This coming weekend sees the Rugby World Cup reach the most exciting stage of the tournament yet. Of the 20 teams that started, now just four remain as England take on New Zealand in the first World Cup Semifinal, and then on Sunday, Wales face South Africa with all four teams with their eyes on a place in next week’s final.
The tournament has been a huge success in Japan with the host nation surpassing all expectations to win Group A, eliminating Scotland in the process. Not even Hurricane Hagibis blowing in managed to put a dampener on the tournament, although it did cause the postponement of three ties and meant that a number of teams could not fulfil all their fixtures in the group stage.
After last weekend’s dynamic quarterfinals, which saw Wales edge out a narrow win over France, South Africa put paid to Japan’s hopes of an unlikely success and both England and New Zealand rack up big wins over Australia and Ireland respectively, this weekend’s action promises to be even more exciting.
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World Cup Semi Finals
England v New Zealand (Saturday 9am UK Time)
England Tournament Progress
Group C – Winners
- England 35-3 Tonga
- England 45 – 7 United States
- England 39 – 10 Argentina
- England 0-0 France (postponed due to Hurricane Hagibis)
- England 40-16 Australia
England started their World Cup in relatively sedate fashion. A comfortable win over Tonga was followed by another over the United States, but in both games, England made a fair few mistakes and it was clear that they still had to kick things up another gear or two if they were to make an impression later on in the tournament.
A better performance in defeating Argentina 39-10 meant England would qualify for the next round but the game with France, which would have decided the group, was cancelled due to the hurricane, and with England leading by points difference, they topped the group and moved on to a quarterfinal with Australia.
That game was played last week and saw England produce by far their best performance of the tournament with a fantastic 40-16 win over the Australians, a victory which earned them a place in the semifinals against the current World Champions.
New Zealand Tournament Progress
Group B – Winners
- New Zealand 23-13 South Africa
- New Zealand 63-0 Canada
- New Zealand 71-9 Namibia
- New Zealand 0-0 Italy (postpoined due to Hurricane Hagibis)
- New Zealand 46-14 Ireland
Following New Zealand’s fine 23-13 win over South Africa in one of the best games of the tournament so far, it was always going to be the case that the All Blacks won Group B and so it proved as they racked up comfortable wins in their next two games with Canada and Namibia.
The game with Italy was one of the fixtures that was postponed due to the hurricane, but it didn’t matter as the All Blacks were still comfortable winners in the group and they would face the runner’s up in Group A, who, surprisingly thanks to Japan’s great form, were Ireland.
This was meant to be a big test for the All Blacks but they produced another superb performance to earn a comfortable 46-14 victory and earn their spot in the semifinals.
My Tip for the Game
New Zealand start this game as the clear favourites with the bookmakers and it is not difficult to see why. They are the current holders, having won this trophy on both the last two occasions it was contested and they beat England back in the winter of 2018. However, as Australia and South Africa have proved this year, they can be beaten and England are looking like they are hitting top form at just the right time. This should be a very close one and I can see just a couple of points deciding it either way. If any team can get more than a 7 point lead at any point that could be decisive. I am going all patriotic though here and backing England to pull off a shock win at odds of 5/2.
Wales v South Africa (Sunday 9am UK TIme)
Wales Tournament Progress
Group D – Winners
- Wales 43-14 Georgia
- Wales 29-25 Australia
- Wales 29-17 Fiji
- Wales 35-13 Uruguay
- Wales 20-19 France
Wales began the World Cup with a solid performance against Georgia, although there were a couple of defensive worries on show for Warren Gatland’s team. They then produced their best display of the tournament so far to beat Australia, a result which put them in pole position in Group D.
Wins over Fiji and Uruguay where expected but perhaps showed some more defensive frailties and France threatened to expose that in the quarterfinal when they led 19-13 late into the game. However a red card for an elbow on a Welsh player reduced France to 14 men and in the last gasps of the game Wales snatched the win to earn that coveted semifinal spot.
South Africa Tournament Progress
Group B – Runners Up
- South Africa 13-23 New Zealand
- South Africa 57-3 Namibia
- South Africa 49-3 Italy
- South Africa 66-7 Canada
- South Africa 26-3 Japan
After going down to a hard fought defeat to New Zealand in their opener, South Africa knew that winning their group was unlikely but that they would also have to battle hard to secure second place in the group.
They did precisely that, racking up positive wins over Namibia, Italy and Canada with three very convincing victories to set up a semifinal against the tournament hosts and surprise team Japan, who had eliminated Scotland to finish top of Group A in the opening phase.
Despite things being tight early on, South Africa used their power and skill at the maul and breakdown to hurt Japan and record a fine victory to ease them into a semifinal against the Welsh.
My Tip for the Game
South Africa were superb against Japan in their last game and their defence is stronger than Wales. But I also feel that Wales have a real chance of scoring more points than their southern hemisphere opponents. Like the first semifinal, I think if any team can establish a 10 point or better lead, that could be crucial here and while I can’t see one team running away with it, I am going to buck the trend here and say that Wales will snatch the win at 13/5 with bet365.