Check out betting odds and tips for the Rugby World Cup ahead of the final, as Sports.net assesses how the showpiece match could unfold.
The first World Cup ever hosted in Asia began with a somewhat nervy victory for hosts Japan against Russia, and it is the home side that largely dominated the headlines during the group phase of the tournament, en route to finishing top of Pool A. Ireland were expected to win the group and convincingly brushed aside Scotland 27-3 in Yokohama, but their 19-12 loss to Japan a week later blew the pool wide open. Ireland recovered their poise to seal qualification in their remaining matches, leaving Scotland to fight it out with Japan in the final match of the group. Scotland performed admirably in the face of a partisan crowd but found Japan in inspired form, and a 28-21 triumph for the hosts left Scotland heading home earlier than many had expected.
Pool B began with a blockbuster showdown between Southern hemisphere heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa. It was the All Blacks who triumphed in a gripping 23-13 encounter and that was good enough for them to take top spot ahead of the Springboks as the rest of the matches played out in predictable fashion. Italy were the only other side with a realistic chance of making it through, but they were thrashed by South Africa and their fixture against New Zealand was called off because of Typhoon Hagibis.
Hagibis also forced the postponement of England’s clash with France in Pool C – which was effectively a shootout for top spot. England ended up with more bonus points from their three completed matches, having moved gently through the gears as they overpowered Tonga and USA, before beating Argentina 39-10 in a match that could have proved far more testing had it not been for Tomás Lavanini’s early red card for the Pumas. Argentina, semi-finalists in 2015, therefore missed out on a place in the knockout stages after being edged out by France in their first match.
Pool D was the only group in which every team won at least one match, with Uruguay enjoying their best ever result as they defeated the dangerous Fijians 30-27. That result effectively ended Fiji’s chances of upsetting the big two – Wales and Australia – both of whom they ran close before falling short in exciting finishes. The match between Wales and Australia was also one of the best of the group stage, as Warren Gatland’s side withstood a Wallabies fightback to win 29-25.
Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals
The quarter-finals kicked off with a surprisingly one-sided 40-16 victory for England against fellow former champions Australia. The Wallabies provided a fierce challenge, but two first-half tries in the space of three minutes from Jonny May set the tone for a superb win for the 2003 winners. However, New Zealand will be waiting in the semi-finals after their equally impressive demolition of Ireland. The All Blacks raced out to a 22-0 lead at half-time and barely put a foot wrong as they completed a 46-14 triumph.
The closest match of the quarter-finals proved to be the tussle between Wales and France. Les Bleus played their best rugby of the tournament to take control, but they surrendered their grip on the game when lock Sebastien Vahaamahina was sent off early in the second half and Ross Moriarty’s late converted try clinched a 20-19 victory. In the final match of the quarter-final weekend, Japan’s dream run came to an end at the hands of South Africa. The Springboks, famously beaten by Japan in 2015, overpowered their hosts with a physical display, running out 26-3 winners.
In the semi-finals, England produced one of the finest performances in their history to knock out defending champions New Zealand. The All Blacks, who looked so invincible against Ireland, were barely given any room to settle as England combined an irresistible intensity with moments of artistry to complete an emphatic 19-7 victory. They will play South Africa next, after the Springboks came through their semi-final against Wales 19-16 in a tense affair in Yokohama. The scores were level going into the last five minutes after one try apiece in the second half, but Handre Pollard held his nerve to kick the winning penalty.
Final Betting Tips
England have got better and better as the World Cup has progressed, sweeping aside Australia and beating New Zealand convincingly. Eddie Jones has got his tactics spot on in every game, starting Henry Slade against the Wallabies and then restoring George Ford to fly-half against the All Blacks. The flair of the backs has been complemented by the ferocity of the forwards, and there is a sense of relentlessness about the momentum that has been built up.
Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson are all set to be fit and available for England after shrugging off injury concerns, and South Africa will have to improve considerably if they are to avoid becoming the third of the three Southern hemisphere giants to fall victim to England. The Springboks have been effective rather than eye-catching so far, and even lost to New Zealand in the group stage.
However, their physical style may make them more suited to taking on England than either Australia or New Zealand. Coach Rassie Erasmus has declared that his team will look to ‘grind it out’, and he is not expecting an expansive match with lots of tries. The combative nature of both sides, coupled with the significance of the occasion, means that a tight encounter is likely, and it could play out in a similar way to the 12-11 victory to England the last time they met in November 2018.
England are playing so much better than they were a year ago, though, and are the understandable favourites on form. If they can replicate the level of their performance against South Africa, they should lift the World Cup for the first time since 2003. To give yourself odds of better than 1/1, you should also be confident about backing England in a handicap market which gives South Africa a head-start of more than four points.