Twenty teams have become just eight as we say goodbye to twelve sides who are departing Japan. England, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Wales, France, Japan and South Africa are the remaining eight to decide who will become the final four and eventual Rugby World Cup Champion. Today, we look at the two quarterfinals to be played on Saturday.
England vs Australia
A new chapter will be written in this old sporting rivalry. England, the winners of pool C against the old foe Australia, runners up in pool D. Three French refs and Ben Skeen will be in change, which threatens to be a stop start affair and high possibility of a lot of cards. England has made one slightly surprising selection in their run out side that has broken up the golden partnership of George Ford and Owen Farrell. Farrell has moved in one to take Fords ten jersey, Manu Tuilagi does the same, moving to twelve and we see a rare sighting of Henry Slade into the midfield. They welcome Mako Vunipola back to a starting role at loosehead to partner Jamie George and Kyle Sinkler in the front row. England has not been challenged at all in this world cup and the prospect of them taking on France in the final pool game was the gauge to see where this team was at. Are they underdone or sitting pretty going into the quarterfinals? They have had the better of the Wallabies over recent time but at a world cup, there is no certainties. The backrow battle will be intense between Michael Hooper and David pocock going against Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. Expect England to dominate the flyhalf channel and put immense pressure on Lealiifano. Tuilagi and Samu Kerevi will be a matchup that both sides will relay a majority of their attack though. So many mini battles in an overall war between these two sides.
Not to be outdone, Michael Cheika has gone toe to toe with Eddie Jones in making a surprise selection for the quarterfinal. A season of injury and very few minutes on the wing during the pool stage, has been enough for Cheika to select the youngster Jordan Petaia in his midfield for this knockout game. This relegates James O’connor to the bench in a five/three split. Returning from his three week suspension from the start of the world cup is Reece Hodge who goes straight back to his right wing spot. Kurtley Beale wins the race against Dane Haylett-Petty for the number fifteen jersey. The halves have hardly fired for the Wallabies in this world cup so the changes continue with Will Genia partnering Christian Lealiifano leaving Nic White and Matt Toomua to ride the pine on the bench. The Wallabies attack has also failed to impress which will concern Cheika and with Lealiifano at the helm, a lot of pressure will fall on Kerevi to launch their attack in the backs. Predominantly expect the Wallabies to keep it in the forwards and bash it up through their strong pack, releasing it wide will only get them in trouble. With these refs in charge, discipline will be essential! Yellow or red cards will be a game changer and the way this world cup has gone, you can bet there will be one or two….
RESULT – England by 6
New Zealand vs Ireland
Oh boy does this game have the interest of rugby fans around the world or what. After the last three results which has seen the Irish with a winning record over the All Blacks, this is going to be huge. New Zealand are keen to call this a clean slate and reference nothing back to previous results, instead only looking at this match as the now and nothing else, but Ireland will be drawing from the past. The All Blacks have made a couple of eyebrow raising selections in their side this week, the main selection has been the addition of Jack Goodhue in midfield with Anton Lienert-Brown and no place at all for Ryan Crotty. The future is bright for this combination in a black jersey and Steve Hansen has decided now is the time to lay this down for a real test. Codie Taylor has got the jump on Dane Coles at hooker, an area of real depth for the side. Finally it’s great to see the big man back starting in the second row, Brodie Retallick will start alongside his old mate Sam Whitelock. Expect things you have never seen from the All Blacks starting tonight against the Irish. This is a side with plenty more up its sleeve and both these teams know that they can not go into this game expecting to win it in any way like their previous encounters. The All Blacks will want to grind down the Irish pack and then eventually turn to their explosive outside backs to finish their hard work. The counter attack will be on, Ireland have not seen Beauden Barrett at fullback yet so expect many cameos from him. This result will come down to a couple of key areas. Ruck protection for both sides, if Conor Murray and Aaron Smith are not looked after, it will seriously affect their respective sides chances with their kicking games. Who will control the game better, Richie Mo’unga and Barrett or Jonathan Sexton, who has huge pressure to deliver, which has boosted his performances in the past.
Ireland have not changed too much from the best efforts in their pool games and have selected a largely predictable team. Peter O’Mahony will start at six which looks to be a specific move based on playing New Zealand. The All Blacks seem to rate O’Mahony more than the Irish do currently after he has had a series of mentions in the buildup to this match. Expect something big from this Irish back row. I am a little disappointed to not see Jordan Larmour at fullback for this match. He has been in sinslating form during the world cup and by far the best Irish fullback. Rob Kearney will start at the back with Larmour on the bench but many Irish fans will be hoping Kearney will have a better outing than when he started against Japan. With Bundee Aki suspended following his red card against Samoa, the midfield will be filled with Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose, a more than capable mix for Ireland. As it always is, the top two inches will be thoroughly tested in a tight contest like this. How good is Ireland’s confidence after a poor pool campaign with a loss involved? They will be ready for this and it’s the best situation for getting the most out of this Irish squad. A number of things will change this game, obviously cards, but injuries to key players could be catastrophic. The depth in the All Blacks looks stronger and I expect that bench to lift the game midway second half. Ireland’s big hand will be the introduction of Larmour, he can tear defences apart if the game is still in the balance when he will come on. Its going to be a cracker either way and I can not wait for the quarter finals to get underway!
RESULT – New Zealand by 11
I will be streaming during the second quarter final today, so if you want to come have a chat during the game, check out my YouTube channel! I will have predictions DAILY for the Rugby World Cup! So make sure to subscribe to the page for updates when a new predictions goes live or check back each day for the next days matches. Who is your pick? Lets me know in the comments below and as always, thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts!