The hopeful eight - no quarter a given

Will Jordan flying. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Will Jordan flying. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
And then there were eight. The phoney war is over at the Rugby World Cup and it is quarterfinals time. Hayden Meikle looks at the four clashes.

 

Liam Williams. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Liam Williams. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Wales v Argentina

Last five games: Wales 20-13, Argentina 33-11, 20-20 draw, Wales 30-12, Wales 23-10.

World rankings: Wales seventh, Argentina eighth.

Best World Cup finishes: Wales third (1987), Argentina third (2007).

Forwards to watch: Will Rowlands is a tackling machine for Wales. Prop Thomas Gallo never stops for the Pumas.

Backs to watch: The Welsh backline has some injury issues but fullback Liam Williams is a class act. Pumas winger Mateo Carreras is fresh off a hat-trick against Japan.

Non-rugby clash for the ages: Tom Jones v Eva Peron. The sex bomb or the spiritual leader of a nation? Close call.

Food v food: Leeks v steak. Argentina wins.

Other sport match-up: Gareth Bale v Lionel Messi. The wee wizard Messi runs rings around Bale.

Meikle’s prediction: Wales 26-24.

 

Bundee Aki. PHOTO: REUTERS
Bundee Aki. PHOTO: REUTERS

All Blacks v Ireland

Last five games: Ireland 32-22, Ireland 23-12, All Blacks 42-19, Ireland 29-20, All Blacks 46-14.

World rankings: Ireland first, All Blacks fourth.

Best World Cup finishes: Ireland quarterfinalists (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015, 2019), All Blacks champions (1987, 2011, 2015).

Forwards to watch: Andrew Porter is a magnificent presence at prop for Ireland. The All Blacks might go as far as No 8 Ardie Savea can carry them.

Backs to watch: Irish talisman Bundee Aki is on track to become the player of the tournament. Try-scoring winger Will Jordan is the one player with genuine X-factor in the All Blacks backline.

Non-rugby clash for the ages: Bono v Edmund Hillary. ‘‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’’ against ‘‘we knocked the bastard off’’. Sir Ed, and it’s not even a contest.

Food v food: Pavlova v potatoes. Both can be a bit bland without adding extra bits. Spuds all the way.

Other sport match-up: Ryan Fox v Rory McIlroy. Foxy is in wonderful form. But McIlroy is just a bit classier.

Meikle’s prediction: Ireland 32-20.

 

Josua Tuisova. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Josua Tuisova. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
England v Fiji

Last five games: Fiji 30-22, England 58-15, England 54-12, England 45-24, England 28-12.

World rankings: England sixth, Fiji 10th.

Best World Cup finishes: England champions (2003), Fiji quarterfinalists (1987, 2007).

Forwards to watch: Maro Itoje has not exactly been in amazing form but he is capable of great things for England. Levani Botia — the ‘‘Demolition Man’’ — is still going strong for Fiji at 34.

Backs to watch: Owen Farrell has not yet seen a high tackle he does not like but the English five-eighth is a special talent.
Josua Tuisova loves a good run for the Fijians.

Non-rugby clash for the ages: William Shakespeare v Jimmy ‘‘Superfly’’ Snuka. Sure, Shakespeare was blessed with unnatural talent with words. But he would have no chance against the patented Superfly Splash.

Drink v drink: Warm beer v kava. Pass.

Other sport match-up: W.G. Grace v William Apted. The former is a cricketing immortal, the latter a bloke who scored 96 on his first-class debut for Fiji against Otago in 1953-54. Tough one to pick.

Meikle’s prediction: England 46-18.

Damian Penaud. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Damian Penaud. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
France v South Africa

Last five games: France 30-26, South Africa 29-26, South Africa 18-17, South Africa 35-12, South Africa 37-15.

World rankings: France second, South Africa third.

Best World Cup finishes: France finalists (1987, 1999, 2011), South Africa champions (1995, 2007, 2019).

Forwards to watch: Gregory Alldritt is an absolute monster at No 8 for the French. Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth has had a tough year but could be a major figure in the final weeks of this tournament if his team can upset the home nation.

Backs to watch: Star winger Damian Penaud leads the tournament with six tries and 11 clean breaks for France. Faf de Klerk will need to be at his best for the Boks.

Non-rugby clash for the ages: Napoleon v Nelson Mandela. Both men with a big vision who inspired the people they led. Call it a tie.

Food v food: Snails v braai. To misquote the great Mandela, ‘‘There can be only one division amongst us: between those who cherish barbecued meat and those who do not.’’

Other sport match-up: Tony Parker v Steve Nash. Parker became an NBA great with those relentless San Antonio Spurs teams. Nash was fantastic but being born in Johannesburg does not really make him a South African. Je suis Monsieur Parker.

Meikle’s prediction: France 21-20.

hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz