people in Scotland understand the magnitude of this Test for Tongan rugby. If they win and finish third in the group then they automatically qualify for the next World Cup.
If they don’t win then they have to come through the back door for World Cup 2027, which is hard given that all of their best players are spread across Europe and it’s difficult for them to negotiate with club presidents and coaches to get them released.
All of their best players are here. All of them have been together for months. This is pretty rare for Tonga. They have to make the most of it. As they see it, this is their moment.
The Scottish boys will know what’s coming. I don’t think they’ll be fooled by what Ireland ended up doing to Tonga.
I don’t foresee many, if any, changes. Our lineout needs to be better, our phase play needs to be better, we have to give Finn Russell more time and space to play and fire the shots that weren’t fired against the Boks
It’ll have been two weeks since we saw them and those long gaps have been contentious. People are talking about the tournament being a bit stop-start, but four years ago we were talking about countries having four and five-day turnarounds and that wasn’t any good either.
That was unfair, particularly on the smaller nations with less depth in their squads. That couldn’t continue. It wasn’t right.
At least most teams are getting a chance to rest. There’s still an unfairness on Namibia, who have all their games crushed in tight and they’ll have no game in the last week of the group stage, and an unfairness on Tonga as well as they had no round-one fixture and went straight into a game against Ireland. There’s no perfect way of doing this.
This weekend is going to be incredible. Ireland versus South Africa is going to be riveting.
This is the best Irish team there’s ever been and this is the most innovative Springbok set-up there’s ever been. A seven-one split on the bench has never been done at a World Cup, The Boks have forwards who might play as backs. Back-rows morphing into hookers. It’s wild.
What never changes is the South African brute force. Having beaten Scotland, the Boks know that if they now beat Ireland then they will most probably avoid France in the quarter-final. They’ll play New Zealand instead and that won’t worry them given the way they humiliated them at Twickenham.
On both sides you have ridiculous athletes, ferocious operators, fantastically clever players and winners. The Bok style generates havoc with every single action and that’s what’s attractive about it. I would argue that it’s brilliant to watch.
But Ireland beat them last time they played and Andy Farrell’s side are in pitch-perfect form themselves. This is going to be brutal but unmissable.
You also have Wales against a creaking Australia this weekend. If you haven’t seen it, I’d encourage you to watch the interview the former Wallaby, Drew Mitchell, gave online about the state of Eddie Jones’ team. His fury is understandable.
Australia have no structure, poor discipline and they’ve left some of the best players in the country at home – and Eddie hasn’t explained why. How are they trying to play? Nobody really gets it. They look a shadow of the great rugby nation they once were and, if they lose at the weekend, they’re going out with a whimper.
That game comes down to who can be less bad. I don’t want to be offensive, but Wales haven’t looked good either. Australia, though, look completely lost. I have mates playing for Australia and it’s sad to see.
Our focus will be on Nice on Saturday tea-time. We want to see a ruthless and controlled Scotland dealing with the aggression and skill that’s coming their way.
After the false start against the Springboks, I see this as the true beginning to Scotland’s World Cup. Two strong wins in the next two weeks will set us up for Ireland in Paris. Another potential classic, but there’s a ton of work to be done first.
Johnnie Beattie was talking to BBC Scotland’s Tom English