The Rugby World Cup 2023 quarterfinal draw is complete with all four matches pitting northern hemisphere teams against sides from the south.
South Africa have made a huge call on their halves for their clash against France, with Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok to start over their World Cup-winning halves. Jacques Nienaber has also made a big call at the back of the scrum, with Jasper Wiese dropped.
Antoine Dupont meanwhile returns for France in the only change to the team that crushed Italy last time out.
Ireland’s Andy Farrell receiving some welcomed news on the injury front. They’ve done so after a tweak to their training schedule, where they will have Thursday off.
The All Blacks named their squad with with tight-head prop Tyrel Lomax a surprise inclusion after a leg injury last week. Ian Foster has opted for Finlay Christie to back up Aaron Smith despite calls for Cam Roigard to be given the bench role.
Winger Mark Telea has been dropped from the 23 on discipline grounds with Kiwi media reporting he broke a team curfew.
The electric winger has three tries in two World Cup appearances including two against France in the opening match.
“He breached the protocol, nothing major, but enough to keep him out of selection for this week,” said Foster.
“I still love him, he trained well, it happens. For us it’s pretty clean-cut, I don’t really want to talk about it anymore. We’ve dealt with it as a team and moved on.”Foster would not go into much detail except to say it wasn’t a major breach, adding “I still love him.”
England coach Steve Borthwick has opted for Owen Farrell at No.10 ahead of the in-form George Ford to face Fiji, who bring Semi Radradra back on the wing.
Argentina and Wales also named their teams on Friday (AEST).
Check back here for teams and developing storylines as the week progresses.
QF 1: Wales vs Argentina, Sunday 2am AEDT, Marseille
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made six changes to his starting XV from the team that defeated Georgia last game for the opening quarter-final against Michael Cheika’s Argentina Pumas.
Aaron Wainwright will wear the number eight jersey – for the 11th time in his 43rd test – in place of the injured Taulupe Faletau.
Regular captain and openside flanker Jac Morgan moves to blindside flanker. Tommy Reffell has been rewarded with a place on the openside after an impressive performance against Georgia: 18 tackles and three turnovers.
Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar return in the halves, with the later returning after injury. Josh Adams and Adam Beard return at left-wing and second-row respectively after being rested against Georgia.
Argentina meanwhile made two changes to their starting XV from the team that beat Japan to qualify.
Scrum-half Tomás Cubelli has replaced Gonzalo Bertranou and Facundo Isa has come in to Los Pumas’ back-row for the injured Pablo Matera
How they got there: Wales topped Australia’s pool C by winning all four games including a thumping 40-6 win over the Wallabies. Argentina finished second behind England, beating Japan is a virtual sudden death game after also accounting for Samoa and Chile.
Wales will be without No 8 Taulupe Faletau after he suffered a broken arm against Georgia, as well as backup flyhalf Gareth Anscombe who suffered a groin injury in the warm-up last week.
Argentina are without star forward Pablo Matera, who injured his hamstring against Japan.
What they’re saying
Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit: “Argentina have got a good kicking game and they are a threat on the ball. We are building nice momentum. We’re getting the job done and really looking forward to the quarter-finals.”
Argentina coach Michael Cheika: “What changes now is the mentality. I feel like some of our boys, if you look at the crowd here today, so many Argentineans who have put their savings together and come for this week, next week. I think they’ve felt a bit of that pressure. “Now everyone is happy, the crowd is happy, they’re into it, they’re ripe for the next stage, maybe we can just chill out and go for it, play some good footy and we’ll see where the cards fall, see how we go.”
Wales (1-15): Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Jac Morgan (c), Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright, Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar, Josh Adams, Nick Tompkins, George North, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams
Replacements: Dewi Lake, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza, Tomos Williams,
Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer
Argentina (1-15): Thomas Gallo, Julian Montoya (c), Francisco Gómez Kodela, Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Marcos Kremer, Facundo Isa, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Carreras, Mateo Carreras, Santiago Chocobares, Lucio Cinti, Emiliano Boffelli, Juan Cruz Mallia.
Replacements: Agustín Creevy, Joel Sclavi, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Nicolas Sanchez, Matías Moroni.
Prediction: Wales by 5 points.
QF 2: Ireland vs New Zealand, Sunday 6am AEDT, Stade de France
Ireland has received a boost ahead of their quarter-final against the All Blacks, with wingers Mack Hansen and James Lowe named in an unchanged XV from the one that easily dispatched Scotland.
Both wingers were in doubt after Hansen felt calf soreness after returning to the field following a HIA check, while Lowe suffered an eye injury.
But Andy Farrell hasn’t hesitated in naming either, despite Australian-born Hansen not training on Monday.
Ireland, however, have lost lock James Ryan because of a wrist injury. He is expected to be fit should Ireland reach the semi-finals for the first time.
It’s a quality line up, with only Robbie Henshaw the only other regular player in the matchday 23 that is missing following an injury at training last week.
