Thursday, 24 October 2019
Rugby World Cop 2019: Semi-Finals Preview
And then there were four - although admittedly not the four that I forecasted last week.
My fears last weekend that an undercooked England would succumb to a fired-up Australia proved to be unfounded, largely thanks to a magnificent defensive shift put in by the English and the "just chuck it about and see what happens" strategy adopted by Michael Cheika's men. England ran out deserved winners but will need to crank it up another level or two this weekend if they are to match the All Blacks who were at their clinical and ruthless best against a lacklustre Ireland last time out.
England vs the All Blacks should be one heck of a test match but, although my heart says England, I'm afraid my head is saying New Zealand by 9. Here's hoping that I'm as accurate as I was for England's quarter-final.
As for the other semi-final, Wales are going to have to show a massive improvement from their frankly awful performance against France if they are to make their first ever World Cup final. I'm afraid I just don't buy the "they've forgotten how to lose" and "somehow they found a way to win" rhetoric. The only reason Wales are in the semi-final is that the quarter-final was handed to them by Sebastian Vahaamahina's idiocy. And even then they needed a decidedly dodgy decision from Jaco Peyper to seal it.
As for South Africa - they played the role of party-pooper against Japan with a ruthless intensity and I'd expect more of the same vs Wales. The Springboks will undoubtedly, however, miss the electrifying talent of the injured Cheslin Kolbe but Wales will need a fully fit and firing Jonathan Davies back in the team if they are to stand a chance of progressing further.
That said, before the tournament started I thought the most likely outcome would be a New Zealand vs South Africa final and, sad to say, I've seen nothing to convince me otherwise. South Africa to therefore beat Wales by 7+.