Rugby World Cup Semi-Final: England v New Zealand5 min read
England are one win away from the World Cup final but Eddie Jones’ side face a mouthwatering showdown against defending champions New Zealand in Saturday’s semi-final.
England peaking for huge clash
England have been extremely impressive during the World Cup although there is no doubt they will have to produce their best performance in Japan if they are to end the All Blacks’ era of dominance.
Jones insisted from the start of his tenure he was always targeting this competition and it appears his team are peaking at just the right time.
England cruised through the pool stage with three victories against Tonga, USA and 14-man Argentina. France were expected to hand them a serious test but the cancellation, due to Typhoon Hagibis, threatened to leave them lacking sharpness going into the knockout stages.
The additional week off from competitive rugby certainly did not hinder them and England produced a superb performance to defeat Australia 40-16 in their quarter-final.
The Wallabies made some significant mistakes but England ruthlessly punished them to clinch their biggest victory in a World Cup knockout match.
Jonny May pounced with two quickfire first-half tries while Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson sealed the win with second-half efforts.
England, who have brought George Ford back into the team at fly-half, have improved in each match during the tournament and this bodes well for Saturday’s clash in Yokohama against the awesome All Blacks.
Outstanding All Blacks difficult to stop
New Zealand came into this tournament with some doubts against their challenge for a third successive triumph but the favourites have shown no weaknesses so far in Japan.
Steve Hansen’s side were handed a tough opener against South Africa but the holders showed their class in a 23-13 win.
Routine victories against Canada and Namibia in the pool stage followed before the All Blacks were at their scintillating best in their quarter-final destruction of Ireland.
New Zealand had lost two of their previous three games against Joe Schmidt’s side but there never looked any chance of another defeat after completely dominating them in Tokyo to win 46-14.
The three-time winners scored seven tries, including two from Aaron Smith, as they obliterated an Ireland team that briefly topped the world rankings this year.
It was a huge statement of intent from the All Blacks and emphasised the size of the task facing England in their semi-final. Hansen has opted to bring Scott Barrett into the second row to strengthen their line-out in a key battle this weekend.
In their most recent clash last November, England pushed them all the way but New Zealand edged to a 16-15 win at Twickenham.
This was their sixth successive defeat against the world champions with England’s last win coming in 2012.
But four of the last five games have seen losses by no more than five points and England are worth backing with an eight-point handicap advantage.
England have the pace and power to cause New Zealand significant problems and ensure this is another tight encounter.
Another bet worth taking is for England to be winning at half-time and the All Blacks to be ahead at the final whistle.
England have been winning in three of their last four defeats to New Zealand and this could play out again with the favourites fancied to edge this titanic battle after 80 minutes.
England +8 to win
England/New Zealand Half-Time/Full-Time