It's quarter-final day at RWC2011; for the Northern Hemisphere side of the draw at least, and there are two intriuging contests in store.
The Cake Tin in Wellington will be a sea of red and green at 6pm tonight as Ireland meets Wales. Unfortunately, a number of Irish fans were caught out by their team's win over Australia in pool play, and had bought tickets for tomorrow night's quarter-final instead. We have no doubt though that resourcefulness will have been shown, and that there will be a huge contingent of fans from both nations at the match.
It's a hard one to pick, but we'll go for the Irish, albeit narrowly. The discipline they showed against Australia a fortnight ago will be required again. The Welsh have played with flair and panache, and but for a poor refereeing decision in the opening match against South Africa, they may have topped their pool. There's nothing between the teams, and it's the kind of match that may come down to one bounce of the ball, one missed tackle, or one refereeing decision.
The late game tonight pits England against France. Everything points to an English win; they were unbeaten in pool play, whilst the French lost twice, and seem to be in disarray. So that's why we're tipping a French victory; these are circumstances tailor-made for them. Sometimes, when rugby's most magnificent national anthem La Marseillaise is sung, something magical happens. We witnessed it with our own eyes at Eden Park on Bastille Day in 1979, and the All Blacks were on the receiving end of it at Twickenham in 1999 when the French exploded into life 50 minutes into the game. It's inexplicable; it defies logic; and it's something that seems unique to the French.
England struggled for a long time to subdue the brave Scots last Saturday night at the Garden of Eden. If they give the French a sniff, the match could be over. On the other hand, and in all probability, England may grind out a win. But we reckon that the cries of Allez les Bleu will be ringing around Eden Park around 10.30pm tonight; we can feel it in our bones!
So we reckon that Ireland and France will be battling it out in the first semi-final next week. What do you reckon?