Eight has become just four and now this weekend we will be down to just two! World Cup semi finals take place this weekend with two cracking matches, England will face New Zealand and Wales will take on South Africa for a place in the final. Today we will be looking at the first semi final and if it will be Owen Farrell or Kieran Read celebrating at the final whistle. Just as long as there is no boundary countbacks…..
England vs New Zealand – Semi Final
The quarter finals were something of crushing victories for both of these sides over Australia and Ireland, who were both expected to give a better account of themselves in the finals. The game plan won’t be changing at all for England going into this match, these top ranked sides play to master their own game rather than their opponents. One thing England will want to do in their backline play is give more ball to Manu Tuilagi who lifts his game considerably in the past against the All Blacks. The starting side has adjusted back to the George Ford and Owen Farrell ten twelve combination in the place of Henry Slade who slips back to the bench. The Wallabies should feel special they had a custom made change just for them. While we will talk about the New Zealand selections in the next paragraph, the battle in the back row will be epic. The work rate and ability of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill is outstanding and will be a real problem at the breakdown if they are allowed to play their game. Unlike the risk of Jack Nowell, Mako Vunipola is starting at loosehead prop consistently now after proving his fitness back from injury which will be a boost in the set piece for England. His tight five buddies have been in impressive touch against the Wallabies also, strong carries from Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George and Maro Itoje were a constant highlight. The English are structured and precise in their play style. From the kick off they will look to control the pace of the game, expect them to want to control territory and slow it down, control the breakdown and the gainline. Not until they have that forward momentum will they look to go outside of Ford and Farrell, some things never change in English rugby. Any kicking needs to be into the stands, commentary box or at worst, contestable, but even that will be a risk against the All Blacks back three.
Kicking, there will be a lot of kicking. Elliot Daly is going to be having nightmares of these eighty minutes. The All Blacks have a very good contestable kick chase and will be of the opinion that Daly has hardly been tested by the contestable high ball during this World Cup. If Daly gets a reprieve from the kicks, it will instead be going the way of Jonny May or either of Ford or Farrell if covering back. Anthony Watson will be trying to spoint that as much as he can, I think hes one of the better players in that situation. As mentioned in the last paragraph, the back row battle is the place to watch. The All Blacks have made quite a substantial change to their starting lineup for this match that has Scott Barrett taking the blind side role off Ardie Savea, who in turn moves to the open side and pushes Sam Cane to a bench cameo. The more Barretts the better it seems, Jordies on the bench. Media has talked up the lineout options that Scott Barrett will bring to the side but in reality you can’t look past the bulk and power he will being instead. Scott Barrett and Savea are up against two very powerful opponents and Steve Hansen has opted to fight power with power in those positions over the ruck nuisance that is Sam Cane, whos impact will be more effective fresh late in the game as others tire. The centre partnership remains with no place for Ryan Crotty in the 23 again. The future is here and now, a World Cup is a harsh place for older All Blacks. No ones talking about the Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett positions now, that’s the master plan of an ever developing All Blacks side who always seem to be one step ahead. New Zealand media is quick to get distracted…. oh look, another Barrett….
These two sides differ quite a lot in their targets for the game, the All Blacks will be content to win their own set piece and will run the game up to a rapid pace against what can be a rigid English side that could struggle if the pace gets out of their control. The kicking game and the pace of the game will be a massive decisive factors in this first semi final that will decide who gets the upper hand.
RESULT = New Zealand by 11
I will be streaming during both semi finals this weekend, so if you want to come have a chat during the game, check out my YouTube channel! I will have predictions DAILY for the Rugby World Cup! So make sure to subscribe to the page for updates when a new predictions goes live or check back each day for the next days matches. Who is your pick? Lets me know in the comments below and as always, thanks for stopping by Behind The Posts!