The Rugby World Cup semi-finals will take place on Friday and Saturday and Graham Woods has provided his best tips for both matches.
New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and England are the four sides left at this year's tournament following last weekend's thrilling quarter-final action, but which two teams will be heading to the final?
We’re down to the last four in the Rugby World Cup and England are the sole northern hemisphere representatives after France, Ireland and Wales all lost as favourites in their quarter-finals.
England take on South Africa on Saturday in a repeat of the 2019 final, while on Friday evening New Zealand are big favourites to overcome Argentina.
|What||Rugby World Cup 2023|
|When||8th September - 28th October 2023|
|How to watch||All matches live on ITV network|
|Odds||South Africa , New Zealand 6/5, England 12/1, Argentina 33/1|
After a shaky run to the start of the tournament, in which they lost their final warm-up game to South Africa and their World Cup opener against France, New Zealand look to have hit their groove and should have too much of an attacking threat for Argentina.
Los Pumas are appearing in their third Rugby World Cup semi-final, having lost 37-13 to South Africa in 2007 and 29-15 to Australia in 2015, and a handicap in the high teens is no great surprise. But given the way the All Blacks have turned around their fortunes, it’s a line that looks within their reach.
New Zealand are the highest scorers in the competition, having racked up 253 points and 38 tries in the pool stage, and they showed their fluency in attack in their quarter-final against Ireland, in which wingers Leicester Fainga'anuku and Will Jordan both got on the scoresheet.
The All Blacks have suffered their only defeats to Argentina in the last three years, losing two of the last seven meetings, but their five wins in that run have all been by more than 20 points, culminating in a 41-12 victory in Argentina in July.
Argentina’s two victories over their semi-final rivals have come by very similar scorelines as they won 25-18 in Christchurch last year and 25-15 in Sydney two years earlier.
But it seems 25 points is their limit and in their last 10 meetings with the All Blacks they have scored a total of 135 for an average of 13.5, and that kind of score won’t be enough to stay close to a rampant New Zealand attack.
This is a contest that New Zealand should boss from start to finish and they look more than capable of blowing away any handicap in the high teens.
Having won 33 of the previous 36 meetings between the two sides, a big All Blacks win, perhaps similar to the 41-12 victory they achieved in Argentina over the summer, looks set to be on the cards.
While New Zealand have built their World Cup pedigree on their swashbuckling attacking style, South Africa have taken quite the opposite approach.
Defence has been the cornerstone of their success - they have won all three World Cup finals they have appeared in and not conceded one try.
The most recent of those victories was in 2019 against England, their semi-final opponents on Saturday. They also beat England in the final of the 2007 tournament, in Paris, and that 15-6 success came just weeks after a 36-0 rout of the same opponents in the pool stage.
The sharp contrast in those scorelines underlines South Africa’s approach to knockout rugby, and although they conceded three tries and 28 points in their quarter-final, that was against a France side packed with attacking threats, and a last-four clash with England looks set to be a far more cagey affair.
Since that 2007 final these sides have met 15 times and nine times the winning margin has been less than 12 points, while there’s also been a draw.
Even in the 2019 final, South Africa held an 18-12 lead on the hour mark and their two decisive tries came in the final 15 minutes, while in their semi-final at that tournament the Springboks showed their willingness to grind out victories in a solid but far from entertaining 19-16 win over Wales.
South Africa will be confident of their defence against an England attack that has still to prove itself at this tournament, while they have the attacking weapons, particularly in flying wingers Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe to claim the crucial scores.
This looks set to be the closer of the two semi-finals, but South Africa have proven in past meetings with England and at the latter stages of World Cups, that they can get over the line.
It would be no surprise to see the defending champions secure their place in the final with a narrow victory by no more than 12 points.
New Zealand to beat Argentina with a -18 handicap @ 1/1
South Africa to beat England by one to 12 points @
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.