RWC Semi Finals 2019 – And Then There Were Four

After a dramatic but slightly one sided set of quarter-finals, we are down to four teams in the Rugby World Cup. Both semi-finals look like potential epics to enjoy with your morning coffee this weekend.

New Zealand v England – Saturday 26th October Yokohama – 9.00am BST

The ultimate battle of the hemispheres to start us off. England stormed into the semi-finals with a crushing win over Australia. Suddenly there is a belief that this team can emulate the stars of 2003 and go all the way.

It’s a huge task though with the might of the All-Blacks standing in their way and everything will have to go right on the day. New Zealand flew out of the traps against Ireland last weekend and had the game won after 15 minutes.

England need to stay with them early and show the opposition that this is a different battle. The star men against Australia (Tom Curry, Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje) will have to do it all again for another 80 minutes. If England can get to the 60th minute and still be in touch, then the young All-Blacks team could be vulnerable.

The All-Blacks have cruised to this stage. Ireland were hopeful of a shock victory last weekend but were crushed in the first half. It’s difficult to spot any flaws from 1 to 15 or on their bench. Another rout is a possibility, though surely England will put up a better display than the meek Irish side?

Fun fact – New Zealand have won the last six encounters with England, though four of them were by one-score margins.

New Zealand Rugby Team

Wales v South Africa – Sunday 27th October Yokohama – 9.00am BST

This one doesn’t quite have the glamour of the first semi-final but is an interesting match-up regardless. South Africa didn’t put too much sweat into their opening group game against New Zealand, knowing easy victories against their other opponents would suffice.

They then dispatched hosts Japan in the quarter-final, easing through a game which had looked like a potential banana skin. The Springboks’ appeared to be in disarray two years ago, losing eight games in 2016 and suffering a terrible 57-0 loss to New Zealand a year later. Now though they are on the brink of another final. Wales will be a tough test, but the Boks will be confident of continuing their incredible resurgence.

Wales are the only semi-finalist who struggled last weekend. Their victory over France was fortunate and owed plenty to the failings of Les Bleus. Some costly misses with the boot from Romain Ntamack and a crazy red card for Sebastien Vahaamahina were game-changing moments.

Still, it must be said that Wales came through the toughest group unbeaten. They also triumphed in the most recent edition of the Six Nations, so clearly are a serious outfit. This is the sort of challenge that their wily coach Warren Gatland relishes.

Fun fact – Underdogs Wales have won their last four encounters against the Springboks.

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