Saturday, October 19
It appeared as though it would probably be the case even before a match was played at the Rugby World Cup and as anticipated, the Wallabies will meet England in the first quarterfinal on Saturday evening.
The Wallabies have been far from perfect but for the most part, they have done enough in each of their Pool matches. They gave Wales too great a start in what was their only loss so far and there is little doubt that England is their biggest test to date – they simply cannot afford anything less than a complete eighty-minute performance.
England were barely troubled in their bid to top Pool C, but they missed a vital match with France last week, which I think would have given us a real indicator as to what to expect here. They will be full of confidence, but always find Australia a difficult prospect.
I give the Wallabies a real chance in this match and they can cover a line that is currently set at 8.5 points as the outsiders.
We’re set for an intriguing contest when reigning World Cup champions New Zealand line up opposite Ireland in Tokyo but ultimately, it’s tough imagining any result other than a comfortable All Blacks victory.
There is no doubt that New Zealand have been in cruise control in each of their Pool B matches, but Steve Hansen will not take any chances from this point onwards and I think we’ll see the real World Champions in action for the first time.
By their standards, Ireland were mediocre at best during the Pool stage – losing to Japan and finishing second in a group that they really should have dominated. They face an enormous task in the form of New Zealand, and this will likely be their final appearance at the 2019 World Cup.
Sunday, October 20
Arguably the match of the quarterfinals will play out between Wales and France on Sunday evening. Both nations are undefeated, and each have legitimate claims on progressing to the final four.
This young French outfit has done extremely well at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Their biggest task came in the form of 2015 semi-finalists Argentina, with whom they were widely expected to duel with for second place in Pool C, and whom they snuck past first-up. Their two subsequent performances were fair, but they will need to take another step further to beat Wales.
Wales comfortably beat Georgia and Uruguay, but they were lucky to get away with the win over the Wallabies, while Fiji also poked several holes in their make-up. They do probably deserve slight favouritism ahead of this fixture, but they are under the odds to win.
I don’t understand the huge disparity in the head-to-head prices of these two countries and I am happy to take the value on offer for France.
The host nation has won through to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals for the first time and will face heavyweights South Africa for a place in the final four.
Japan have been exciting to watch and there is no doubt that they have been buoyed by outstanding home crowd support. Their win over Ireland was a thing of beauty, while they just proved too good for every other nation in Pool A. Interestingly, the Springboks remain their biggest scalp at a Rugby World Cup (2015), but this is a completely different kettle of fish and they will need to go to another new level.
South Africa have been beaten only by New Zealand at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and they are the second-best team remaining at the competition. They are a class above Japan, even in current form, and will take a power of beating.
I don’t think that the Springboks will leave anything to chance, and I think that the Brave Blossoms’ fairy-tale campaign will comfortably come to an end.