World Cup Preview: Quarter-Finals

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It’s crunch time! Almost a month on from the pageantry of the opening ceremony and the World Cup kicks into top gear with the knockout stages of the tournament. The gloves are off and the top 8 in world rugby will do battle for the ultimate prize.

We survey each nation’s prospects and give you the lowdown on the PUMA players to watch in the quarter-finals...

Ireland Vs. Wales

Separated by the Irish sea, the first quarter-final of the weekend sees a buoyant Ireland take on their near neighbours in the biggest clash between the two nations in years. The two sides couldn’t be closer – ranked 5th and 6th in the world respectively and playing wonderful, free-flowing rugby in the Pool stages, both will be desperate to progress.

Historically, Wales have the edge over the Men In Green having won 63 to Ireland’s 47 in competitive Test matches and will go into tomorrow’s game full of confidence after their 66 point demolition of Fiji last Sunday. Wales will once again opt to field a number of exciting youngsters who have impressed alongside some wise heads in the front row and dotted throughout the side.

PUMA’s legendary Welsh winger, Shane Williams (34), will be hungrier than most to come away with a win after discussing potential retirement after this year’s tournament. Ireland will no doubt have other ideas and have a side full of experience and power including a wealth of PUMA stars – Jamie Heaslip, Tommy Bowe, Gordon D’Arcy, Sean Cronin, Andrew Trimble, Tom Court and Mike Ross.

We predict a tight, tense affair that may well be decided in the back row battle at the breakdown. If either side show just a touch of the passion and courage of the Pool games, we are definitely in for an epic!

England Vs. France

France look to kick-start their campaign after mildly disappointing performances in Pool A that saw them defeated twice in qualifying. England start with two number tens (!) in the side both capable of kicking for good territory and points, and will utilise England’s huge forward line to push for tries.

Martin Johnson’s men have put paid to French World Cup hopes on the last two occasions at the semi-final stage, whilst Marc Lièvremont will be demanding a lot more from his team to avenge the defeat by Tonga and prove to the world they are capable of beating anyone on their day.

England start with PUMA’s Steve Thompson, Nick Easter and Tom Palmer in the pack after telling contributions from the latter two off the bench helped turn around English fortunes when struggling in the Pool.

South Africa Vs. Australia

Two sides who have been here many times before lock horns in Wellington on Sunday in a clash that will have supporters and neutrals alike licking their lips with anticipation.

South Africa go into the game with the best defensive record of the competition having conceded just 24 points in their four games to date and will play with 8 of the World Cup winners who took the field in the 2007 final.

Jam-packed with PUMA talent, South Africa will expect Gurthrö Steenkamp and Danie Rossouw (arguably the Springboks player of the tournament so far) to dominate in the forwards alongside the iconic Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger.

Australia will look to ignite the flair that took them to Tri-Nations victory and take advantage of the pace and footwork of James O’Connor out wide.

New Zealand Vs. Argentina

Los pumas have been written off in this game by almost all, but will maintain the belief and passion that has seen them come through so many matches in which they supposedly had no hope over the past decade. PUMA’s Manuel Carizza and Gonza Camacho will be threatening as the Argentineans look to cause the greatest upset in World Cup history.

What do you think will happen?

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