RWC Quarter-Finals: Wales v France / Japan v South Africa5 min read
Wales face France in a European showdown in the first quarter-final on Sunday before hosts Japan bid to continue their history-making run with a last-eight clash against South Africa.
Unbeaten Wales full of belief
Warren Gatland ends his tenure as Wales coach at the end of this tournament and believes his team are strong enough to win the World Cup. His confidence is built on solid foundations, after an outstanding year with Wales clinching the Six Nations Grand Slam during a 14-match winning run.
Wales finished top of their pool after holding off Australia in a gripping 29-25 victory. With four victories out of four, Wales are in strong shape and have a potent finisher in the shape of Josh Adams. The wing scored a hat-trick against Fiji and is the joint top tryscorer with five tries.
Unpredictable France face European rivals
France have also yet to lose in Japan although only played three matches after their final pool match with England was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. Jacques Brunel’s side have looked impressive at times but also poor within the same matches, seemingly unable to produce a complete performance.
Seeing off Argentina, Tonga and USA is one thing but this level will surely not be enough to defeat Wales.
Recent history favours Wales with victories in seven of the last eight clashes and Gatland’s full-strength side look well equipped to continue this record in their quarter-final.
But France have lost their last two games against them by no more than five points and another tight clash in Oita is expected.
Wales can edge into the semi-finals and a victory by up to seven points is a tempting price at 13/5.
Brave Blossoms euphoric after reaching first quarter-final
Japan’s remarkable form has illuminated the World Cup and the hosts will be eyeing more history after qualifying for their first quarter-final.
The Brave Blossoms stunned Ireland in their second pool match to take control of the group but Japan upped their level again to clinch top spot with a 28-21 victory which sent Scotland home last weekend.
Jamie Joseph’s side have been outstanding, with their attacking game proving too much for Ireland and Scotland. Kotaro Matsushima, joint top tryscorer with five tries, and Kenki Fukuoka have been ruthless finishers on the wing and their offloading game looks a match for any side in the competition.
Springboks aiming to avoid repeat of 2015 upset
South Africa are second favourites to win the World Cup despite losing their first match. Rassie Erasmus’ side were beaten 23-13 by defending champions New Zealand before big wins over Namibia, Italy and Canada sent them through in second spot.
The Springboks base their game on a direct approach with their physical power in the forwards a major weapon. There is plenty of star power though with Cheslin Kolbe a huge threat on the wing.
South Africa know all about the danger of Japan after suffering a huge upset in their 34-32 defeat in the pool stage of the last World Cup. The only other meeting came last month with the Springboks winning 41-7 in their warm-up game.
Make no mistake, Japan are good enough to win again against South Africa although the best bet looks to be backing them in the handicap market.
Whether Japan can hold off the Springboks for the entire match remains to be seen but the hosts merit support with a seven-point first-half handicap in a game which is far from a foregone conclusion.
Wales to win by 1-7 points
Japan +7 in the first-half handicap