History says that the champions are not able to repeat the title at the World Cup, that Argentina never beats New Zealand, that Ireland can’t reach the semifinals and that France is one of the contenders in the final every twelve years. All these statistics influenced the results of the matches played during the weekend. The Springboks lost to Australia in a very hard game and won’t defend their crown. Los Pumas were beaten by the All Blacks as everyone expected, and they have not been able to defeat them in fourteen games. The Irish were inferior against Wales and it was the fifth time they fell in the barrier of the quarter finals. And the French went on their way to the final, as in 1987 and 1999, getting rid of England. Thus in the semifinals Wales will face France and New Zealand will battle against Australia.
Wales vs. France
The Dragons showed incredible maturity. It is a very young team and most of their players had never been in a situation like this before and for that reason there were doubts about their performance in such important matches. In the starting lineup against Ireland ten of the players were no more than twenty five years old. Even with that, they were able execute a perfect game plan against an extremely experimented Irish team with several of its members facing the last chance to shine in the World Cup. When the result was a draw, early in the second part, the Welsh were able to pin Ireland inside their 22 and score two tries that decided the match.
Les Bleus defeated a woeful England in a match full of inaccuracies. At half time the French were up 16-0 and in the last forty minutes they simply managed that advantage. The British press attacked the players and called for the resignation of the coach after this fiasco. France did not play a great game, they just took advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. Compared with the group phase, Les Tricolores have improved but they will need something more to beat the confident Welsh.
Keys of the match:
- The fight of the front rows at the scrums
- Roberts and North, two powerful ball carriers against the weak French defensive line
- Wales’ discipline. Yachvili and Parra are very reliable kicking the penalties
- The breakdown duel between the two captains: Dusatoir and Warburton
Australia vs. New Zealand
In a great encounter in Wellington the Wallabies won the game despite being inferior in almost every aspect of the game. They had less possession, they lost the battle of the line-outs and were forced to make three times more tackles than their rivals. However they excelled in defense and in the breakdown where David Pocock cemented his man of the match performance. It was a very hard and physically demanding game that could have been won by either side. The Springboks threw everything they had against the Australian line and played a lot of time in their opponents' half but were unable to materialize their control into points. Credit to Australia because, like Wales, they are a very young team that was able to hold off a very experienced and confident South African team which, midway through the second half, had them against the ropes and was more likely to be victorious. Beating the current champions after so much suffering surely makes them gain confidence.
New Zealand had a more difficult match than originally expected against Argentina. The Argentinians fought bravely and kept the score close until the last ten minutes. They showed that they will be competitive in the Four Nations starting next year. Although Los Pumas failed to reach the semifinals like four years ago they leave the tournament with the satisfaction of seeing the goals achieved. Contepomi, Roncero and Ledesma played their last game at a World Cup and they were overcome with emotion after the final whistle. The All Blacks meanwhile continued their triumphant march and they are the only undefeated team remaining in the championship. Now they face the most difficult match, against an opponent that has beaten them recently. And do not forget that the worst nightmare for local fans is to fall against their neighbors of across the Tasman Sea. The haka promises to be intense.
Keys of the match:
- Check if the Australian front row can withstand the pressure
- The duel between two of the best openside flankers in the rugby world: Pocock and McCaw
- The magic of O’Connor, Beale and Ioane against the raw power of Nonu, Smith and Sonny Bill Williams
- Cooper’s performance. He is not playing very well at the moment
And to end as we started, two more stats. The first one: no team wins the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a match in the group stage. The second: Australia is always the winner when facing New Zealand at the World Cup. Since the All Blacks are the only unbeaten team left in the competition it is impossible for both to be fulfilled this weekend.
BBA Universidad de Cantabria
Carleton University Business Program
Image borrowed from: www.massey.com.au