Rugby World Cup: Quarter Finalists Decided


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It’s New Zealand, versus France, in a World Cup quarter final, in Cardiff. Ok breathe… Right we are cool yeah? Moving on… As we bid farewell to the minnows we hope some of them improve in the intervening four years. Perhaps some of the stronger nations should tour countries England more often to help them improve? The quarter finals offer north v south match-ups across the board with New Zealand favoured to meet Australia in the decider if there are no upsets in the next two games for each team.




Throughout the World Cup in England, and Wales, our wrap will touch on each team with this order showing their final ladder position in the pool stage. For those heading to the quarter finals we also look at their knockout prospects.


Group A


Australia (v Scotland in QF) – Sean McMahon was good against Wales and coach Michael Cheika gets Michael Hooper back from suspension for the quarter final. After the 15-6 win over Wales there are injury concerns for veteran Matt Giteau, fullback Israel Folau and back-rower David Pocock. The Wallabies haven’t conceded more than 13 points in a game this tournament and desperate defending such as what we saw from Adam Ashley-Cooper late against the Welsh should be what carries them to the semi-finals.


Wales (v South Africa in QF) – Another game another injury, as Wales lost by nine points to Australia Liam Williams left the game with a foot injury. Number eight Taulupe Faletau was great and ‘man of the match’ Gareth Davies was solid. Trying to beat this South African side via just a penalty shoot-out courtesy of the #bootofbiggar might not be enough for Warren Gatland’s side. Japan showed the way to go around them in Brighton.


England (qualify directly for RWC 2019) – Rising star Slade scores in rout of Uruguay. It was a headline England coach Stuart Lancaster might have anticipated prior to the World Cup, but he probably didn’t think it would be in their final game of the tournament. A 60-3 triumph in Manchester was cold comfort for the locals who will be watching the knockout phase working out which of their Welsh or Scottish family connections to side with. Lancaster played, again, a different 9,10,12 combination. This one shone but it’s all in context. Would Slade and winger Jack Nowell, who scored a hat-trick, done better if they had played the earlier games? Possibly. But the forward pack which was out-muscled against Australia never gave the backs a chance and Lancaster’s lack of team selection continuity was confounding.


Fiji – After a tournament punctuated by ill-discipline Fiji finally put it all together to win. They did still have a player sanctioned during the game but prop Campese Ma’afu escaped further action after the match for his scrap with Uruguayan scrum half Agustin Ormaecha who saw red after their encounter.


Uruguay – Conceding 15 penalties was always going to make things hard for Uruguay against Fiji but number eight Alejandro Nieto did well in a beaten side. Copping the wrath of England scorned was always going to be tricky and backs Gaston Mieres (fullback) and Rodrgio Silva (fullback) did well with limited chances on attack. The 25 and 22 year-olds, respectively, wouldn’t look out of place in the Argentinian Super Rugby side.


Group B


South Africa (v Wales in QF) – The Boks rounded out their pool play with a 64-0 triumph over the USA but were thoroughly unimpressive until they were awarded a penalty try in the 27th minute. They piled on eight tries in the second half but Heyneke Meyer’s side showed an inability to execute their attack and conceded five penalties in the opening 27 minutes (11 for the match.) Bryan Habana’s three ties does set them up in terms of team confidence though going into the match up against Warren Gatland’s side.


Scotland (v Australia in QF) – Pool B delivered again on Saturday and it was a frenetic opening to the game in Newcastle which eventually saw Scotland confirm a quarter final spot beating Samoa 36-33 after trailing 26-23 at half-time. Gregor Laidlaw’s 13 points in the second half lifted Vern Cotter’s team into a match-up against the Wallabies. With exciting backs like Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour and former Crusader Sean Maitland the Scots have a chance to beat Australia if their forwards fire at the breakdown.


Japan (host nation in 2019, automatic entry) – The first side to win three World Cup pool games in the current format but not advance to the knockout phase, those dastardly bonus points giving Scotland second spot in the pool. Amanaki Mafi should be one of the first players signed by the new Japan/Singapore Super Rugby franchise. The former Tongan junior scored twice at Kingsholm in this tournament and dotted down late as Eddie Jones’ side beat the USA 28-18 on Sunday.


Samoa – Samoa went into the final pool game not been able to make the knockout phase which was a step back from 2011 when a win over South Africa could have put them into the final eight. Should really have been able to see off Scotland and Hurricanes back Rey Lee-Lo was one of the better players on thw weekend.


USA – They did well early against South Africa before getting run off the park 64-0 but they gave themselves a huge chance against Japan to level the game after skipper Chris Wyles late try got the game to within seven points. Samu Manoa enhanced his reputation in this tournament and fly-half Alan MacGinty steered his side around with guile as they chased they game in Gloucester. Still only 25, Dublin-born MacGinty would be a good Super Rugby recruit for a side needing a back-up/fringe fly-half.


