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Great Britain

Ireland hero Ferris gives you his Rugby World Cup tips ahead of England v Tonga and Ireland v Scotland clashes

JAPAN kicked off the 2019 Rugby World Cup with a 30-10 victory against Russia.

Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick for the tournament hosts as Japan overcame a scare after Kirill Golosnitskiy gave Russia a shock lead early on.

Here, former Ireland international Stephen Ferris gives his predictions for his nations clash against Scotland and England's match against Tonga.

I REMEMBER the buildup of excitement and just being eager to kick things off in 2011. You think about the weather, the atmosphere, the fans, the stadium and just have to take it all in.

You’ve got to think about the processes in place and the lead-up to the match. I concentrated on my training. The last thing you want is to go into matches and not be in good shape, dropping balls and getting nervous and anxious.

Waiting to go, you have the nerves, the energy and the buzz. But as soon as that first whistle blows, you go into match mode and everything else takes care of itself.

IRELAND VS SCOTLAND - Ferris predicts an Ireland win

The Ireland v Scotland game is going to be very tough for both sides. Ladbrokes have about a nine point spread on the game which I think is crazy.

Considering whoever wins the game is more or less guaranteed to get through to the World Cup quarter-finals because of the opposition in the rest of the pool matches, both are going to field their strongest men and biggest performers of the season so far.

The Irish team might struggle a little without Robbie Henshaw. He is a valuable player. But my main worry is Rob Kearney, as he is currently struggling with an injury.

I hope Ireland can slow it down, kick the ball in the air plenty and try to win those 50/50s. If they try to play this expansive wide game, it will fall into Scotland’s hands. Scotland are very unpredictable.

If somebody like Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell or Hamish Watson turn up on the day, they are very capable of beating anybody.

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Stephen Ferris' four-fold acca for upcoming matches

Ireland v Scotland: Ireland win New Zealand v South Africa: South Africa win
France v Argentina: France win
England v Tonga: England win

I think a lot of Irish fans will be disappointed to not see Devin out there but obviously Joe Schmidt sees these guys train every day and has made a coaching decision. If Ireland win a Rugby World Cup, this will quickly be forgotten about!

With the weather forecast not being great, it will affect the game and obviously slow it down. There will be a couple more mistakes, more scrums due to knock on and handling errors.

With the likes of Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong along with the big second rows Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn and James Ryan, they have a little more fire power than Scotland.

With the versatility of Johnny Sexton’s kicking game, we should be able to pull Scotland around the pitch and use the weather conditions to our advantage.

Ireland being ranked number one in the world doesn’t really add up. Realistically getting beaten 57 points to 15 against England then two weeks later being ranked number one in the world after a couple of average performances.

Are Ireland better going into bigger tournaments as underdogs? I don’t think so, but with the pressure and expectations the Irish fans now have, it might work in our favour.

I’d go with Iain Henderson to call the lineout. He called the lineouts a lot for the Lions in 2017, giving him experience on the big stage.

As top try scorer I’d choose Jacob Stockdale. He’s got a bit of luck, a little bit of class and is always in the right place at the right time.

ENGLAND VS TONGA - Ferris predicts an England win

England are a well-oiled machine who are looking strong and playing very well. With key players like Owen Farrell and their second rows Itoje and Kruis.

They also have got that superb balance in the back row with Curry, Billy and Sam Underhill. They are at a stage now where they are peaking at the right times.

Eddie Jones coached Japan and spent a lot of time out there, so he knows the culture, people and the stadiums. This will play a massive part in England’s success. I think they will go far and will be a very hard team to beat.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS

My dark horse is Scotland. If they get into a quarter-final and have the performance of this lives, who’s to say they couldn’t do it?

My finalists are New Zealand and South Africa. Ireland are going to meet one of these teams in a World Cup quarter-final.

I think they are the two best teams in the world at the minute.


Stephen Ferris' Rugby World Cup predictions

If everything went well for both teams, they will meet each other in the final.

Over the last 3-4 years from the last World Cup, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland have been the most consistent and best teams in Word Rugby.

If I could give advice to the guys it would be, stay in the right frame of mind and the right shape physically and mentally to take the challenge!

Japan celebrates the start of the Rugby World Cup with spectacular opening ceremony
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