Order of matches at World Cup has affected results
In the Rugby World Cup, the order of group matches and number of rest days between games has had a significant impact on results. Much has been said about the unfortunate Japanese, who, having given their all to beat South Africa in Pool B, were obliged to play Scotland just four days later. The Scots had yet to play a game and were completely fresh. The outcome was never in doubt.
In Pool C, New Zealand and Argentina, the only Tier 1 teams, played each other in the first weekend. After that, neither had a game of significance to play until the quarter-finals.
Compare this with Pool D, where Ireland played Italy and France in the final two games of the pool.
The France game was a particularly physical affair and it is no surprise that when these two teams faced the fresh Pool C teams the very next week, they were slower off the mark than their opponents and faded badly towards the end.
People might laud Scottish endeavour, praise Kiwi/Puma flair, or lament Irish/French ineptitude, but, by and large, the quarter-final results were predictable, based solely on prior workloads and recovery time.