A few weeks back, we ran our preview of the Rugby World Cup where we went through the 20 teams competing in the tournament and gave you our impressions of how the Group Stages of the tournament would go. What followed has been a superb World Cup of Rugby in Japan, with the host nation playing a key role in some of the biggest upsets in the tournament.
Japan’s wins over Ireland and Scotland ensured they earned a place in the quarterfinals ahead of Scotland, who were eliminated from the tournament on the back of their defeat to Japan. Other than that, the big boys, as expected made it through to the quarterfinals, albeit some with the help of a couple of postponed games due to the landfall of the large and destructive hurricane Hagibis, which forced the postponement of a couple of ties.
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Last weekend, we saw those quarterfinals played and it was England (who defeated Australia emphatically), New Zealand (who did likewise to Ireland), Wales (who narrowly defeated France) and South Africa (who finally put paid to host nation Japan’s hopes) who made it through into the semifinals.
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Let’s now take a look at the two semifinals set to take place over the weekend.
World Cup Semi Final Preview
England v New Zealand (Saturday 9am)
England Story So Far
Group C – Winners
- England 35-3 Tonga
- England 45 – 7 United States
- England 39 – 10 Argentina
- England 0-0 France (postponed due to Hurricane Hagibis)
- England 40-16 Australia
It is fair to say that England eased themselves into this competition with two competent if not dynamic wins over Tonga and the United States. The results put the English team in a strong position in Group C with France and Argentina playing each other (a game which the French won). England then defeated Argentina in their next game with a stronger performance to seemingly set up a group decider against the French.
However, Hurricane Hagibis blew in and meant that the game would be postponed and the teams awarded a share of the points. This meant on points difference, England topped the group and would move on to face Australia, while France would take on Wales in the quarterfinals.
A superb display by England in their quarterfinal saw them overcome old adversaries Australia in stunning fashion, recording one of the biggest and most impressive wins by and England side at the World Cup against any of the tri-nations teams. For that they have earned a shot at World Champions in the semifinals, in a game many feel would grace the final itself.
New Zealand Story So Far
Group B – Winners
- New Zealand 23-13 South Africa
- New Zealand 63-0 Canada
- New Zealand 71-9 Namibia
- New Zealand 0-0 Italy (postpoined due to Hurricane Hagibis)
- New Zealand 46-14 Ireland
After winning a bruising opening group game against South Africa, New Zealand’s dominance of the group was never in doubt and routine wins over Canada and Namibia followed with the All Blacks showing their dominating, powerful rugby and high scoring game to the full. Not even the postponed game with Italy could stop New Zealand finishing top of the group to earn a quarterfinal spot against Ireland.
In that game, the All Blacks produced their best display of the tournament to defeat a team that had been ranked number 1 in the world recently with a sumptuous display of powerful attacking rugby and the World Champions now move on to face England in the semifinal.
Tip for the Game
England are the 5/2 underdogs to win this game, with the All Blacks a massive 5/13 favourite. The New Zealanders will enjoy the bulk of the support of the Japanese crowd and their formidable World Cup record makes them sound invincible. However, I think England can play this game without pressure and New Zealand are not infallible, Australia beat them comfortably in August and South Africa drew with them too this year. If England play their best game of the tournament, they can do this and I’m going to back them to cause a big upset and land the win at 5/2.
Wales v South Africa (Sunday 9am)
Wales Story So Far
Group D – Winners
- Wales 43-14 Georgia
- Wales 29-25 Australia
- Wales 29-17 Fiji
- Wales 35-13 Uruguay
- Wales 20-19 France
Wales came through what was a tough group in fine style with four wins and while defensively thet have conceded plenty of points, they have been strong enough in attack to ensure that they scored enough to get the win. The 29-25 win over Australia being the game that secured them top spot in the group and a quarterfinal against France.
In that games, Wales started poorly but bounced back only for the French to lead 19-13 late in the game when a red card for a French forward handed Wales the advantage which they took to claim the lead late on to move into the quarterfinals to face South Africa.
South Africa Story So Far
Group B – Runners Up
- South Africa 13-23 New Zealand
- South Africa 57-3 Namibia
- South Africa 49-3 Italy
- South Africa 66-7 Canada
- South Africa 26-3 Japan
South Africa knew after their narrow 23-13 defeat to New Zealand in the opening game that they would only likely qualify as the second team in this group and after huge wins over Namibia, Italy and Canada, that certainly proved to be the case for the Sprinboks.
In the quarterfinals, they had the host nation Japan, the surprise winners of Group A, but South Africa used their power at the maul to great effect to negate Japan’s fleet of foot wingers and used their power to grind out an impressive 26-3 victory to earn a semifinal spot against the Welsh.
Tip for the Game
South Africa, perhaps surprisingly, start this game as the clear favourites as the 4/11 chances to win this game, with Wales a very surprising 13/5 shot to land the win. I think this is a much much closer game than that and though Wales defence is a worry, South Africa’s attack isn’t as potent as the Welsh’s. This could be a close one and though I expect South Africa to just about sneak it, I feel it will be a very close run thing.