Rugby World Cup Quarterfinals Preview
Japan, Tokyo–The story of the 2019 Rugby World Cup so far has been more about high tackles than classic upsets, despite Ireland’s Bundee Aki being the only player to miss the knockout stages through suspension.
The quarterfinals will make for excellent viewing, with England taking on Australia for a joint-record seventh time at a World Cup, before Ireland look to stun world No. 1 side New Zealand — a title that they proclaimed themselves when entering the tournament.
Meanwhile, Wales face France before hosts Japan will look to continue their unlikely run by repeating history to topple South Africa — who they beat at the previous edition of the tournament in 2015.
Read ahead for team lists and previews.
Saturday, 19 Oct. 2019
England vs. Australia, Oita Bank Dome, Oita (Kickoff: Saturday, 1am MDT–Where to Watch: NBC Sports Network)
England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Courntey Lawes, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia; Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Alan Alaalatoa, Tolu Latu, Scott Sio.
Replacements: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Matt To’omua, James O’Connor.
Head-to-head record: England 24 wins, Australia 25 wins, one draw.
Verdict: England coach Eddie Jones said before the World Cup that he wanted his team to crescendo in their performances as they go deeper into the tournament. Everything has gone to plan so far for England, who have put together three bonus-point victories, but now comes the time to up the ante as they head into the quarterfinals.
They will be well-rested after their match against France was canceled due to Typhoon Higibis, and face an as yet underwhelming Australia side who have lost their last six games against England and are yet to really turn it on in Japan.
That being said, Michael Cheika will have the Wallabies raring to go against familiar foes in what could be a closely-fought affair.
Tip: England by 3.
New Zealand vs. Ireland, Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo (Kickoff: Saturday, 4am MDT–Where to Watch: NBC Sports Gold)
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.
Head-to-head record: New Zealand 28 wins, Ireland 2 wins, one draw.
Verdict: New Zealand is now undefeated in 18 World Cup games as they look to win their third consecutive title. Most of the All Blacks’ rugby in Japan thus far has seen them blow out much weaker opposition, but their tournament-opening victory over South Africa should be enough to scare Ireland.
The All Blacks look as well-drilled and organized as you’d expect them to be and Ireland, who were upset by hosts Japan earlier this month, will likely find it hard to keep up.
But can history repeat itself? Ireland have been a bogey team for the All Blacks in recent times, recording their only two victories over New Zealand in the past three contests in as many years.
Tip: New Zealand by 10.
Sunday, 20 Oct. 2019
Wales vs. France, Oita Bank Dome, Oita (Kickoff: Sunday, 1am MDT–Where to Watch: NBC Sports Gold)
Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Aaron Wainwright, Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Wyn Jones.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Aaron Shingler, Ross Moriarty, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.
France: Maxime Medard, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Gregorie Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Wenceslas Lauret, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Bernard Le Roux, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado, Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: Camille Chat, Cyril Baille Emerick Setiano, Paul Gabrillagues, Louis Picamoles, Baptiste Serin, Camille Lopez, Vincent Rattez.
Head-to-head record: Wales 50 wins, France 44 wins, 3 draws.
Verdict: The 2019 Grand Slam champions fended off a late charge from Australia earlier on in the tournament and could be in much of the same position against France. Centre Jonathan Davies and fly-half Dan Biggar have been given the all-clear to return, and against a France side that looks far from the team that made the final back in 2011. If Wales can keep it together and stay disciplined, they should book a place in the semifinals.
Tip: Wales by 10.
Japan vs. South Africa, Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo (Kickoff: Sunday, 4am MDT–Where to Watch: NBC Sports Network)
Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch (capt.), James Moore, Luke Thompson, Jiwon Koo, Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki
Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Wimpie van der Walt, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Lomano Lava Lemeki.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Loedwyk De Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Malcom Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, rancois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn.
Head-to-head record: Japan one win, South Africa one win.
Verdict: Japan stunned, literally shocked, South Africa 34-32 in the 2015 World Cup, and they’ll be looking to do more of the same this time around. The hosts have already topped Pool A against the odds after upsetting Ireland 19-12 earlier in the tournament. If anyone doubted the ability of this Japan side, their commanding performance against Scotland was enough to make people take notice.
South Africa are the better side and should run out comfortable winners and will arrive as favourites — but maybe that’s where Japan are at their most dangerous.
Tip: South Africa by 9.
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