First up it is Wales versus France and the spread here is Wales -6. I don’t really know where that is coming from to be honest, but we have to respect those who think France might have a say in this one.
This will be the second time the sides have met at a World Cup. France won 9-8 in 2011, a tie more famous for Sam Warburton’s red card than anything else. That French team were the enigma of that tournament and its safe to say, not much has changed in eight years.
France have made five changes from the side that defeated Tonga almost two weeks ago with captain Guilhem Guirado coming in for Camille Chat at hooker, second row Bernard Le Roux replaces Paul Gabrillagues who drops to the bench, while at nine Antoine Dupont comes in for Baptiste Serin.
The back line also sees left-winger Yoann Huget displace Alivereti Raka and Gael Fickou coming in at inside centre for Sofiane Guitoune; both Raka and Guitoune drop out of the 23.
The question still remains around which French team turns up. There is no doubting that the extra time they get to spend together at World Cups is always good for the team, not always for the coach.
France are coming into this game with a large period of rest following their postponed game against England, but one still has to factor in that they are playing Romain Ntamack, a 12, at 10. You don’t see that too often.
Dupont at 9 is a World Class player and France always start games well. The big issues, however. are their hunger for a scrap and their fitness levels.
Wales’ line-speed in defence, their overall balance in the back-row with Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi, added to by the guile, pace and tactical acumen of Gareth Davies and Wales are going to be more than capable of navigating this tricky tie.
When the sides met in the Six Nations this season, France came out like a lion, however, as stated above, a second-half performance by one of the fittest and most clinical teams in the World, Wales, saw them win it 24-19.
Since then, Wales have won a Grand Slam and have gone through the Pools with a perfect record. And France? Well, they have been…. just France.
The last quarter final is the meeting of hosts Japan and one of the pre-tournament favourites South Africa. There will be many mentions of the ‘miracle in Brighton’ during this weekend’s game, but these are two very different sides than the ones that met back in 2015.
Both are a million miles (accurate rule of measuring) better than their previous versions and this is sure to be one hell of an entertaining game.
South Africa have made three changes from the last time they played Japan in a World Cup warm up game on September 6 with Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager coming in for Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert. South Africa of course, won that match 41-7.
On that night, the Springbok pressure defence took away the speed of rucks that Japan thrive on. The 9-10 axis of Yutaka Nagare and Yu Tamura are key to Japan’s success and South Africa will look to take away their front foot ball, while also using an aggressive defence strategy to remove the threats of Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima on the wings.
South Africa will win this game, I am sure of that.
Their power, their defence and their 6-2 forwards to backs split on the bench shows what they plan to do. However, Japan are riding on a wave of emotion as hosts and they will not be going anywhere until the clock turns red.
Japan have made just one change to the team that started against Scotland, with Ryohei Yamanaka coming in at full-back to replace William Tupou, who drops out of the 23. There are five changes to the Brave Blossoms side that lost to 41-7 to South Africa in a World Cup warm-up game and they have already dispatched the team (Ireland) that plays to a similar pattern to South Africa.
I am not brave (blossomed) enough to shout for a Japan win outright, but for them to cover the 15 point handicap is a bet I cannot ignore.
Selection: Japan +15 @ evens.
*Prices correct at time of publishing