Rugby Union

Rugby World Cup: Round Four Preview

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In the final week of the World Cup Group stages, teams will all want to end on a high. Some looking for their first wins, others looking to make statements, and several looking to ensure top place in the Pool. Here is a preview of what to expect from the last matches before the quarter-finals:

South Africa Vs USA

Unlike what they would have planned, South Africa still have a job to do to finish top of the group. As the first game of the round for Pool B, The Boks may not need a bonus point after their demolition of Scotland but they will want one anyway. If they continue their upward trend of the tournament so far that will be the result.

Possibly no team in the world can handle the full force of the South Africans when they lay simple, direct rugby. USA may have one eye on Japan just four days later as a better chance for victory, but given this Pool so far, all bets are off.


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Namibia Vs Georgia

Namibia have their best chance to post their first ever World Cup win. They have already beaten their personal best for tries scored this tournament, and have acquitted themselves well. Georgia, however, have been one of the stand out overachievers in 2015 beating an excellent Tonga outfit, and pushing both Argentina and New Zealand extremely hard. Their size and top-flight experience will probably be enough to see them over the line.

New Zealand Vs Tonga

New Zealand have been declining with every game. That is the alarming trend that Steve Hansen's men will be desperate to stamp out this weekend. It will be no small task against Tonga who showed the sort of the talent they have in an awesome clash with Argentina.

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Their front row has gone well (when on the pitch) while their back row has caused problems in every match. If they can kick more goals than in their last match there is a good chance they will stay with New Zealand for most of the game. And if New Zealand turn over as much possession as they did against Georgia, World Cup 2015 could see another enormous upset.

Samoa Vs Scotland

Samoa have nothing to lose, and Scotland everything to gain. They will escape the group with a win here, but Samoa will be smarting after two lacklustre performances. Japan totally nullified their power and pace in the first half of their game, and South Africa put them away at a canter.

On the other hand, Scotland failed to challenge the Springboks in the way they would have hoped and will want a strong win going into the quarters. They have plenty of injury concerns, however, and will hoping that standout playmaker Finn Russell is fit for the weekend.

Australia Vs Wales

This is now the biggest match of the round given recent events. Both teams are unbeaten and have ensured the early demise of the hosts' hopes. Australia have looked by far the-more-complete outfit so far in their utter dispatching of England, unlike Wales' squeaky, late victory.

The Welsh also showed a lack of control against Fiji, playing the Islanders' style for most of the match, and everyone is aware of their injury crisis.

Australia will have the advantage at the set-piece, and in the backs where they have phenomenal strength in depth. Without Hooper after being cited for dangerous play it will be up to Pocock to ensure breakdown supremacy. He is surely up for the task, but Wales' back row is one of the strongest in World Rugby.

This will probably a closer contest than England last week, but Australia will likely emerge as tournament favourites come the final whistle.

England Vs Uruguay

This will be tricky viewing. Knowing ahead of time that this match cannot save them will give this match a unique feel. Uruguay have little hope of truly competing, but the England response will be almost morbidly fascinating. How will the crowd respond? Will they cheer the losing effort or will they vilify the worst performance in World Cup history?

Argentina Vs Namibia

With a quick turnaround after what is likely to be their version of a World Cup Final, Namibia may well be spent by this stage. Argentina will be fresh and have improved game-by-game to assert themselves a real threat in the knockout stages. They always have a strong scrum, but with the likes of Sanchez, Hernandez, Cordero, and Imhoff they have a truly world class back division.

They have scored some spectacular tries this tournament with footwork, power, pace and precision. They will look to work some first phase strike plays against a tired Namibian side so you can expect more of the same from the Pumas.

Italy Vs Romania

Italy will wish their captain and talisman had been fit for the whole tournament. They failed to push France as they will have hoped, and left things very late against the Canadians. Against Ireland, they were much improved and but for Furno's understandably poor finishing may have beaten the Pool favourites. Without any pressure, and given it is Romania's second game in less than a week it should be a straightforward Italian win.

France Vs Ireland

From the initial draw, this always stood out as the Pool decider and so it is. It is harder to predict than it was then, though. Ireland looked extremely impressive early on in this tournament but faltered hugely against Italy. If they can put right the handling errors, and protect their ball a bit better, they will probably get top spot. France, however, have glided through the group unscathed, despite never putting a full 80 minutes together.

This will all come down to who performs on the day, and if they both do then the viewing audience is in for a treat. Sexton's control and kicking game is likely to be the deciding factor if it goes close, but if Michalak is picked and plays like last week then anything could happen.

USA Vs Japan

It is suitable that the Group stages end with the heroes of the World Cup so far. As it is possible that this will be their last match, expect the crowd to welcome them with quite an ovation. And expect a big performance as well.

Head Coach Eddie Jones says that Japan still haven't achieved their potential in this World Cup so will be hoping to play their best game against the USA.

That means they could win three matches and still not qualify which is a shame for the neutrals. But nonetheless, with their speed of ball and set piece control, they have established themselves as threats on the world stage.

When it's all said and done on Sunday the Quarterfinalists will be known. The permutations are many, but after this Round the clashes will be set.

One thing is to be sure is that the teams going through are already battle hardened, and will be under no illusions of the challenge ahead.

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