RWC Semi Final Preview
This is it! Two of the biggest games of rugby you will ever see will take place this weekend, with four teams vying for a spot in the 2011 RWC final. David is here to preview both these matches, giving his tip for each. Do you agree with him? Let us know in the comments.
Wales V France
If Wales reach their first Rugby World Cup final by beating France at Eden Park on Saturday, Warren Gatland’s team will need to send a message of thanks to Poland.
Wales’ run to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals has been based on being the fittest team on the park, something built up during a torrid two-week stint training at the Olympic Sports Centre in the east European country. Their attack has been functioning well, but they now have belief in their system. The one thing that Wales lack is the experience of being in a semi final. There are many individual players who have been to semis at the domestic level, but they have not been as a team since 1987.
The French will be well aware of the threat that Wales possess. Despite their 19-12 win over England in the quarter-finals to get their campaign back on track, there is the belief only an improved performance will allow them to reach the final. The big question for them is whether they can sustain another massive performance. Can they produce two in a row? We all know that the one thing to expect from the French is the unexpected. They have enough talent to take this one, but will they be able to match it with the Welsh attack?
This will come down to who wins the small things. If either side can gain a slight advantage in most areas they should win, but stranger things have happened at world cup semi finals. For me, I am picking that Wales should be able to make it into their first ever RWC final. I don’t think that France has two big games in them, and it will take a lot to beat this Welsh side at the moment.
New Zealand v Australia
This clash is every bit of a final; only it has come one week early. Where do you start? Australia can take the template from their battle with the All Blacks earlier this year. The Wallabies will look to try and shut out New Zealand’s midfield whereas the Kiwis need to get at them physically, take on the scrum and get numbers at the break down. The All Blacks tight forwards need to be solid and hurt Australia.
Cruden is a worry for New Zealand – he isn’t a big guy and likes to take things on (even three large Argentinean men which isn’t the right time to do it.) Cruden must play for the team this week and not be an individual – know when to make the plays and what to take on. The other player coming in is Stephen Donald – most New Zealanders hold low disregard for him as a player and Hosea Gear comes in also – he missed out on initial selection.
In the Australian corner, Quade Cooper had an awful match against South Africa and overall, he hasn’t fired to the extent we all know he can. That is the big X-factor in this clash, because if he turns up, then he could be very damaging. If the All Blacks forwards do their job then the backs will thrive off the confidence and positive match play.
For me, it’s going to be a close one but New Zealand should just have enough in the tank to get over Australia. Whilst South Africa couldn’t put them away, the All Blacks have the skills to take the opportunities presented to them.