Ireland and Wales both face a tricky task to progress to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, as New Zealand and France respectively stand in their way.
A clash against the world ranked number one side, New Zealand, lies in wait for Ireland; who have managed to defeat the All Blacks in two of their last three meetings. The last meeting between the two, in November 2018, proved an unreal result for Ireland, as they became the first team since Australia in 2014 to leave the kiwi-side without a try.
Ireland Coach, Joe Schmidt, will therefore attempt to use this as motivation for his team as they look ahead to this match against the competition favourites.
It will be an uphill battle for his side, who’s confidence will no doubt have taken a knock after a shock defeat to host-nation Japan. Additionally, New Zealand’s final group game being cancelled, due to Typhoon Hagibis, means that their players have had extra time to recover.
A boost for Ireland will be the restoration of Rob Kearney and Peter O’Mahony into their starting line-up. The duo will be expected to provide some much-needed experience in order to break down the All Blacks. Joe Schmidt has had an almost fully-fit squad at his disposal for this match, knowing he will be able to switch things up if a change of tactics is required.
Wales are also able to boast a fully fit squad ahead of their clash against France, with boss Warren Gatland hoping to extend their record of seven victories in the last eight meetings with the French.
In theory, Wales should be heading into this match confident of securing their place in the semi-finals. Not only do they sit seven points and six places above Les Bleus in the official world rankings, but they have also performed much better in this competition. Despite the fact that France have won all three of their games, they have only narrowly beaten Tonga and Argentina, suggesting they lack a cutting edge.
Contrary to this, Wales have generally been on top form, so far. Emphatic victories over Uruguay, Fiji and Georgia mean that they will be full of confidence heading into this fixture. The extra boost of Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar and Hadleigh Parkes being passed fit means that they are now strong favourites to secure their place in the next round.
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