2015 Rugby World Cup Quarterfinals Preview
The 2015 Rugby World Cup enters the quarterfinal stage this weekend, and will peg the four standout southern hemisphere nations against some of the north’s best.
The Springboks are sure to face a tough task in front of a parochial Welsh crowd early Sunday morning Australian time, while New Zealand are charged with overcoming their ‘bogey’ opponent France.
Ireland and Argentina will play out what is sure to be a thriller on Sunday night, while the Wallabies are clear favourites to extend their unbeaten run past Scotland early Monday morning.
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South Africa vs Wales
2007 World Cup champions South Africa finishes comfortably atop Pool B after their four matches in the group stage, and have drawn Pool A’s Wales who were relegated to second in their group after losing to Australia last weekend. South Africa got their campaign off to the worst possible start when losing to Japan but that result probably kicked them into gear; responding with three comfortable wins over Scotland, the USA and Samoa. Wales began their campaign with a resounding win over Uruguay but were undoubtedly most impressive when delivering host nation England a last-gasp defeat at Twickenham; a result which would play a huge part in their exit at the pool stage. Having continued their slick run of form past a brave Fiji, Wales were gallant in defeat last weekend but face a huge task in South Africa, and may have reached their exit point.
New Zealand vs France
New Zealand remain undefeated at the 2015 Rugby World Cup despite clearly yet to reach peak form, and face a big task in France in the quarterfinals; a nation which has become their ‘bogey’ opponent through recent years and famously ended their campaign at this point of the competition in 2007. The All Blacks were tested by Argentina first-up and were lucky to get away with a 26-16 victory, and while far more convincing against the lowly Namibia, took a bit to get going against minnow nation Georgia. Having returned to convincing form against Tonga in their most recent match, New Zealand will face a France outfit who will be full of confidence, despite having gone down 24-9 to Ireland in a fight for top spot in Pool D last weekend. No one is really expecting France to do much in this match and that will play directly into their strengths, but if New Zealand turn up to play it shouldn’t be much of a contest.
Ireland vs Argentina
In what has every chance of figuring as the most exciting and well-contested quarterfinal match at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Pool D winners Ireland face Argentina Sunday night Australian time. Ireland are undefeated at the 2015 World Cup but have been tested by several of their opponents, including Italy. Inspirational captain Paul O’Connell was forced to retire from international rugby after sustaining an injury against France, while the Shamrocks will also be without the services of Peter O’Mahoney through injury, Sean O’Brien through suspension and an injury cloud remains over key fly half Johnny Sexton. Argentina enjoyed the perfect tune-up for this match in posting a tournament-high win over Namibia last weekend and certainly cannot be written off. It would be an absolute fairy-tale if all four Rugby Championship nations made it through to the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup and Argentina offer great value for money to play their role in beating Ireland.
Australia vs Scotland
Many tipped Australia to face an uphill battle in overcoming two of the Six Nations powerhouses in the Pool of Death at the Rugby World Cup, but the Wallabies silenced all critics in their careful dismantlement of both England and Wales most recently, having already overcome Fiji and Uruguay. Scotland have fallen somewhat away from the group of top Rugby playing nations through recent years, but they have more than held their own at the 2015 World Cup and are more than deserving of a berth in the final eight. The Scots are given little chance for success in this match but will look to dominate the match the forwards and slow Australia’s slick backlines. Key players David Pocock and Israel Folau remain chances to miss the tie through injury, but the Wallabies’ great depth means they are probably just too good to lose this match.