The 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals start on Saturday with England and Australia renewing a decades-old rivalry and Ireland looking to upset New Zealand and turn the tournament upside down.
England vs. Australia – Ota Stadium, Ota
The first match of the quarter-final round sees Pool C winner England taking on Pool D runner up Australia. England defeated the USA, Argentina, and Tonga to get to this point, with their match against France being recorded as a 0-0 draw because of Typhoon Hagibis. Australia defeated Fiji, Uruguay, and Georgia, but lost their pool deciding clash with Wales.
The big news out of the England camp is that Billy Vunipola made it through the final training session for this clash. The hard-charging No. 8 is a vital part of the England team, with Eddie Jones having no like-for-like replacement a part of his 31-man squad. Vunipola’s fitness boost means that England are expected to name an unchanged team to the one that beat Argentina last time out, with George Ford at 10 and Owen Farrell at 12 acting as dual-playmakers.
Australia have struggled at times this World Cup due to a lack of control at the No. 10 position. It feels like coach Michael Cheika doesn’t know who his best option is at the pivot position – a crazy thing when you consider he has had a full four-year cycle to figure it out – with the team using four different playmakers last time out against Georgia. Look for Matt Toomua to play as the No. 10 in the best form right now.
Best Bet – It is hard to underestimate the advantage England gained by not having to play France. Their players are fresh and rested, having really just played one game all tournament so far where they have even been remotely tested. Even that game – against Argentina – was essentially over after 20 minutes due to a red card. Australia have been scrappy, but England will be way too good for them here. Take England -8.5 at 0.95 with BetXchange.
New Zealand vs Ireland – Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
New Zealand beat South Africa in their opening game thanks to a stunning 10-minute spell just before half-time. They cruised after that game with wins over Namibia and Canada before Typhoon Hagibis forced the cancelation of their game against Italy and saw them win the pool with just three games played. Ireland beat Scotland and were looking good for top spot in Pool A before hosts Japan upset them and turned the pool on its head. Ireland finished second in that pool to set up this clash.
We got a preview of the preferred starting XV for Ireland last time out against Samoa. In Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton the Irish have one of the best halfback pairings in the world and both will need to be at their best for any shot at an upset on Saturday. The Irish will also need huge games from their back rowers, with Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander needing to be menaces both at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
The biggest boost for New Zealand – as if they needed one – is that talismanic lock Brodie Retallick has returned to fitness in time to be considered for this matchup. He is expected to start alongside Luke Whitelock in the second row, with Scott Barrett entering the game from the bench. Beauden Barrett will again get to cause his damage from the fullback position, slotting into first receiver whenever he is needed.
Best Bet – The interest here comes from the fact that Ireland have won two out of their last three matches against the All Blacks. The problem is that they seem to have peaked too early this World Cup cycle, being dominant in 2018 and vulnerable in 2019. The defeat against Japan – while a shock – showed New Zealand exactly how to beat Ireland with quick ruck ball and defensive line speed. Take New Zealand -11.5 at 0.90 with BetXchange.