After a dramatic final weekend, the pool phase of the Rugby World Cup has come to an end and presented us with the eight teams that will make up the quarter finals.
It has been a hugely entertaining tournament to date, although now the stakes have been raised we can expect an even higher level of performance and excitement.
Fans of joint hosts England will have been disappointed to see their side depart at this early stage, however there is plenty for fans of the other host nation Wales to enjoy – despite an injury-ravaged squad now having to take on a forceful South Africa side in the last eight.
The Welsh were just overcome 15-6 in a nail-biting encounter with Australia in the crucial Pool A decider, and so their Australian opponents can now enjoy a slightly easier quarter final assignment against Scotland.
Rugby World Cup Quarter Final Fixtures:
Saturday October 17
Wales vs South Africa, New Zealand vs France
Sunday October 18
Ireland vs Argentina, Australia vs Scotland
The Welsh will give absolutely everything in their clash with South Africa, but you would have to surmise that their squad has been blighted by too many injuries to key players for them to offer a threat to a quality South Africa outfit, who have looked in impressive form since recovering from a humbling defeat to Japan in their opening Pool B game. South Africa’s price of 1.33 to win this match speaks volumes.
In the second quarter final on Saturday it is New Zealand, who have looked ominous in recording four wins from four games thus far, who are easy to back from 1.20. France are a decent outfit, but the way in which they surrendered to an injury-hit Ireland on Sunday suggests that confidence in the camp is low.
It is those injuries which will be of huge concern to the Irish, particularly with skipper Paul O’Connell confirmed as out for the rest of the tournament after tearing a hamstring. Influential fly half Jonny Sexton, creative back Keith Earls and flanker Peter O’Mahony will also undergo late fitness tests in a battle to be ready to face an Argentina side full of confidence after surging through Pool C with ease. The South Americans’ price of 2.95 is very tempting given the Irish’s injury woes.
Australia, meanwhile, have looked irrepressible in their World Cup to date, with their performances based on a rock-solid defensive set-up that is proving particularly hard to penetrate. Scotland will be game opponents but ultimately lacking in the necessary quality. Add the Aussies to your bet slip at 1.13.
By: Craig Simpkin