The quarter-final stage is where the tournament really kicks off for me. Other than the teams who fought it out in the ‘Pool of Death’, the quarter-finals are the first real challenge that many of the dominant rugby nations will experience.
For the match between Australia and Scotland, their quarter-final face-off will be one to watch for sure.
On paper, Scotland’s pool play went as everyone expected, winning three of their four games with a few bonus points here and there. However, what they probably weren’t expecting was that the Japanese would do exactly the same; making their final match against Samoa a real do-or-die game.
By coming within a drop goal of missing out on the quarter-finals, the Scots will be looking for redemption in their match against Australia but are unlikely to come out with the win. Its not that the Scots will be doing anything ‘wrong,’ but it’s just that the Australians are doing so much ‘right.’
The Australian side are looking pretty slick at this stage and have become many peoples pick to take out the tournament altogether. With an almost backwards tournament, having their toughest challenges in pool play, and a relatively comfortable quarter and predicted semifinal, the Australians may as well book their hotel for the finals already.
Their form has been impressive to say the least and pose a real threat to any side they might encounter. A brilliant scrum, ability to win the turnover and a few playmakers here and there will give the Aussies confidence to go all the way.
The loose forward combination of Pocock and Hooper has been incredibly successful for the Australians, and Bernard Foley has been playing consistently out of his skin every game thus far. Combine this with the already fierce back line, packed with playmakers galore, anything short of a 14 point victory for the Wallabies will be surprising.
However, recent news that Pocock and Israel Folau are out for this weekends clash mean that the Aussies are without two of their key men.
For Pocock, Ben McCalman comes in as the replacement. While McCalman doesn’t possess the world class rucking abilities of Pocock, he’s still a handy threat on the field having scored two tries in the three games he’s played at this World Cup. Not a bad effort for a player who was coming off the bench, replacing one of the best in the world, and doing it all in the ‘Pool of Death.’
Still, the Wallabies will miss their star back-rower and the loss of Israel Folau out wide leaves a hole in the Australian backline.
However, this is a do-or-die match, and the Wallabies don’t need to win it by 30+. With the forward pack still remaining as strong as it has been throughout the pool stages, and with Foley and Giteau playing the tournament’s of their lives, its hard seeing Aussie being challenged significantly in this one.
Yes, the Scots have the ability to topple the Aussies, and on a good day they might just do that. But all things equal, they will most likely fall short.
If the Wallabies can do the business, that puts them just one win away from a potential World Cup final against the All Blacks, a circumstance that has never occurred in rugby history.
Considering the blood between the two teams this year – Australia winning the Rugby Championship and defeating the All Blacks in Sydney – it could be one of the best sporting events of the year!