The fact that Wales are delivering some great performances in this World Cup even with key players missing must be giving them incredible confidence. Dan Biggar has really stepped up to the plate at this tournament. The way he has demanded the 10 role is impressive, and the injury to Leigh Halfpenny has meant more responsibility with the goal kicking. Biggar has exceeded expectations and has been great to watch. Wales go into the quarter-final with South Africa in a brilliant position.
The defeat to Japan in the Pool stage has possibly made South Africa stronger. Nobody expected a top class side like South Africa to be complacent, but it’s human nature when you play a tier two, or a so-called lesser nation.
Japan came out and showed incredible spirit in Brighton, and it really displayed what a great sport rugby is.
South Africa have bounced back though and put together a string of good performances, winning three games on the bounce. They are an incredibly talented rugby nation, and Wales have tended to struggle against them. But this match is at Twickenham. It isn’t the same setting as the Autumn Internationals when Wales have struggled in the past, and the Welsh are building some momentum.
Wales have the opportunity to gain the upper hand by creating a home advantage at Twickenham on Saturday. It’s not a home game, but even at Twickenham against England there was an incredible amount of Welsh support. They will be doing their best to fill that stadium and give the players a lift, by creating a ‘home advantage’.
No team has ever won the World Cup after losing a Pool game like South Africa and Wales have, but as a player stats like that won’t even enter your mind. The lads will be thinking firmly about the game in hand. It’s too big a challenge not too. It’s such an exciting prospect to come up in the quarter-finals of a World Cup and have the opportunity to represent your country, nobody will be thinking about what has gone on in the previous few weeks.
This is an incredibly hard game to call, and will be awfully close, but Wales could just sneak through.
New Zealand showed glimpses of how good they were through the Pool stage, but they were only finding their feet. They probably weren’t firing on all cylinders so it’ll be an exciting prospect to see them get properly tested, and the level of performance they can produce against a top side like France. The New Zealand squad is packed full of superstars and world class talent, so it’ll be a really good chance for them to lay down a marker in this World Cup.
Motivation plays a key part for a lot of players. When it is a bigger occasion and there’s more on the line, it can become more enjoyable for a player. It is the reason you play the game. You want to be in the biggest matches in the biggest stadiums, and you want that adrenalin buzz and the different kind of nerves and excitement that brings with it.
When you’re shoulder to shoulder with your team mates in front of 80,000 people about to play a massive game, that’s what brings the best out of world class players.
France do have the ability to beat New Zealand, but the All Blacks are going to be on the button this Saturday and they’re so mentally strong. They have proven time and time again that they are the best team in the world, and they prove that on the big stage. Seven members of the All Blacks’ World Cup squad have 75 international caps or more and as a unit they are something special.
On paper France have always got a very strong team. They made the World Cup final in 2011, and were in the semi-final before that in 2007. The form is there, and although they’ve done well in the tournament previously, they haven’t gone on and achieved what they’d have wanted to. Only players within the squad would be able to tell you why.
Federic Michalak has been very settled at fly-half. He’s been very comfortable and France will fancy their chances of upsetting the tournament favourites but it’s hard to look past New Zealand getting the result on Saturday night.