Group C


New Zealand (v France in QF) – Similar to South Africa the All Blacks got going in the second half scoring five tries in the second stanza to beat Tonga 47-9 after leading 14-3 at the break. Hurricanes back Nehe Milner-Skudder confirmed himself with a wing spot for the knockout phase with another scintillating performance. Tony Woodcock’s World Cup, and likely his international career, is over after he left the game in Newcastle with a hamstring injury. Richie McCaw will come back into the line-up for the game against France.


Argentina (v Ireland in QF) – Had 36 points up on Namibia by half-time and were arguably the most consistent side in their last pool game of any team headed to the quarter finals. Missed only seven tackles in their 64-19 win in Leicester and Ireland’s injury toll (we will get to that shortly) gives Daniel Hourcade’s side a big chance in the quarter-final. Los Pumas have already beaten South Africa this year and with skipper Agustin Creevy to come back into the starting line-up anything could happen in Cardiff.


Georgia (qualify directly for RWC 2019) – Georgia’s 17-16 triumph over Namibia means they finish third in the pool and gain direct entry for the 2019 edition of the tournament. This will allow Milton Haig and his coaching staff to plan their lead-up with certainty for 2019 in Japan. Oh and in the interim someone in Super Rugby sign Merab Sharikadze the former Hartpury College student is better than division two in France. It’s worth giving the former student of the famed Gloucestershire institution a better option.


Tonga – Despite having 58% of the possession against New Zealand Tonga couldn’t get over the line, although they did have a good argument for a penalty try in the first half when things were tight. Mana Otai’s team finish the tournament with one win and their worst return for a World Cup since 2003 when they didn’t win a game, including a defeat to Canada in Wollongong. Is it fair to propose some Eastern European nations are now stronger than Pacific Island ones? If so it’s happened in under a decade. A great research piece would be ‘why?’


Namibia – Humbled in their final game against Argentina when beaten by 45 points, which was their largest losing margin all tournament. However they have improved on 2011’s edition of the tournament in New Zealand when they lost by an average of 55.25 points. This year’s average losing margin was 26 points and they scored eight tries as well. You can put down some of the margin of defeat in the final game to the absence of retiring skipper Jacques Burger who missed the final game due to concussion protocols after he played only ten minutes against Georgia.  Flanker Wian Conradie has a bright future.


Group D

Ireland (v Argentina in QF) – Whilst the result was notable against France, the first time Ireland had beaten Les Bleus in a World Cup, it couldn’t have been much worse for Joe Schmidt’s side. If losing skipper Paul O’Connell, fly half Jonny Sexton, centre Keith Earls and flanker Peter O’Mahony to injuries during the game in Cardiff wasn’t bad enough Sean O’Brien faces a ban for an inexplicable attack on Pascal Pape. O’Mahony has already been ruled out of playing again in the showpiece and the Irish reserves will need to muster something when called upon. Ian Madigan in particular if Sexton is out.


France (v New Zealand in QF) – Played the penalty see-saw with Ireland until Rob Kearney scored a try in the second half and Ireland skipped clear on the back of a possession (69%) and territory (72%) dominance. France only made paltry 250 metres when carrying the ball and Philippe Saint-Andre must be concerned players like Wesley Fofana aren’t getting a chance to shine in space given the team’s inability to put together phase-play in Ireland’s half.


Italy (qualify directly for RWC 2019) – Like 2011 Italy finish with two pool wins and third in their group but haven’t been able to pull off an upset of the higher tier teams. Jacques Brunel’s side will go through a period of big change post this tournament with Mauro Bergamasco (106 caps) retiring however they have an emerging backline with Perpginan’s Tommaso Allan (fly half) one of three 22 year-olds in the back-line leading that group.


Romania – Centre Florin Vlaicu was the hero against Canada kicking over the winning points but in the defeat in Italy he couldn’t quite muster the same effort. Romania scored two of their three tries in the last ten minutes, which probably speaks to more of the Italian inconsistency


Canada – A hugely disappointing end for Canada after leading against Romania 15-0. Kieran Crowley’s team needs more Jeff Hasler’s after another big effort from the Ospreys winger in the two-point defeat. There biggest problem remains the tyranny of distance, coach Crowley once travelled eight hours to scout a single club game. Maybe the next time Australia and New Zealand tour the USA they could send their B sides to Canada at the same time?


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  1. No Pyke, no Canada?

  2. kath presdee says

    When you look at the RWC15, the interesting stories are the rise of Japan and Georgia over the Pacific Nations. Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will all have to go through the hard way for 2019 – you probably would have thought at least one of Samoa or Tonga would have finished 3rd in their pool (Fiji was always going to struggle).

  3. Hamish Neal says

    That would seem correct Graser and you make a good point Kath. As I suggested in the piece are Eastern European nations, or more specifically Georgia, now ahead of PI nations? Georgia in the Six Nations would be an interesting prospect.

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