Over the weekend we were treated to four outstanding games in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in Japan with a host of players standing out.
England, New Zealand, Wales and South Africa progressed to the semi-finals but who has made our team of the quarter-finals.
Check out our starting XV below with some tough decisions in certain positions.
15) Beauden Barrett – There was no need to think twice about who was taking this jersey. Barrett was outstanding as the All Blacks ran riot. Ireland tested him with a couple of high-balls early on and found no joy as he dealt with everything. As they game wore on he seemed to get better and better. His kicks over the top, his assist for brother Jordie’s try and his own try showed how deadly he is in open play. England will have to keep the game tight this weekend because if they don’t he will cause all sorts of problems.
14) Jonny May – On his 50th cap he scored two tries as his side run-away with the game in the second-half against the Wallabies. Started on the left-wing but we had to fit him in due to how clinical he was. His upcoming battle with Sevu Reece will be fascinating.
13) Virimi Vakatawa – Should have ended the game on the winning side as he was that good. Scored a try and his offloading game was unbelievable. Every time he touched the ball he looked dangerous and made metres. Will rue the red-card his side received as he put in a massive individual performance.
12) Gael Fickou – Again like Vakatawa was seriously impressive in defeat. Looked lightening quick as he has all tournament and if his side had their full compliment you would not have been surprised to see him cause Wales more problems. Samu Kerevi and Anton Lienert-Brown were impressive as always but Fickou just pipped them.
11) Makazole Mapimpi – Before we talk about Mapimpi we have to give a shoutout to Marika Koroibete as he was sensational during Australia’s loss and if not for the Springbok he would be in the team. However, Mapimpi just continues to get better and better! Two tries on the day and five in two games against the Japanese. His pace and upper-body strength are so impressive. Defensively he seems to be solid and is clinical in attack. Wales will need to watch out!
10) Owen Farrell – This could have gone to Romain Ntamack, but injury meant he only played one half. That half was incredible though and if he had have been on for the full 80 who knows how things would have ended. Although it is Farrell who is our fly-half. His kicking was perfect, his passing was crisp and even when shifted back to the centre he looked like causing the Wallabies major issues. England will need another strong showing from their captain if they are to stand a chance against New Zealand.
9) Faf de Klerk – The little scrum-half was just everywhere. A try and a try assist as well as running the show for his side against an energetic Japanese outfit. Definitely staking his claim to be called the best No 9 in the world. Have to mention Antoine Dupont and Aaron Smith though as both shone brightly for their teams. Are those three the top three in their position on the planet?
1) Jefferson Poirot – Put in a mighty shift in the front-row, staying on for almost the full game and putting in every effort to help his team hold onto their narrow lead with less men on the pitch. Has been brilliant to watch all tournament.
2) Tolu Latu – Another man who lost but hard to leave out. Like Poirot he stayed on longer than most would in his position but never stopped causing England problems with his ball carrying. His set-piece work was on-point and on an individual note he should be proud.
3) Jiwon Koo – Completing our front-row is again a man who’s side lost but against a massive Springboks pack he produced a huge performance. All competition his team out-did themselves and once again he did so here.
4) Brodie Retallick – Returning to the starting line-up and if we are honest you wouldn’t have noticed he had only played 30 minutes of rugby since July. Dominated the collisions and was fantastic at the set-piece. His seamless return proves how good he is. He is a vital component to this New Zealand team and his recovery has put them back in the driving seat.
5) Maro Itoje – He has had an unbelievable tournament so far and that continued on Saturday. His physicality is just something to behold at the highest level of the game and that is why we moved him to five as we had to get him into the team. His battle with Retallick this weekend will be key to who wins the match.
6) Michael Leitch – He might have lost but he has led his Japanese side to history and was immense yesterday. As we expected he had to be physical and didn’t shy away against the Boks powerhouses but it was his handling skills that caught the eye also as he produced a couple of offloads that Sonny Bill Williams would have been proud of. What a player and leader!
7) Tom Curry – Is the second of three players to have worn the number six jersey for their side in our back-row but he was just too good to leave out. Michael Hooper was outstanding but for determination and smacking tackles Curry had to be in. At 21 he has stepped up on the biggest stage of all and not looked out of place. The future looks bright and he will be tested to the max in the semi-final against some of the best back-rowers in the world once more.
8) Ardie Savea – Yes he also played at six, but even at scrums he went to No 8 such is his versatility and quality with ball in hand. Ireland couldn’t cope with him all game. With every game he turns it up a notch and seems to be faster, stronger and more skilful. One of the best in the business and will relish the chance to face a back-row like England’s this weekend.
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Match schedule and match officials confirmed for Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe Qualifier
World Rugby has confirmed the match schedule and match officials for the Rugby World Cup 2021 Europe qualifier, which will be hosted in Parma’s Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on 13, 19 and 25 September, 2021.
Scotland kick-off their qualification campaign against Italy on Monday 13 September (kick-off 2pm BST / 3pm local time), before facing Spain on Sunday 19 September (kick-off 5pm BST / 6pm local time). Scotland’s final match of the tournament will see them take on Ireland on Saturday 25 September (kick-off 5pm BST / 6pm local time).
The top team will secure a spot in Pool B at Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, and the runner-up will enter the Final Qualification Tournament.
An experienced team of match officials have been appointed for the tournament, including Aurelie Groizeleau (FFR), Nikki O´Donnell (RFU), Hollie Davidson (SRU), Clara Munarini (FIR), Maria Beatrice Benvenuti (FIR) and Maria Pacifico (FIR), alongside Television Match Officials Andrea Piardi, Gianluca Gnecchi and Stefano Penne (all FIR).
