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
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 anti as they head into the quarterfinals.
They will be well-rested after their match against France was cancelled 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: TBA
Head-to-head record: New Zealand 28 wins, Ireland 2 wins, one draw.
Verdict: New Zealand are 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 organised 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 (4:15pm local, 5:15 pm AEST, 8.15am BST)
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.
South Africa: TBA
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.