Hansen’s fellow Australian Finlay Bealham has been named on the bench.
New Zealand have named an experienced lineup with a combined 1366 Test caps worth of experience.
“We are where we want to be,” said Ian Foster. “World Cup quarterfinals are so exciting for many reasons, and we know the pressure they bring.
Captain Sam Cane is joined by Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell in the starting loose forward trio. It will mark the first time they have run out together since the team’s 35-20 win over South Africa in Auckland.
Loosehead prop Ethan de Groot has returned from suspension to join Codie Taylor and Tyrel Lomax in the front row. Their last-start together was in the team’s 38-7 win over Australia in Melbourne.
After a hat-trick of tries against Namibia, Leicester Fainga’anuku has been selected on the left wing and will feature alongside Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan in the back three. He gets his place with Mark Telea dropped due to a disciplinary issue.
Finlay Christie gets the nod ahead of Cam Roigard to back up Aaron Smith.
“We have huge respect for Ireland who are number one in the world for a reason,” added Foster. “We are excited by the opportunity we have in front of us and expect to be tested in many ways. That is what World Cups are about.”
How they got there: Ireland marched to a 17th-straight victory when they dominated Scotland, having laid down an early marker by beating South Africa to top pool B. New Zealand lost their opening game in pool A against France but dominated since then, including 25 tries in walloping Italy and Uruguay in their final two pool matches.
Ireland have never won a knockout game at a World Cup and the world No.1 ranked team is on course for a record-breaking run of wins.
What they’re saying
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton: “We went to New Zealand [last year] and Andy [Farrell] told us he put us under the most pressure he could find. To go on a three-test tour but also do the midweek games, it was to test us and to make us learn.
“We learned so many lessons on that tour to take with us for the Six Nations, to win a Grand Slam. To put us in this situation again, to have to play them again. They have said it’s the one they want, they are hurting and they want to put it right. That is the biggest challenge in rugby, to beat them when they are in that frame of mind. Two teams will both be under pressure and it will be who copes with that the best.”
New Zealand coach Ian Foster: “It’s about treasuring each day and knowing that this is what we’ve worked for – the preparation that we’ve put in is to get us to this point – and to make sure that each day we get what we needed done at a really high level.
“It’s a phase of the tournament that we love, we love these big occasions – there’s no tomorrow to them. It just narrows down the focus, so keeping it simple like that is key for us.
“Everyone hopes they can go well in the play-offs, I guess we know that we can and we have, and we’ve got to rely on that and build on it.”
Ireland (1-15): Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris, Jamison Gibson-Park, Johnny Sexton (c), James Lowe, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan.
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Joe McCarthy, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien
New Zealand (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Codie Taylor, Tyrel Lomax, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan, Beauden Barrett.
Replacements: Dane Coles, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Sam Whitelock, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie, Anton Leinert-Brown.
Prediction: Ireland by 7 points.
QF 3: England vs Fiji, Monday 2am AEDT, Marseille
Owen Farrell will captain an England starting XV with two changes to the side that defeated Samoa 18-17 in the final game of the pool stages in Lille last weekend.
In the front row, Ellis Genge – who is named as one of three vice-captains – starts at loosehead prop alongside Jamie George at hooker and Dan Cole at tighthead. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum continue at lock with vice-captain Courtney Lawes on the blindside flank, Tom Curry on the openside and Ben Earl at No.8 to round off an unchanged pack.
In the halfback berths, Alex Mitchell partners Farrell as Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant combine in the centres.
In the back three, Elliot Daly returns to the starting XV on the left wing, Jonny May moves to the right and Marcus Smith is set to wear the 15 shirt.
England coach Steve Borthwick has made a big call by starting Farrell over Ford and sending the vice-captain to the bench.
“The knockout stages of any Rugby World Cup are always full of excitement and keen anticipation for our supporters both at home and here in France. This will be no different. The players cannot wait for this Sunday’s quarter-final against Fiji,” said Borthwick.
“Everyone knows just what an unpredictably dangerous opposition Fiji can be. However, we have shown in the group stages how we can win games, and we will be calling on that experience and determination to ensure we carry on our journey.
How they got there: England were lucky to keep their perfect record intact with a one-point win over Samoa. Fiji beat Australia, Georgia and lost to Portugal, although a losing bonus point in that game was enough to get them through.
England came into the tournament with woeful form, including a first-ever loss to Fiji at Twickenham. Sam Underhill has been called into the squad to replace injured Jack Willis. Centre Manu Tuilagi and hooker Jamie George picked up knocks in the victory over Samoa but were both named.
Fiji were really poor before falling to Portugal and coach Simon Rawalui will need to work on their composure this week.
What they’re saying
England coach Steve Borthwick: “There have been many times these players have been written off quite badly, there were many Ultimately there were many people that wrote that this team would not get out of the group stages and the team has progressed.”
