Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Rugby World Cup Proper Starts Here

40 games down and 8 to go in what has been at times a dramatic World Cup tournament. Not quite the vintage of 2007, or 1995, but there are those 8 games and there have been big fallers. Most notably Scotland, who did show some signs of a revival but couldn’t defend at key moments. Rather like four years ago, there are some interesting ties. 

Ireland V Wales; Wellington: Saturday 6pm (6am BST)
Ireland beating Australia 15-6
First up is the clash of the two form teams. Ireland topped Group C, by beating Australia in the second week and by thrashing Italy last week. Wales should have, could have beaten the defending champions, South Africa, in week one. That loss though has a silver lining in this winnable quarter final (as opposed to Australia).This really could be the tie of the round. 

The head to heads in this competition are not a great indicator neither. Wales won the first World Cup encounter in Auckland during the inaugural tournament, Ireland won the last World Cup encounter at Johannesburg in 1995 to set up a Quarter final with France. With this possibly being the last hurrah for Driscoll, O’Gara and one or two others I think Ireland may do it. 

England V France; Auckland; Saturday 8:30pm (8:30am BST)
For the third World Cup in a row, England play France in the knock out stages. France are in disarray after their shock defeat to Tonga, where a last minute try saw them get the bonus point that gets them here. The Six Nations Champions are struggling for form, having seen them get here via a second half fight back against Scotland. 

History suggests an England win. England has only lost one World Cup meeting to France, the 3rd/4th place playoff in 1995. France lost the Quarter Final in 1991 (in Paris), and two semi finals (2003 and 2007). England will win again, and play possibly Ireland next Saturday. 

South Africa V Australia; Wellington: Sunday 6pm (6am BST)
Truth be told, this tie may well be as close as the Wales/Ireland tie. South Africa should have lost to Wales and struggled to beat Samoa, while Australia put away Italy but lost to Ireland. Both sides look as if they need to find their best 15 (and some form) fast. 

With a win apiece in their previous World Cup meetings (South Africa winning the opening game of the 1995 tournament, Australia winning a tense Semi final in 1999), this tie looks too close to call. I think Australia will somehow bag a result and face New Zealand in the second semi final. 

The key moment of this World Cup?
New Zealand V Argentina; Auckland: Sunday 8:30pm (8:30am BST)
New Zealand has gone through this tournament with ease, and should win this tie. Yet, it’s normally at this point the nerves start for the All Blacks. As if to ratchet up the tension further, the All Blacks have lost their virtuoso Fly-half Dan Carter (right) to injury. 

I think New Zealand will win, like they did in 1987 in their only other World Cup meeting. There’s plenty of time for the All Black hex to strike against Australia next week.

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