After England decimated the Australian side 40-16 last weekend, punters are asking themselves if Eddie Jones’ team has what it takes to reach the Rugby World Cup Final at Yokohama Stadium on 2 November. As former England Captain Lawrence Dallaglio put it, Australia were “outplayed, outcoached and out of the tournament” by a resurgent English side that silenced doubters whose concerns about the relatively weak pool and the cancellation of the match against France proved unfounded.
But wait a minute…which team lies in their way? None other than the redoubtable New Zealand side which crushed Ireland 46-14 in Tokyo en route to the Semi-Final. More skilful, faster and unvaryingly ruthless, the All Blacks tore Ireland to shreds, taking advantage of unforced errors to dominate the match and show once again the form that makes them the number one team in the world. With the All Blacks having lifted the trophy in 2011 and then again in 2015, it’s little wonder that bookie William Hill is offering odds of 4/11 that New Zealand will beat England in the Semi-Final on Saturday 26 October.
England coach Eddie Jones remains confident, however, that his team can beat New Zealand, saying “Every team has got a weakness. Every team is beatable. ” He does, however, acknowledge the enormous challenge ahead, and comments “The All Blacks are a great side – well-coached, good leadership team – if you give them the type of ball they want, they are hard to defend against”.
Certainly, New Zealand are big favourites to win and the best odds available for an England win are 23/10 from BoyleSports. But England are also in superb form – captain Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Kyle Sinckler and flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill being particularly strong just now – and could upset the apple cart if the All Blacks allow them into the match.
If, and it remains a big if, England do defeat New Zealand on Saturday, the team would move forward to the Final, facing the winner of the Wales v South Africa Semi-Final to be held on Sunday 27 October also at Yokohama Stadium. Wales will also be starting their Semi-Final as underdogs after a lacklustre 20-19 win over France. Bookie SpreadEx has odds of 3/1 that Wales will win the match, but South Africa will start as the firm favourite with a variety of bookmakers including Coral, Betfair and Skybet offering odds of 4/11 for a Springboks win.
So the prospect of a Home Nations Final looks pretty remote just now, but cannot be discounted…just yet. One thing is for sure – with two tantalising rugby matches next weekend, sofa punters will be glued to their TVs, enjoying world-class sporting action.