Fiji assistant Seremaia Bai: “We were pretty disappointed [with the loss to Portugal] but we got into the quarter-final, which is not an easy task, but we are excited at the same time. Probably three months ago, we played England and we get confidence from that game that we can compete with them [Fiji beat England for the first time at Twickenham in August]. We just re-grouped and talked about the positives and we are looking forward to playing this weekend against England.
“If you look at our game at the weekend, we just need to keep hold of the ball. Building phases, being patient, ball carrying – those fundamentals. I think we can move the ball around better on the field. That is something we talked about coming out of last weekend’s game.”
Fiji named 10 of the team that beat England in the leadup in the starting XV with former NRL star Semi Radradra returning to the wing.
England (1-15): Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Alex Mitchell, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Marcus Smith.
Replacements: Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, George Martin, Billy Vunipola, Danny Care, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence.
Fiji (1-15): Eroni Mawi, Tevita Ikanivere, Luke Tagi, Isoa Nasilasila, Albert Tuisue, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Levani Botia, Viliame Mata, Frank Lomani, Vilimoni Botitu, Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu (c), Vinaya Habosi, Ilaisa Droasese.
Replacements: Samuel Matavesi, Peni Ravai, Mesake Doge, Meli Derenalagi, Vilive Miramira, Simione Kuruvoli, Iosefo Masi, Sireli Maqala.
Prediction: England by 10 points
QF 4: France vs South Africa, Monday 6am, St-Denis
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has made sweeping changes to his side from the one that beat Romania for Sunday’s final World Cup quarter-final against host nation France in Paris.
But 13 of the 15 that started against Ireland in their narrow Pool B loss will return against Les Bleus.
The two changes are significant ones.
Duane Vermeulen starts ahead of Jasper Wiese at No.8, with the World Cup winner’s experience and ability in the air preferred. Kwagga Smith is the replacement back-rower on a five forwards, three backs bench split.
While halfback Cobus Reinach starts ahead of Faf de Klerk, with the long, blonde general to come off the bench along with Handre Pollard.
That means Reinach will start alongside Manie Libbok.
“If we select Cobus [Reinach] or Faf [de Klerk], I don’t think there would be a lot of raised eyebrows,” Nienaber said.
“France have got a very interesting kicking game and we feel using those two guys will give us the best opportunity.
“For this specific game, we feel Duane is the guy we will need, but that doesn’t mean Jasper won’t play in the semi-final. It is based on what we feel we need to get a victory on Sunday.”
Nienaber said the form of Libbok and Pollard’s recent return to the international arena meant it was a straight-forward decision to select the rising Stormers playmaker in the No.10 jersey.
“If you look at a guy like Cobus, he is playing exceptional rugby, and Faf for that matter. It’s the same with Manie,” he said.
“Handre is a bit different, when you look at the cumulative number of minutes he has played for us this year. It is probably one game altogether, so he is slowly building up his minutes. And Manie is probably our in-form fly-half. I think we have lost one game this year when he has started at 10. The team performs when he starts at 10, it is as simple as that.”
France celebrate the return of Antoine Dupont, 24 days after he suffered a fractured jaw against Namibia in the only starting XV change to the team that beat Italy 60-7.
How they got there: France topped their pool with a perfect record after overcoming the All Blacks impressively on opening night. They have done well to overcome the loss of Antoine Dupont, who is in contention for a return. South Africa lost a tight match to Ireland when their goal-kicking went awry and qualify as second in pool B.
The recovery of Dupont from a facial injury suffered against Namibia is dominating French news
What they’re saying
France coach Fabien Galthie: “We’re always nervous before this kind of match. It would be a lie to say there’s no tension. That’s what makes these moments so special. We try to make the most of these moments, live them well together, and move forward with pleasure, joy, happiness and determination.
“It is certainly the most important match, because it’s the next one. The past is just a memory. Our next match is against the world champions, who beat the Lions, a winning team. They’re a team that inspire us, that we’ve followed a lot. They talk a lot about nation, about uniting the country. We love how they carry the symbol of their country. I learned a lot about their country and their culture over there.
“Playing against them, in Paris, at Stade de France, in a World Cup quarter-final, is magnificent, it’s wonderful. We’re well aware of that. For us, the challenge is simply to play rugby with pleasure, as a team and with ambition. We want to rise to this challenge as we always have.”
South Africa prop Vincent Koch: “We zoomed into our game this past week and the coaches came up with plans on where we can improve so that we are at the level we need to be for the quarterfinal and to be in a position to play our best rugby, and the players bought into it, so it was a good training week.”
France (1-15): Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Thibaud Flament, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt, Antoine Dupont (c), Matthieu Jalibert, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Jonathan Danty, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos.
Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Reda Wardi, Dorian Aldegheri, Romain Taofifenua, Francois Cros, Sekou Macalou, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana.
South Africa (1-15): Steven Kitshoff, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (c), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Manie Libbok, Cheslin Kolbe, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Damian Willemse
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard, Willie Le Roux
Prediction: France by 3 points.