15 Oct 2019

Rugby World Cup: So what happens now?

3:20 pm on 15 October 2019

So Japan made history and threw the Rugby World Cup a real curveball on the weekend.

Japan rugby players celebrate their win over Scotland to qualify for RWC quarter-finals.

Will Japan be celebrating again this weekend? Photo: PHOTOSPORT

There was always going to be a decent chance the hosts were going to make the playoffs at the expense of Scotland, but not even the most optimistic Japanese fans would've picked they'd knock off Ireland and top their group. But here we are.

The All Blacks and Ireland now meet in the quarters, not the final that looked so likely this time a year ago.

Japan have a rematch with the Springboks that will bring back memories of the Brighton Miracle four years ago.

On the other side of the draw, the Wallabies need to find some form fast against England, while France seem ready to implode against Wales the way they've been acting.

Let's have a look at the teams and assess the likely outcomes from here on in*:

The All Blacks grind one out against Ireland, then head on and face England in a semifinal - likelihood: high.

Thanks to the typhoon, the All Blacks spent Saturday watching movies instead of playing a Test match.

Meanwhile the Irish had a decent hit out against an admittedly woeful Samoan team, but it cost them Bundee Aki - the midfielder has been banned for three weeks for his red card in the match.

The key here is that the Irish really struggled in the heat that cooked the first couple of rounds of play, so while it has cooled down in Tokyo a little bit, that toll it may have taken on them will definitely show up in the business end of this game.

As much as I want the Wallabies to stuff the English, for no other reason than I like Michael Cheika more than Eddie Jones, they will need to pull out a Perth-like performance for that to happen.

England have reverted to type, which is boring but effective (can't blame them for that), so as long as they can stop the Wallabies from racking up a couple of tries early they should be able to rely on Owen Farrell's boot to get them home.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Jamie Wall would like to see Michael Cheika get one over Eddie Jones this weekend. Photo: Photosport

Japan repeat their heroics against the Springboks, end up in a semifinal - likelihood: entirely possible.

Usually, the analysis on this one would be that the Boks might be looking shaky and are ripe for an upset.

But that's just not the case, because all the attention this week will be rightly on Japan because they're the ones playing arguably the best footy of the tournament.

The Boks' form isn't as big a factor as normal, and the pressure will be on Rassie Erasmus to figure out a way to nullify the Japanese short passing game.

One thing to take out of last night's epic is that the Scots, for all the criticism for their ridiculous threat of litigation against World Rugby, completely bought into the spirit of the run and gun style as well - which the Boks will be unlikely to fall for.

However, the Japanese have shown they can go toe to toe with an opponent as well in their win over the Irish.

One thing is for absolute certain though: the home crowd support at Tokyo Stadium is going to be molten hot and that's something the Boks will have to overcome as well.

Wales smash France and set up a semifinal with either the Boks or Japan - likelihood: very high.

The Welsh are the team that's really flown under the radar of the average navel-gazing All Black fan, on account of the fact that the last time we played them was two years ago and it was a typically comfortable win.

Since then, though, Warren Gatland has won a Grand Slam and somehow turned Manawatu journeyman Hadleigh Parkes into a world class lynchpin of the Welsh side.

Justin Tipuric of Wales escapes the tackle of Nicolas Freitas of Uruguay.

Wales have been unbeaten at the Rugby World Cup so far. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

They beat the Wallabies in trying conditions in their first game and should deal to a French side that have done little other than throw up an entirely predictable coaching drama.

The last time they met was in Paris back in February, which resulted in a tight Welsh win that set them on course for their ultimate Six Nations triumph.

France get their act together, somehow fall arse-first into a semifinal - likelihood: yeah, not great.

There's going to be a lot of talk about French unpredictability this week, but they remain the most predictable team in the world because they just kind of suck.

No one does less, with more, than France - so in a week's time the odds are they'll be skulking through customs at Charles de Gaulle blaming each other for what went wrong.

*Yes, I am fully aware and prepared to be made to look like a fool if these predictions all go wrong.

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