Match Preview: The Semi-Finals!
"There is a certain buzz and excitement around the hotel and streets of Tokyo as rugby supporters from all over pour into the city to support their respective teams for this weekend semi-finals at Rugby World Cup 2019."
In fact many of them don’t have their 1st team that they would usually support still playing in the competition but with their tickets bought months and even a year ago in the hope that their teams might lift the William Webb Ellis trophy in 2019 they decided to enjoy the atmosphere and watch the semi-finals regardless.
With only the top 4 teams remaining and everything to play for this weekend it is really the ultimate for any rugby supporter and to watch a semi-final at a Rugby World Cup can only be described as a once in a lifetime experience.
Rugby World Cup 2019 has been a massive success from a new rugby frontiers point of view and many viewership records broken along with revenue raised by World Rugby. It shows that rugby is indeed a very special game and if played in the right manner and for the right reasons, it still grabs the imagination of fans and even people with no previous contact with the game at all.
Before the tournament many would have predicted at least 3 of the teams in the semis to be there. The 2 Southern Hemisphere team, The All Blacks and Springboks were possibly most fans certainties to make it through to where we are today with England the other. It would always be a debate for the 4th team depending on which team you support and Wales and Ireland probably the 2 other teams mentioned. Wales made it through and gives us an even split between 2 teams each from North and South.
The All Blacks will take on England in today`s fixture and The Boks will take on Wales in the Sunday game.
The All Blacks were outstanding against Ireland and played their best rugby of the tournament without a doubt. Many, including myself questioned All Blacks coach and management decision to play World Rugby Player of the year 2018, Beauden Barrett out of position at fullback but he set the game alight in the quarter finals with a man of the match performance-WOW!
England were equally impressive in their quarter finals game with a comprehensive victory over Australia and no one can argue that with the 40-16 score line.
This off course makes for mouth- watering semi-finals between The All Blacks and England. England on any given day can beat the All Blacks but will that day be today.
Wales eventually overcame a 14 men French team and from what we`ve seen this Rugby World Cup is that once a red card comes out teams playing with 14 men have no chance of winning that game. Wales will sorely miss Josh Havili and Liam Williams both out through injury when they take the field on Sunday.
The Boks had to work really hard against the host nation Japan but with their sheer size and brutality in their tackles they eventually wore the hosts down to win their quarter final game. Their game plan paid dividends at the end and I have no doubt that very little will change for the semi-finals. Cheslin Kolbe will be sorely missed but what an opportunity and chance for S`bu Nkosi.
Prediction time and as always it’s a tough call. I will go on from and history to say The All Blacks and then South Africa purely on heart, it is after all a World Cup semi-final and you have to back your team even if they had no chance. Semi -finals in a players career only comes along ever so often and all these players are 2 games away from a life changing experience.
Enjoy the rugby!