The equation is simple for both sides at Nantes on Saturday. Victory equals quarter-final qualification and a match next Saturday against the winner of Pool C in Marseille.
The consequences of a defeat for both sides, however, is more complex, with automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2027 also a target.
Not that Japan or Argentina are focused on anything other than victory here.
Japan head into the match in Nantes on the back of an impressive 28-22 defeat of Samoa that maintained their hopes of advancing from the pool stage for the second successive tournament.
Head coach Jamie Joseph has stuck with continuity throughout the tournament, and this match is no exception. He has made one change to his starting XV from their 28-22 victory against Samoa with Siosaia Fifita replacing Jone Naikabula on the left wing. Eight of the XV have started every game at RWC 2023: Amato Fakatava, Keita Inagaki, Jiwon Gu, Jack Cornelsen, Michael Leitch, Rikiya Matsuda, Kotato Matsushima, and Ryoto Nakamura.
In their way, an Argentina side with high hopes of avoiding a repeat of the pool-stage exit they suffered in Japan four years ago, thanks to wins against Samoa and Chile.
Head coach Michael Cheika has made 11 changes to his starting XV from the team who defeated Chile 59-5 last week, with only Guido Petti, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez and Lucio Cinti retaining their places.
He has, however, stuck with his experience policy. The top three, and five of Los Pumas’ top six most capped players of all-time are named in this match-day squad – Agustín Creevy (104), Nicolas Sanchez (100), Pablo Matera (97), Julian Montoya (91) and Matias Alemanno (90).
A place in the last eight is the target for both sides. But, there can be only one.
FIXTURE: Japan v Argentina
GROUND: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes (35,520)
KICK-OFF: 13:00 local time (GMT+2)
History favours Argentina, who have won three of the four matches between the two sides, dating back to 1993. The last match, in 2016 – months after they had reached the semi-finals of Rugby World Cup 2015 – finished 54-20. Los Pumas also won the only Rugby World Cup meeting, 33-12, back in 1999.
The only Rugby World Cup meeting between Argentina and Japan was on 16 October, 1999, at the Millennium Stadium. A 36,000 crowd saw Argentina cruise to a 33-12 victory, thanks to tries from Diego Albanese and Agustín Pichot, and the unerring boot of fly-half Gonzalo Quesada.
KEY TALKING POINT
Honestly, here, it’s as simple as who goes through. Japan v2023 are a different beast to the one that Argentina comfortably beat when the two sides last met, and Los Pumas have not exactly set the world on fire so far in France. Pick your side, make your argument.
Guido Petti v Jack Cornelsen. Petti has been Argentina’s main target at lineout time, winning a competition-high 21 on their own throw. But, here, he will be jumping against Cornelsen, who has made the joint-most lineout steals (5) of any player at RWC 2023.
There’s been a lot of talk about kickers at this Rugby World Cup. Among the tee-masters in this match, Nicolas Sanchez has kicked eight out of eight in France, and Rikiya Matsuda has only missed one from 16 attempts at the poles. But they’ll have to go some to catch Argentina’s fly-half Quesada. He finished RWC 1999 as the tournament’s top scorer with 102 points, a tally that included a record 31 penalties. He finished one point clear of Australia’s Matt Burke and five ahead of South Africa’s Jannie de Beer in a tournament where the boot played a massive role.
Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand). O’Keeffe has been in charge of the tightest matches at Rugby World Cup 2023. He refereed the low-scoring, high-tension match between South Africa and Ireland, and France’s 27-12 win over Uruguay. To date, he has awarded just seven tries, the lowest total of any referee in the tournament.
JAPAN Lomano Lemeki; Kotaro Matsushima, Dylan Riley, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita; Rikiya Matsuda, Naoto Saito; Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie, Jiwon Gu; Jack Cornelsen, Amato Fakatava; Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno (captain)
Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Warner Dearns, Amanaki Saumaki, Yutaka Nagare, Ryohei Yamanaka, Jone Naikabula
ARGENTINA Juan Cruz Mallia; Emiliano Boffelli, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Mateo Carreras; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Thomas Gallo, Julian Montoya (captain), Francisco Gómez Kodela; Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Tomas Lavanini; Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez
Replacements: Agustín Creevy, Joel Sclavi, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Pedro Rubiolo, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Nicolás Sánchez, Matías Moroni