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How Southern Hemisphere fab four made Rugby World Cup semis

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | October 18, 2015

For the first time in Rugby World Cup history, there is no Six Nations presence in the semi-finals after Celtic trio Wales, Ireland and Scotland, plus France, all fell to Southern Hemisphere sides in the quarters. Coral rugby writers ponder how this happened…

Pollard penalties secret of Springboks success

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - South Africa v Wales - Twickenham

Up against a staunch Wales defence that had conceded just two tries during Pool A, 6/1 tournament shots South Africa knew openings to cross would be few and far between when dealing with the Dragons.

That meant the Springboks had to test Welsh discipline when coming up against them and, if they were found lacking, fly half Handre Pollard ought to prove a potent weapon. During his Pool B exploits, he put 13 out of 14 penalty kicks at goal between the posts.

Such high consistency kicking indeed continued with five of Pollard’s seven attempts when Wales were penalised. Opposite number Dan Biggar had also delivered during group games, but had fewer opportunities in the last eight encounter to hurt South Africa. Read our full match report.

All Blacks impress against France

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - New Zealand v France - Millennium Stadium

New Zealand are now odds-on 8/13 favourites to retain the Rugby World Cup, having crossed nine times during a 62-13 steamrollering of France. Detractors of the All Blacks said Pool C was straightforward and only Argentina proved a true test, but those voices have surely been silenced.

Four years ago at the last edition of this tournament, Les Bleus stood between New Zealand and a second world title. That contest was edged by the All Black 8-7 and could not contrast more sharply with this slaughtering of the French.

Led by a hat-trick from rampant winger Julian Savea, and seven conversions from kicker Dan Carter, New Zealand remain the team to beat. Stopping their wide threat, cumulatively 13 if you add five from Nehe Milner-Skudder to the eight achieved by Savea, is The question nobody has had an answer to so far.

Irish injuries aid Argentina

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - Ireland v Argentina - Millennium Stadium

Six Nations champions Ireland represented European rugby’s best chance of having a presence in the Rugby World Cup final four. That was until they lost captain Paul O’Connell and first-choice kicker Jonny Sexton.

Further injuries and suspensions left them weak, and the Pumas pounced on the Pool D winners running out 20-40 victors. Winger Juan Imhoff’s brace, the second coming as a demoralised Irish outfit Knew they were beaten, proved key.

Argentina are the 12/1 tournament outsiders, despite capitalising on injury-hit Ireland. France, victims of the far heavier defeat described above, clearly softened up Joe Schmidt’s side for the ever-improving Pumas. They are dangerous.

Wallabies ride their luck

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - Australia v Scotland - Twickenham Stadium

Twickenham has become a happy hunting ground for 11/4 Rugby World Cup second-favourites Australia. By hook or by crook, they have dumped out three Home Nations on that hallowed turf.

Michael Cheika’s Wallabies first eliminated host country England from their own tournament, then ensured they avoided South Africa by out-kicking Wales and edged Scotland by the smallest of margins.

The Aussies will be concerned about their first-half display, and the mixed performance of fly half Bernard Foley in particular. Drew Mitchell’s two crossings show that he still plenty to offer, but beating Vern Cotter’s crew by 35-34 is way too close for comfort.

Related

Check out our Rugby World Cup coverage.
Why not read our South Africa stories?
There is Coral’s Australia archive too.
All you need to know about New Zealand.