RUGBY

England and Wales face tough Southern Hemisphere tests

After Wales scraped past France yesterday in the last quarter-final of this thrilling 2019 Rugby World Cup, they join England in the last four in Japan.

Warren Gatland’s Wales do have the better draw, and beat South Africa last November in a test match at the Principality Stadium but have not been at their best in Japan.

The first semi-final takes place on Saturday when England face the formidable test of New Zealand to try and get to the final for the first time since 2007.

How can England get past All Blacks?

New Zealand were ruthless against Ireland, but if England can ensure they exclude handling errors like the one that gifted Beauden Barrett an easy try, they have a better chance.

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They are unbelievably quick and energetic in possession, and England can’t dive into tackles like the Irish did, which in turn led to them losing their shape and being cut through time and time again.

In the last 9 games between the sides, England only have one win compared to New Zealand’s eight.

The All Blacks tasted a rare defeat back in August when they went down to 14 men just before half time, and lost 46-26 against Australia.

South Africa favourites for final place

There was a time this summer where Wales were the top ranked team in the world, but they have not performed as well as they can in Japan.

The Springboks have a slight advantage in being much closer to the host city and used to the conditions, although they did not have it all their own way in the quarter-final.

That being said, Japan are the host nation and have exceeded expectations, so it was a credit to South Africa for overcoming the task.

They face a Wales side that needed a late try to knock out France, who played the majority of the match with 14 men.

But Gatland will be wary that his charges have been victorious in five of the last six meetings against their semi final opponents.

What do I think will happen?

Wales have not had an outstanding performance so far, except from the win against the Wallabies in the group but that said, it’s something of a fallen giant of a Rugby team.

It does seem, however, that Wales have forgotten how to lose and are grinding out victories, no matter how many points they need to score.

I was at Wales’ 20-11 victory over South Africa last year and I think it will be a low scoring game again, but much closer.

Wales will edge it though I think, and set up a final against the All Blacks.

England need every player to play the game of their lives if they are to progress to this year’s final, they’ll also hope New Zealand have an off day.

They have to remain confident though after battering Australia, along with their high scoring victories in the group stage.

New Zealand are serial winners and are the clear favourites for another World Cup triumph, but are in good company with former winners England and South Africa.

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