South Africa v Wales – Saturday October 17th, 16:00
While South Africa is the bookmakers favorite, the Welsh have proved to be resourceful during the group stage, essentially beating England in the last minutes of the game. They have unfortunately been extremely affected by injuries so far and appeared limited against Australia, unable to turn the game around when Australia was playing with 13 men for 8 minutes. South Africa on the other hand started with a stunning defeat against Japan, which didn’t prevent them from eventually ending up on top of their group in front of Scotland, helped by a favorable calendar and an inspired Bryan Habana currently topping the top tries scored with 5 tries. The Welsh can rely on Dan Biggar to score from anywhere on the pitch though, and modern Rugby is often decided by penalties.
New Zealand v France – Saturday October 17th, 20:00
The French have been unimpressive, but performant, in the group stage, thanks to a bench with experienced players they could bring in to put the cherry on the cake. All eyes and talks are on Michalak, France’s top scorer, finally meeting expectation in being the French team lethal kicking weapon a whole country had hoped for. Against Ireland, French kickers missed 6 points which could have set the French team ahead. The lack of creativity and speed in French attacks observed in previous games became a real problem against the Irish too, as well as the French defense appearing often uncoordinated. Against the mighty All Blacks, this shall hurt. Flying through their group games with little concerns, except a first half against Argentina, it’s hard to find weaknesses in this team so far. Dan Carter did miss 3 out of 4 conversion kicks against Georgia in the first half, though we can expect him to be at his top at this stage of the tournament. New Zealand may have had the easiest of all groups and may lack of a reference game against a northern hemisphere team, it’s hard to see a scenario where France would win this game, though they’ve been able to beat the All Blacks twice in recent history in a world cup game, and falling short of beating them in last world cup final in France.
Ireland v Argentina – Sunday October 18th, 13:00
Heroic against the All Blacks, with a playful and enthusiastic rugby through all the group stage games, the Argentinian Pumas have impressed observers and are not a surprise at this stage of the competition. They will create all sorts of problems for the Irish team, who lost key players in the physical intensity of the game against France in Cardiff, including their captain Paul O’Connell, while their star scorer Jonathan Sexton will be in a race against time to be fit for the quarter finals. Ireland, winners of the Six Nations earlier this year, have ended their group stage very strong with an important victory against France, especially in second half when they scored 2 tries and outplayed the French team, who couldn’t complete more than 3 phases of possession until losing the ball. The Irish team seems set to deliver one of their best World Cup performance of their history, should they find the solutions against the Argentinian dynamic Rugby.
Australia v Scotland – Sunday October 18th, 16:00
This one seems already sorted, we hardly see how the Australians, who displayed top form since the start of the Rugby World Cup could be facing any difficulty against Scotland. Both England and Wales can attest of the level of performance the Wallabies are currently playing at, with physicality, technique and speed, coordinated in both attack and defense. If any weakness, they often display borderline aggressivity and were often punished by yellow cards throughout the tournament. Can the Scottish make use of their numeric superiority and score important points, should Australia continue with the same trend? Neither England or Wales were able to turn the game when they had the opportunity, but the Scottish may have learned from both these games and found out where to push to hurt an undisciplined Australian team.