If we lose on Saturday, we’re going home. –All Blacks captain Keiran Read
The fantastic Japanese!
By Roger Childs
The Pool play is over and we are now down to last eight. Seven of these qualifiers were predictable, but not the eighth. You could have earned big money betting on Japan to win all four Pool games, and beat Ireland and Scotland along the way.
Kiwi coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown has done a great job in moulding the Brave Blossoms into a very competitive team capable of beating anyone on their day. Their defence is excellent, the scrummaging is solid, and on attack they show flair, speed and variation. Above all their fitness levels are the envy of other teams, and their victory over the Irish was partly because their more experienced opponents were run off their feet.
The Brave Blossoms finished their Pool matches with an exciting 28-21 win over the Scots. The latter created controversy when they bellyached about the possibility of that game being cancelled because of Typhoon Hugibis. While people were dying and being injured, and thousands of buildings were being destroyed, the insensitive Scottish rugby authorities were getting upset over not playing their final Pool match.
Tough one for the All Blacks
They probably expected to be playing Scotland rather than Ireland, however to win the World Cup you must beat the top teams. The coaches would have been disappointed when the final Pool match against Italy was cancelled as a number of players needed more game time, especially star lock Brodie Retallick.
Nevertheless, the New Zealanders will not be overawed or complacent. The All Blacks have lost two of the four previous matches against Ireland and know that they need to be less predictable than they were in the two defeats. They will want to keep the game moving quickly with the aim of working to their strengths – speed to the loose ball, fast three quarters, rapid backing up of the ball carrier, strategic kicking and a powerful bench.
The secret of success in rugby is to keep the opposition guessing.
My quarter finalist picks are England, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand
However, the other four teams are all capable of winning and making the semi-finals. One thing is certain, there will be some exciting rugby over the weekend and one hopes that the standard of refereeing improves and that dishing out cards is at a minimum.