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England bowed out of their own World Cup is dismal style on Saturday night against a ruthless Australian side. The hosts’ absence from the knockout stage is a Rugby World Cup first, and the recriminations are ongoing as Stuart Lancaster and his men find themselves under the media spotlight.
Yet the Rugby extravaganza will carry on regardless, and there are several teams who will be delighted with England’s plight as they focus on World Cup glory of their own. Wales and Australia have got things all sewn-up in Pool A now, and the two meet in a heavyweight clash this coming weekend.
Pools B and C both see matches during the week, with South Africa taking on the USA in Pool B, and Georgia versus Namibia and New Zealand against Tonga in Pool C. The Springboks have recovered from their humiliating defeat to Japan in their opening game at the tournament, and now sit top of the table with 11 points after dominant victories over Samoa and Scotland. The South Africans will want to ensure they finish top of the pile to avoid a quarter final against the winner of group A – potentially Australia.
New Zealand haven’t shown the brilliance that makes them the top side in the world just yet, but they’ve secured 14 points with a workman-like win over Argentina and facile victories against Georgia and Namibia. They play the USA in another mis-matched encounter and another big win could be on the cards. These are the last games before the quarter finals, and both the All Blacks and the Springboks can be expected to focus on topping their respective groups and playing with the focus that will be needed in tougher tests to come. Both are fancied to win comfortably as they prepare for the business end of the competition.
South Africa v USA
South Africa are priced to overcome a -40 handicap at +105 with BetVictor and if they get into their stride the USA will find it difficult to live with them.
It’s easy to forget that the Springboks came to this World Cup as one of the favourites for the competition, and that shock result against Japan has done much to damage their reputation and credentials. However, they’ve bounced back in typical fashion to score good results against Samoa and Scotland – their only real rival for pool supremacy. Coach Heyneke Meyer has said he is happy for the Rugby world to disregard his side, saying “We’re at our best when we’re written off so we have to keep the pressure on ourselves”.
The Springboks weren’t overly impressive against Samoa but still ran in six tries to win 44-6; and while they only managed three against the Scots, they produced a much more dominant performance led by a relentless forward pack. The quality is starting to show and the style is coming together after that dreadful performance against Japan.
The USA should be rightly worried about the Springboks immediate return to form, and they’ve already succumbed to Samoa and Scotland – both of whom were beaten by South Africa. Scotland beat USA 39-16 and Samoa defeated them 25-16, but there’s little chance of the Americans registering a similar score on Wednesday afternoon.
New Zealand v Tonga
The All Blacks arrived in England with a huge amount of expectancy after a period of dominance in world Rugby since winning the last World Cup four years ago. They are far and away the best side on paper at this year’s tournament, but once again they have to prove it on the pitch.
It was a cumbersome victory over Argentina in the opening game, from which the Argentine players emerged with a great deal of credit. Normal service was resumed to a degree with a 58-14 win against Namibia although the purists will point to the fact that Namibia were able to score a try as a sign of All Black weakness. A 43-10 victory over Gerogia came next, where again the opposition were praised more in the aftermath as they also claimed a historic try.
Coach Steve Hansen brushed off claims that his side weren’t at their best, insisting that the main target was qualifying for the quarter finals, which has now been achieved. Hansen said, “I have said all along you don’t get any gold medals for winning these games. However, we are in the quarter finals which is exciting”.
He will be acutely aware of the need to send a message out to potential rivals in this game though, and with any remaining pressure off, his side can earn a big victory on Friday night. Tonga have already gained their World Cup win at this year’s tournament with the 35-21 win over Namibia, and they also earned a bonus point in the 17-10 defeat to Georgia. They can go home with their heads held high, and will enjoy the game against New Zealand here for the spectacle that it is. Argentina beat Tonga 45-16 in their latest World Cup game – a margin of 29 points – and it’s not difficult to imagine New Zealand reaching a winning margin of 44 points or more.
New Zealand will face a quarter final against either France or Ireland and they’ll need to be somewhere back to approaching their best whichever side they face. This game against Tonga, while it may not count for anything in terms of pool standings, is an opportunity to fine tune the All Black game and send a message to any French or Irish eyes watching on from the sidelines.
South Africa -40 to beat USA
Wednesday 7th October, 16:45 GMT
New Zealand -43 to beat Tonga
Friday 9th October, 20:00 GMT
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