Day 33 at the Rugby World Cup: Semi-final line-up complete
Wales and South Africa advanced to join New Zealand and England in the last four.
The semi-final line-up at the Rugby World Cup has been decided following a dramatic weekend of action in Japan.
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While England and New Zealand enjoyed commanding victories over Australia and Ireland respectively to set up a last-four showdown in Yokohama, Wales had to come from behind against 14-man France to secure a 20-19 success.
Warren Gatland’s side will face South Africa in the semi-finals after the Springboks ruthlessly ended the home nation’s brilliant run in the tournament.
Here, the PA news agency looks ahead to next weekend’s semi-finals.
England v New Zealand
The two-time reigning world champions stand between England and a place in the final on November 2. The All Blacks have not been beaten in the World Cup since losing in the 2007 quarter-final against France but England coach Eddie Jones is typically bullish about his side’s chances.
“No one’s got a 100 per cent record in Test rugby,” Jones said after his side’s 40-16 win over Australia. “No one averages 100 in Test cricket. No one wins every Grand Slam 6-0 6-0. So every team has got a weakness. Every team is beatable.”
Scrum-half Ben Youngs feels England can still improve, adding: “There is definitely more in us. We feel we can still notch it up.
“Eddie said to us afterwards ‘it is the most exciting week to be a rugby player, so let’s make sure we enjoy it, but let’s make sure we get better’.”
Wales v South Africa
Grand Slam champions Wales trailed France 12-0 at one stage and 19-10 at half-time, but capitalised on the 47th-minute dismissal of Sebastien Vahaamahina for an elbow on the head of Aaron Wainwright to spring their escape act.
Coach Warren Gatland said: “We’re excited about where we are – the semi-final of a World Cup. (Captain) Alun Wyn Jones said it’s 240 minutes to do something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
“We’re down to 160 now. If you can’t get excited about that then nothing will excite you.”
Gatland does have injury problems to deal with however, number eight Josh Navidi limping off with a hamstring injury against France while centre Jonathan Davies was unable to start the match due to a knee problem – though Gatland is hopeful the latter will be fit for the final.
Fond farewell to the Brave Blossoms
Japan, who had never played in the quarter-finals before this, exit the tournament having made a major impression and won many admirers.
Adding to their famous shock victory over South Africa at the 2015 edition, the Brave Blossoms pulled off eye-catching victories over Ireland and Scotland en route to topping Pool A.
Jamie Joseph’s side have been eliminated but can certainly hold their heads high about what they have achieved on home soil.
After the top eight sides in World Rugby’s rankings reached the quarter-finals, the top four will now contest the semis.
With top two New Zealand and England meeting, though, the pattern will be broken for the final.