Japan will be hoping to spring another surprise and beat the Springboks. Photo: EPA
Japan will be hoping to spring another surprise and beat the Springboks. Photo: EPA

Be careful, these rugby underdogs are sneaky

By Mike Greenaway Time of article published Oct 18, 2019

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The World Rugby rankings have pretty much got it right in that the top eight in the world make up this weekend’s World Cup quarter-finalists, and all four games promise to be absolute crackers.

Also, while each quarter has a clear favourite, it is perfectly feasible that the underdog in each game could win.

No team is a runaway favourite, with the biggest odds at the bookies favouring the Springboks to beat Japan (around 5-1), and New Zealand are fractionally less favoured to beat Ireland.

France versus Wales is predicated to be a closer affair, as is England v Australia.

The latter game I find the most intriguing in that the English have been getting rave reviews for some time now, particularly since they smashed Ireland to smithereens a few months back - although we now know that Ireland are a team in decline anyway - while the Wallabies haven’t so much as been mentioned in dispatches at this World Cup in Japan.

I just feel the Aussies are a brave team who never go away, and they always manage to pull themselves together at World Cups.

They were not a good side at the 2015 tournament, for example, yet they scrapped their way into the final.

Regarding the Japan quarter-final, the Boks are quite rightly the favourites given their superior firepower, and the sensible predictions unanimously favour the South Africans, but at the same time nobody would be overly surprised if the Japanese fairytale continues on Sunday.

The tsunami of patriotism sweeping the Land of the Rising Sun might just propel the national team to another upset.

Ireland in recent years have beaten New Zealand twice and also managed a draw, so the capability is there but what has been missing at this World Cup is the famous Irish mojo.

But if somehow a switch is flicked and the Paddy Power is ignited, the Kiwis could be surprised.

Unlikely, but hardly impossible.

Of the four quarter-final match-ups, I think the Welsh have the best chance of going through.

They should dispatch the temperamental French with relative ease.

An interesting question ahead of the quarter-finals is how the teams that did not play a final pool game because of the typhoon will fare in terms of hitting their straps.

Will they be undercooked?

Cheslin Kolbe will be a key player for the Springboks against Japan. Photo: Kyodo News via AP

The only quarter in which both teams played all their games is Japan v South Africa.

The English, French and All Blacks all had their last pool game cancelled, while their respective opponents all played.

But who is worse off? The teams that played last week or the teams that missed out?

The All Blacks reportedly played a full-scale match between themselves, and the England camp apparently have had some hot-tempered contact sessions, but is it the same as the real thing?

Do the Boks have an advantage in that they go into the play-offs with nice momentum and no ring rust?

We should get some answers this weekend.


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