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The ultimate Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup really hots up this weekend as the tournament reaches the quarter-final stage after the pools concluded last Sunday.

An initial 20 teams has been cut down to eight left in the hunt for the Webb Ellis Cup, with matches at Twickenham and the Millennium Stadium on Saturday and Sunday set to decide the last four.

South Africa kick off the weekend against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon before it is concluded at the same venue in a clash between Australia and Scotland on Sunday night.
Here’s a guide to the knockout stages.

QUARTER-FINAL 1:
SOUTH AFRICA v WALES
Where and when: Twickenham, London at 1600 GMT Saturday, October 17.

How did they get there?
South Africa managed to top Pool B despite being stunned in their opening match against Japan, rebounding strongly with impressive wins over Samoa, Scotland and USA.

What are the bookmakers saying?
South Africa A$1.28, Wales A$3.70
By the numbers:
Wales have beaten the Springboks just twice in 30 attempts, though their last clash produced a famed 12-6 triumph for the home side in Cardiff late last year. Five months earlier the Welsh were also on track to break through for their first win on South African soil when they led 17-0 early, only for a penalty try two minutes from fulltime to consign them to a heartbreaking 31-30 defeat.

Wales coach Warren Gatland’s record against southern hemisphere power trio of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa stands at just two wins from 29 matches. South African flyer Bryan Habana requires just one try to break Jonah Lomu’s record for most tries in Rugby World Cups, with both wingers currently level on 15 five-pointers apiece.

What’s in store for the winners?
It doesn’t get any easier for whichever side prevails here, as a date with the all-conquering All Blacks is the most likely outcome awaiting them in the semi-finals. Don’t write off the French just yet, though.

QUARTER-FINAL 2: NEW ZEALAND v FRANCE
Where and when: Millenium Stadium, Cardiff at 2000 GMT, Saturday, October 17.

How did they get there?
The All Blacks are still yet to hit top gear but nonetheless topped Pool C without too much difficulty, first accounting for Argentina, and then recording bonus point wins over Namibia, Georgia and Tonga.

Meanwhile, France suffered a setback in losing to Ireland in the final pool match which consigned them to second place in their pool. Prior to that, France had comfortably progressed after a first-up win over Italy and big wins over Canada and Romania.

What are the bookmakers saying?
New Zealand A$1.25, France A$4
By the numbers:
After France finished runners-up in Pool D, it sets up a rematch of the epic 2007 quarter-final where Les Bleus shocked the Kiwis and dumped them out of the competition at the same venue.

Since defeating New Zealand at the 2007 RWC and in their next clash in Dunedin in 2009 (a 27-22 victory to the visitors), the All Blacks have enjoyed their longest ever winning streak over the French.

Their winning run currently sits at eight straight games — including two wins at the 2011 tournament — which culminated in a famed 8-7 victory in the final at Auckland’s Eden Park.

What’s in store for the winners?
A semi-final showdown with either South Africa or Wales at Twickenham on October 24.

QUARTER-FINAL 3:
IRELAND v ARGENTINA
Where and when: Millenium Stadium, Cardiff, at 1300 GMT, Sunday, October 18.

How did they get there?
Ireland opened their World Cup campaign with a massive 50-7 win over Canada in which star five-eighth Jonny Sexton starred. A comfortable win over Romania, however, was followed by an error-ridden victory over Italy. A strong second half was too much for France, but the Irish face an uphill battle to progress deep into the tournament following the injuries to Sexton, captain Paul O’Connell and flanker Peter O’Mahony.

The Argentines have already tangled with the All Blacks and acquitted themselves well before going down 26-16 in the first week. They’ve since dealt with Georgia and Tonga to record bonus point wins, and another big win over Namibia proved that they are indeed the real deal.

What are the bookmakers saying?
Ireland A$1.45 Argentina A$2.75
By the numbers:
Ireland have had the wood on Argentina for the best part of a decade, coming up trumps in their five most recent meetings, including two tight wins in last year’s tour of the South American powerhouse.

What’s in store for the winners?
A likely clash with the Wallabies at Twickenham awaits whichever of these sides advances to the final four.

QUARTER-FINAL 4:
AUSTRALIA v SCOTLAND
Wales finished second in Pool A after losing 15-6 to Australia, advancing to the quarter-finals on the back of recording a memorable win over England at Twickenham.
Where and when: Twickenham Stadium, London, at 1600 GMT, Sunday, October 18.

How did they get there?
The Wallabies have recorded two of the more famous triumphs in RWC history — a dominant 33-13 defeat of England and a guts and all 15-6 win over Wales — to escape the group of death undefeated and in good shape to make the final four. The Scots saw off a late challenge from Samoa to secure their first quarter-final appearance since 2007 early Sunday morning. Prior to that they were gallant in going down to South Africa, and solid in getting past Japan and the USA.

What are the bookmakers saying?
Australia A$1.13 Scotland A$6.05
By the numbers:
Aside from two recent upsets that were as memorable for the Scottish as they were embarrassing for Australia, it’s been slim pickings for the underdogs. Prior to a 9-8 defeat in Edinburgh in 2009, which was followed up by a 9-6 loss in atrocious conditions in Newcastle in 2012, the Wallabies hadn’t been beaten by Scotland in almost 30 years.

What’s in store for the winners?
A date with either Ireland or Argentina in London in a fortnight’s time. – [Foxsports]

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