After a long wait due to the pandemic, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Scotland will finally have the chance to secure a place at next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand between today [September 13] and September 25.
The Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma in Italy will be the venue for what are sure to be some very dramatic matches in the coming days as the Europe qualifier takes place.
With only one team going through to the showpiece event in the Southern Hemisphere automatically, there will be a lot of nerves flying around just now and it will be the team who can keep their cool and play to their structures the best who will ultimately prevail.
The runner-up in this round-robin tournament will also have another chance to make it through at the final qualification tournament while, for two countries, this will be the end of the road in terms of their Rugby World Cup dream for now.
On current world rankings, Italy, in seventh, will be favourites to progress, especially with the event being held on home turf for them.
They kick things off on Monday afternoon against Scotland, who are 11th in the world, and the Italians have a good recent record against Bryan Easson’s side.
The most recent triumph for Italy over Scotland came as recently as April during the Six Nations at Scotstoun in Glasgow.
They were 12-0 up after nine minutes and that left Scotland an uphill task for the next 71 minutes.
To their credit, the hosts did get back to 12-10 down in the 39th minute, but tries either side of the half-time whistle put Italy in control and they never looked back to win 41-20.
On that day it was the quick offloading game of the Italians that impressed the most and they will be looking for more of the same this time around.
The Ireland versus Spain clash scheduled for later on Monday looks a very intriguing one.
Ireland finished third in the Six Nations in April and the eighth ranked team in the world have some exciting young talent coming through which, of late, has mixed well with their more experienced campaigners to create a nice blend in the team.
Spain are ninth in the world rankings and have a proud tradition of attending Rugby World Cups since they attended the first one way back in 1991.
José Antonio Barrio’s side were on top form back in February, running in 15 tries to clinch the delayed-Rugby Europe Championship 2020 title and secured them their place at this event.
Scotland v Italy (kick-off 2pm BST / 3pm local time)
Spain v Ireland (kick-off 5pm BST / 6pm local time)
Italy v Ireland (kick-off 2pm BST / 3pm local time)
Spain v Scotland (kick-off 5pm BST / 6pm local time)
Italy v Spain (kick-off 2pm BST / 3pm local time)
Ireland v Scotland (kick-off 5pm BST / 6pm local time)
All six matches in the qualification event will be live streamed across the Rugby World Cup website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels