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The Rugby World Cup is reaching the climax with four quarter finals to be contested over two days of an epic weekend of action. Wales and South Africa are first to take to the field on Saturday afternoon, as they do battle to claim a semi-final spot against either New Zealand or France. Those two teams will fight out another Northern v Southern Hemisphere clash later in the evening in what promises to be a thrilling double-header.
World Cup Round-Up
Fresh from knocking England out of their own World Cup, Wales and Australia locked horns at the weekend to battle it out for top spot in pool A. The Welsh went into the game with a host of injuries, but in the end proved worthy opponents and will rue the missed opportunity when Australia were reduced to 13 men for a seven-minute second half period. The Wallabies on the other hand, came out of the game with huge credit after what goes down as some of the best defensive play ever witnessed in a World Cup match. Often renowned for their attacking prowess, the Aussies showed incredible and heroic defending to keep the intense Welsh onslaught at bay and run out 15-6 winners.
Meanwhile France and Ireland squared up in pool D, with the winner avoiding a quarter final clash against World Champions New Zealand. It was Ireland who came out on top with a 24-9 victory over the French in a bruising encounter. They will face Argentina in Sunday’s first quarter final, while France are left with the unenviable task of challenging New Zealand on Saturday night.
Injuries Take Their Toll
It’s a brutal game at times and that’s been exemplified by the fact that 22 players have had their World Cup campaigns prematurely ended because of injury, prompting World Rugby to come out and say that the number of injuries are ‘not out of step with the norm’. Each of the quarter finalists have been shorn of some of the quality from their respective squads, although arguably it’s Wales who have been most affected.
Warren Gatland has had to release 6 players from his squad since the tournament began, including Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, and Liam William. South African captain Jean De Villiers has had to call time on an illustrious career after breaking his jaw in the opening win against Argentina, despite coming back on to the field later in the game.
Ireland have also lost their captain, Paul O’Connell, who suffered a hamstring injury during the win over France which has ruled him out of the rest of the competition and effectively ended his international career. New Zealand have also suffered with the loss of Tony Woodcock, the All Black legend in tears as he limped out of his 118th international game against Tonga last week. He is another that will retire from international Rugby after this competition, and it’s a tough way to go out.
That leaves us with four quarter finals, between eight battle-hardened sides, but we think it’s the Southern Hemisphere sides that will come out on top on Saturday.
South Africa v Wales
The Springboks were as surprised as the rest of the world when they were turned over in the opening game by Japan, but they’ve barely put a foot wrong since with three victories culminating in the 64-0 thrashing of the USA in the final pool game. That confirmed their position at the top of pool B ahead of Scotland, and with respect to Wales, they would have been expecting a quarter against either England or Australia. The fact that they don’t have to face the hosts or their Southern Hemisphere rivals will be quietly seen as a boost within the camp, and although they won’t take Wales lightly, this is exactly the kind of scenario they might have hoped for before the competition began.
Wales, on the other hand, have constantly confounded the critics drawing on vast resources of character to continually punch above their weight despite being ripped apart by injuries. Warren Gatland masterminded that special win over England, and if it hadn’t been for unbelievable Australian defending Wales might have even finished top of the group. However, they’ve only ever beaten South Africa twice in 30 attempts, and although one of those was in the Autumn of 2014, they would be up against it even at full strength.
Many neutral observers will side with Wales as the underdog, but from a betting point of view this could be the moment they come unstuck against a powerful South Africa side.
New Zealand v France
New Zealand can also beat a -12 handicap at 1/1 2.00 +100 1.00 1.00 -1.00 with BoyleSports when they renew World Cup rivalries with France.
The French can hark back to World Cup victories over the All Blacks in 1999 and 2007, and they will look to those historic games for inspiration as they attempt to withstand the juggernaut that is New Zealand.
The All Blacks have won 42 of 55 meetings between the sides, including the last five in a row, and they’ve done little in this World Cup to suggest that they will be turned over on Saturday night. The French failed to match Ireland last weekend, and New Zealand represent a much tougher assignment, after winning each of their last three World Cup pool games by at least 30 points. Sure the opposition were inferior, but France have only really beaten poor sides too in this World Cup, and fell at the first hurdle when taking on a decent team last week.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a French win, so it’s really a case of how many points the All Blacks score on the night.
South Africa -8 to beat Wales
Saturday 17th October, 16:00 GMT
Odds: 10/11 1.91 -110 0.91 -1.10 0.91
New Zealand -12 to beat France
Saturday 17th October, 20:00 GMT
Odds: 1/1 2.00 +100 1.00 1.00 -1.00