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The path to the Rugby World Cup final: Quarterfinalists settled

The twenty teams that started the Rugby World Cup have become eight quarterfinalists.

All the remaining sides have shown that they cannot be discounted and we are set for four tantalizing knockout encounters.

RWC Quarterfinal 1 – England vs Australia Oita Stadium 19 October 09:15

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and his England counterpart have already had the first media tête-à-tête.

Cheika responded to Jones comments regarding the cancellation of England’s final pool match due to Typhoon Hagibis by saying the Roses ‘better win.’ Jones had claimed the typhoon gods were smiling on England.

“I saw he was saying that that would be an advantage and that the typhoon gods were smiling on them so I suppose they better win,” he said in response to Jones’ comments.

“They’ve had the best preparation according to the coach so they better go out there and win if that’s the best possible preparation.

“We’ll see how we go.”

Australia have had a far from ideal preparation themselves, struggling to cope with refereeing strictness surrounding high tackles.

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KOBE, JAPAN – SEPTEMBER 26: Elliot Daly of England is tackled by Blaine Scully of USA during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group C game between England and USA at Kobe Misaki Stadium on September 26, 2019 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The Wallabies have not beaten England since the 2015 World Cup. In 2016 Jones masterminded a historic England whitewash of the Wallabies in Australia.

The last three Tests between the two nations were all played at Twickenham and ended in resounding victories for England.

Cheika is correct in saying that England ‘better win’, because they are clear favourites. Australia’s set-piece proficiency and fierce scrapping at the breakdown make them a challenging side to put away, though, provided their discipline doesn’t let them down again. 

The Wallabies won’t lack for motivation but history is against them having lost both their previous RWC quarterfinals against England.

This match has the potential to turn into a set-piece arm wrestle and the kicking game will be very important. England should prove superior with the boot and Bernard Foley’s big match temperament will be tested.

Prediction: England to progress

The winner of the first quarterfinal will face the daunting task of tackling the winners of the All Blacks battle with Ireland.

RWC Quarterfinal 2 – New Zealand vs Ireland Tokyo Stadium 19 October 12:15

This wasn’t the quarterfinal either side would have wanted, but the All Blacks date with Ireland is an exciting prospect for the neutral.

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland have had Steve Hansen’s All Black’s number in recent times. Ireland won two of the last three meetings between the two sides, but those two wins are their only Test triumphs over the All Blacks. In 31 meetings the All Blacks have recorded 28 wins and endured a single draw.

The All Blacks effectively sealed top spot in their group with their opening victory over the Springboks, but a match with Ireland doesn’t seem like much reward.

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Kieran Read of New Zealand appeals to referee Jerome Garces during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between New Zealand and South Africa at International Stadium Yokohama on September 21, 2019 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Schmidt may have helped conquer the All Blacks twice before, but he is under no illusions as to how tough the task facing his charges will prove.

“You have to be at your very best to have a chance,” he said after Ireland’s 47-5 win over Samoa. “The All Blacks are a team you can play at your best and still not get the result. They were not world number one for ten years and are not back-to-back World Cup winners for no reason.

“For us it would be a mountain to climb, but after tonight the lads got their boots on and got a few crampons out and have taken a little bit of an ascent. The whole thing gets steeper next week and if it is the All Blacks we will look to scale those heights.”  

New Zealand will have had a longer break from play between matches after their final pool match against Italy was cancelled. 

Ireland will need a mammoth effort if they are to progress beyond the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

Prediction: The All Blacks crush Ireland’s dream

Either Australia or England await the winner of the second Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.

Quarterfinal 3 – Wales vs France Oita Stadium 20 October 09:15

Of all the group winners Wales will likely be happiest with their opponents, who are an inconsistent France team that probably should have lost to Argentina in the Pool stage.

Warren Gatland’s team will need to be wary of the threat posed by the tricolour but Jaques Brunel’s men are far from the form team of the Rugby World Cup.

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Wales’ wing Hallam Amos knocks on the ball as he dives for he try area during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Wales and Uruguay at the Kumamoto Stadium in Kumamoto on October 13, 2019. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP)

France might benefit from the cancellation of their match against England, which had the potential to be a morale-sapping defeat.

Wales have laid claim to be welcomed back into World Rugby’s elite but to do so they will need to put down the French who seem to thrive on being written off.

The Dragons winger Josh Adams is the Rugby World Cup’s leading try-scorer after the group stage but Wales still have some way to go to prove themselves as contenders for the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Prediction: Dragons against roosters, Wales might fancy a cheeky Nando’s

The winners of this quarterfinal can expect a massive step-up in intensity in the last four as they are bracketed to face the winners of the Japan vs Springboks match.

Quarterfinal 4 – Japan vs South Africa Tokyo Stadium 20 October 12:15

Japan were sensational in sealing top spot in their group in an emotionally charged clash with Scotland and will pose a significant threat to the Springboks.

As impressive as the Brave Blossoms have been the Springboks seem to have been handed a lucky break. By finishing second in their group, they have secured a knockout path on what is arguably the weaker side of the draw.

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Japan’s players celebrate winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Scotland at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 13, 2019. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

The Springboks overpowered Japan in a Warm-up match ahead of the Rugby World Cup but Jamie Joseph’s side have gathered a lot of momentum through the group stage and are playing awesome rugby.

As a contest, much will depend on the match-up between Japan’s quick hands and the Boks rush defence. In that warm-up, Japan weren’t slick enough to expose the onrushing Boks out wide. However, Japan have since improved their sharpness and the pressure will be on the Springboks to make the most of what appears to be a slice of luck.

Japan cannot afford to try to match the Springboks physicality but they will challenge the mobility of an often suspect defence.

Prediction: Springboks to play party pooper

The winner of this match will face either Wales or France for a place in the semi-finals.

If everything runs according to predictions, we should see the All Black play England in one semifinal and the Springboks face Wales in the other but anything could happen with just three matches between these teams and Rugby World Cup glory.

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