It began on 20th September 2019 with 20 teams but we are now left with 4 teams all vying to be Rugby world cup champions on 2nd November. This year’s world cup tournament was the first one to be held in Asia and outside tier 1 countries.
From the host Japan’s surprising run from the pool stage to the quarter-finals to England’s impressive win over Australia, this year’s tournament has been full of intrigue, shocks and drama despite the disruption of the tournament by Typhoon Hagibis which led to the cancellation of three pool stage matches. We now have New Zealand versus England and Wales versus South Africa to determine this year’s finalists. We take a look at the semi-finalists’ journey from the pool stage to the semi-finals and what we can expect from these teams ahead of the semi-final games on Saturday, 26th October 2019.
New Zealand VS. England
New Zealand arrived at this tournament as pre-tournament favorites and are two-time defending champions on a quest for their third Rugby World Cup glory and currently boasts of 203 points in the tournament. They take on an England team who are by far the toughest tests New Zealand has faced so far in the tournament. They were drawn in Pool B with South Africa, Italy, Namibia and Canada before the tournament. They began the tournament with a 23-13 points victory over fellow semi-finalists South Africa in a match which George Bridge and Scott Barrett scored two tries in 4 minutes in an impressive performance which saw the “All Blacks” lead 17-10 at half-time. They recorded their second victory in their next game with a 63-point demolition over Canada at Ōita Stadium in a match which saw Brad Weber score his first two tries in International Rugby with the Barrett brothers (Jordie, Beauden and Scott) each scoring a try and became the first trio of brothers to start for New Zealand. In their third game, they beat Namibia who eventually finished fourth in the Pool with a 62-point win in Chōfu. Sevu Reece, Ben Smith and Anton Lienert-Brown all scored two tries each in the match. Their final pool game against Italy was cancelled as a result of Typhoon Hagibis. As a result, they advanced to the quarter-finals as pool B winners and unbeaten in the Pool stage. They then went on to beat Pool A runners-up Ireland 46-14 at the Tokyo Stadium with Aaron Smith being instrumental in the win after scoring two of New Zealand’s seven tries.
On head-to-head, New Zealand have recorded 33 wins against England who only boast of 7 wins against the New Zealanders. England might prove a big challenge but with a very good team, New Zealand can be very confident going into the match as “favourites” to walk over England and move a step closer to another World Cup trophy.
England were drawn in Pool C alongside France, Argentina, Tonga and the United States and emerged as winners of Pool C. They kicked off their tournament with a bonus-point victory over Tonga with Manu Tuilagi scoring two tries in the match. They then followed up their win over Tonga with an impressive 38-point win over the United States, with Joe Cokanasiga scoring two tries in a match which produced the first red card of the tournament with United States’ John Quill on the receiving end after a shoulder charge to the head of England’s Owen Farrell. England qualified to the quarter-final with a 39-10 victory against Argentina in a match which was marred by Tomás Lavanini’s red card which reduced the Argentines to 14 men after a shoulder charge to the head of England’s Owen Farrell. Their final Pool game against France was cnacelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. They beat Australia 40-16 points to book a spot in the semi-finals with the match highlights being Johnny May’s two tries and the 18 turnovers Australia conceded which led to two more tries being scored.
England face an uphill battle to beat New Zealand and progress to the final but after eliminating another pre-tournament “favourites”, Australia, Eddie Jones’ team will be ready.
Wales VS. South Africa
Wales were drawn in Pool D alongside Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay and emerged as surprise winners of the Pool. They started the tournament with a 43-14 victory in a game they led 29-0 at half-time and 22-0 after 3 tries in the first 19 minutes. They faced Australia in their next game and beat the Australians 29-25 in a nervy game which saw Wales’ Dan Biggar score the fastest drop goal in Rugby World Cup history. They subsequently beat Fiji 29-17 and Uruguay 35-13 to gain a bonus-victory and set up a quarter-final clash with France which they won 20-19.
Wales are considered by many as “Dark horses” in this tournament. Warren Gatland’s side have not been impressive so far and will need to raise their game if they are to beat South Africa.
South began the tournament in Pool B with New Zealand, Italy, Namibia and Canada. They lost their first match 23-13 to New Zealand and beat Namibia by 54 points in their second match, scoring nine tries. They went on to beat Italy in their next game 49-3 in Fukuroi with Cheslin Kolbe scoring two tries. They wrapped up the pool stage a 66-7 victory over Canada with Cobus Reinach scoring the fastest hat-trick in World Cup history, with three tries within 11 minutes which saw them finish as Pool B runners-up and meet Host nation Japan who they beat in a 3-26 point match.
South Africa were slow starters but quickly recovered to reach this stage and definitely pose a major challenge for Wales.
The stakes could not be much higher at this point and all the semi-final games are certainly going to thrill fans with exciting and provide nerve-racking moments.