The opening match day will see Aurelie Groizeleau take charge of Scotland’s meeting with hosts Italy at 15:00 local time, before Nikki O´Donnell oversees Spain against Ireland at 18:00, the first test match between the sides since May 2008.
Hollie Davidson and Aurelie Groizeleau will take charge of day two matches when Italy face Ireland at 15:00, followed by Spain against Scotland at 18:00, respectively. Italy’s only victory in their last 18 meetings with Ireland came at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in February 2019, winning their last meeting on Italian soil 29-27.
While, Hollie Davidson and Clara Munarini will oversee the final match day when hosts Italy face Spain at 15:00, followed by Ireland v Scotland at 18:00 in their first meeting since February 2020. Italy and Spain have not met since Rugby World Cup 2017, Las Leonas winning their pool encounter 22-8 before the Azzurre avenged that defeat by winning their ninth place play-off 20-15.
Nine teams have already confirmed their place at Rugby World Cup 2021, including New Zealand, England, France, Canada, USA, Australia and Wales via their final ranking at Ireland 2017, and South Africa and Fiji who came through the Africa and Oceania regional qualification tournaments respectively.
Rugby World Cup 2021 Tournament Director Alison Hughes said: “We are delighted to confirm the match schedule and a highly qualified team of match officials for what promises to be three exciting and hotly contested matchdays in the Europe Qualifier as all four participating teams will be aiming to claim the prize of a place at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand alongside the best women’s 15s teams in the world. We continue to work in close partnership with the hosts and all participating unions to ensure we deliver a safe and secure event and give the players the opportunity to showcase their talents on the pitch.”
Scene set for super-charged Rugby World Cup as new dates in 2022 confirmed
- Matches will take place between 8 October–12 November, 2022 in Auckland and Whangārei
- RWC 2021 tournament window increases from 35 to 43 days (including 5 days ahead of first match)
- Match schedule prioritises player welfare with five-day minimum rest days
- Revamped format with all fixtures to be played on weekends with triple-header matches scheduled per day
- New Rugby World Cup 2021 brandmark unveiled, including bespoke te reo Māori version for tournament promotion in New Zealand
Rugby World Cup 2021 will feature increased rest periods for all teams following World Rugby’s confirmation of the revised tournament dates which will now see New Zealand host the tournament between 8 October-12 November, 2022.
With the ambition of super-charging the schedule for players, fans and the host nation, the tournament window, including preparation ahead of the first match, will be extended from 35 to 43 days resulting in all teams having a minimum of five rest days between matches. This aligns with the approach recently approved for the men’s competition.
The extension of the tournament window, also allows for a revamped tournament format that will see all matches take place on Saturdays and Sundays, with no overlap, meaning fans will not miss a moment of the first women’s edition of a Rugby World Cup to be hosted in the southern hemisphere.
With the tournament starting later in the year, players and fans will benefit from warmer weather and longer daylight hours. The pool phase will be played on the weekends of 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23 October, 2022 at Eden Park, Northlands Events Centre in Whangārei and Waitakere Stadium.
The quarter-finals will take place on 29-30 October followed by semi-finals on Saturday, 5 November. The bronze final and RWC 2021 final will be played on Saturday, 12 November, with Eden Park set to create history by becoming the first stadium to host both the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup finals.
A detailed match schedule and broadcast timings will be announced at a later date.
In addition to the revised tournament dates, World Rugby has also unveiled new tournament brandmarks retaining reference to 2021, the year the tournament was originally intended to take place, while conveying to fans and audiences that the tournament will now be played in 2022. A bespoke te reo Māori version of the new brandmark has also been designed for tournament promotion in New Zealand. This reflects the importance of te reo as an official language of Aotearoa, New Zealand and to signify the desire to celebrate the unique Māori culture for all those connected with the tournament.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are fully committed to accelerating the women’s game at all levels and while the postponement was disappointing for everyone, it has provided the unique opportunity to review every aspect of the event to ensure it is the best it can be for the players, fans around the world and the wonderful and enthusiastic New Zealanders.
“Longer rest periods between matches for all teams is further commitment to delivering comprehensive player welfare standards at RWC 2021.
“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their support and open-minded approach to this process and we can now look forward to a truly spectacular Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.”
International Rugby Players appointee to the RWC Board, Melodie Robinson, said: “While it’s disappointing that the 2021 tournament had to be postponed, the positive is that we’ve been able to ensure the 2022 event and subsequent Rugby World Cups will have a minimum five-day turnaround for players.
“Just like the men’s tournament, this will hopefully help to level the playing field for all sides and see an increase in competitive matches.”
Rugby World Cup 2021 Tournament Director Michelle Hooper said: “We are delighted that together with World Rugby we have been able to further super-charge the women’s game here in New Zealand with the confirmation of the new dates in 2022 and the amendments to the tournament format. We are excited to be hosting Rugby World Cup here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
“The momentum for women’s sport is continuously building and we look forward to demonstrating this to the world through the unstoppable energy that will be on display during Rugby World Cup in 2022. We can’t wait to welcome the world’s best women’s rugby players to our shores and share the Manaakitanga so intrinsically linked to our people and our place and rugby in Aotearoa, New Zealand with them and their fans.”
In a commitment to delivering an outstanding Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, earlier this year World Rugby announced a £2 million funding package to support a Rugby World Cup 2021 high performance preparation and competition programme for qualified teams and teams still competing in the qualification process.
The programme will focus on providing teams with additional monetary support to deliver additional team training camps and coordinating international competition to give them the greatest opportunity to be at their best in New Zealand next year. Further details will be announced at a later stage.
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