by Ian Taplin, Academy Performance Manager, Wasps RFC

Well the unthinkable happened and England were sent tumbling out of their own World Cup and are now left to watch as the showpiece event continues whilst the host nation looks to pick a second team to support through the knockout stages. Ironically in a tournament that as seen the tier two nations perform at an un precedented level non have made it through to the quarter finals.

The last eight sees an even split between Northern and Southern Hemisphere teams with each rubber featuring a north v south contest. So who is going to make it to the last four and maintain their hopes of securing the biggest prize in the sport.

Wales v South Africa
The Springboks could not have started the tournament in a ore underwhelming manner with the defeat to Japan but they have come back to their hard running abrasive ball carrying best and have found a balance in their selections that means they now have what every team wants going into the sudden death stages, momentum. Wales have been decimated by injuries and will have to dig deep to halt the South Africans charge to the Semi-Finals. Wales though pride themselves on their defence and will believe if they can stay in the game that they can create a try scoring opportunity and rely on the metronomic accuracy of Dan Biggar to punish Springbok indiscipline.

VERDICT - South Africa by 8

New Zealand v France
Les Bleus were a shadow of the side that displayed a hard edge with the indomitable dash of French flair in their defeat in the final pool game to Ireland. That though does not mean they will not have the game of their against the All Blacks whom they have a habit of saving their best for. New Zealand have not yet hit top gear and will be confident that they will be able to subdue the French as across the board they have too much in almost every department. The one are that the French have the edge is in unpredictability, and this will be the biggest concern for the All Blacks.

VERDICT - New Zealand by 10

Australia v Scotland
The Scottish team would that set their target to reach the quarter final and this was seen by the selection of what was termed by the media as a second string team for the game with South Africa in order to focus on the final pool game with Samoa. The strategy paid off as the narrowly defeated the South Sea Islanders but the challenge of the form team of the tournament in Australia awaits. Michael Cheika has turned the underperforming Wallabies around and they have now added a highly effective tight game to their ball playing backs which makes them a very difficult proposition.

VERDICT - Australia by 13

Ireland v Argentina
The Irish will be full of confidence following the victory over France which seems them take the so called easier passage into the knock out stages. Avoiding the All Blacks is certainly the preferred choice of all teams at this stage but the Pumas have proved that they are a genuine threat and will believe that they have the complete game to stretch Ireland to breaking point. The Irish have improved slowly and will feel that this is there best chance to reach the last four. The loss of talismanic captain Paul O'Connell is significant but not as telling as potentially losing Jonny Sexton, there will be many concerned Irish supporters sweating over the stand offs fitness.

VERDICT - Argentina by 6

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