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Pitchside with Ferris: The World Cup semis and five players to watch

| 24.10.2019

England v New Zealand, Saturday @ 09:00 UK Time

To me, New Zealand have been the most consistent team in the tournament. Showing class, experience and what they are capable of in all the matches they have played in.

Any team that faces the All Blacks knows what they are in for. They haven’t won the last two world cups for nothing.

I watch such a strong team with envy at some of the skill the players have. Some of the talent they have brought to the field such as Sevu Reece and George Bridge, who not many people would have predicted to start in a World Cup 18 months ago.

I see them getting off to a fast start and using their inspirational HAKA to add to the energy they are going to bring to the match. Reece and Bridge have been a breath of fresh air to this tournament.

Young guys who back their ability and almost play like they have no fear is a dangerous threat to England. I fancy Reece or Bridge to get on the scoresheet early and get that first try for their country.

But Jonny May and Anthony Watson might have something to say about that….

England are a team that have got better as the World Cup has went on, they are building nicely. Players like Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola are very powerful and physical players that bring so much athleticism to their side.

This will definitely be an area NZ will want to shut down as it’s been the heartbeat of success over the last few months.

Eddie Jones has a lot of options and it has been brilliant to see him mix it up over the group games and quarter-final.

They seem to alter their game plan for whoever they are coming up against and I definitely think it will be tinkered with for this fight against New Zealand.

The victory against Australia was resounding, but they will need to up the intensity another couple of levels to cope with the All Blacks’ onslaught that will be coming their way for the full 80 minutes.

I don’t think it will be like the quarter finals where both these teams hammer the opposition. This is going to be tight and could be as close as a one score game.

No-one has talked about the weather. There has been a bit of rain in Tokyo and Yokohama this week, if it is raining this could play into England’s hands. They like to outmuscle teams and keep it tighter as we saw in the last 20 minutes of their game against Australia. 

The point spread is seven in favour of New Zealand and I think it will be a little tighter than this. Let’s hope it’s pouring with rain.

Wales v South Africa, Sunday @ 09:00 UK Time

Wales reached their peak in the group stages and under-performed in the quarter-final as the team didn’t get off to a great start.

However, Warren Gatland is a shrewd operator as a head coach and always seems to find a way to get the job done.

If they want to beat South Africa, they need to find their ‘A’ game and score a lot more points than they have shown us over the last five weeks.

Their attack has been questioned at times due to not being a massive threat, but there is no questioning the effort and brute ignorance in defence.

A country that always fights to the final whistle, but I feel this game will be over come 70 minutes due to South Africa’s power game. 

I see Wales running out of steam and energy against a very dominant South African team who haven’t been challenged since their first game against New Zealand.   

I think the first try scorer could be the South African hooker. This could be Bongi Mbonambi or Malcolm Marx, whichever of the two start. South Africa like to maul, and the hooker usually finds himself on the ball after he throws it in.

If South Africa get an opportunity to kick to the corner early, then the hooker could find his name on the scoreboard.  

An area of the game SA should have massive dominance, but as I said previously the Welsh won’t lie down.

South Africa are going into this full of confidence and have the upper hand in this game in my opinion. I think Wales have run their race during this World Cup.

I can see this game as a South African victory with a 10-15-point win. This is South Africa’s one-way ticket to the final and I think their ticket will be stamped with a business class performance. 

Five to Watch This Weekend

Sevu Reece, New Zealand

He is an unbelievable winger and has electric footwork. He’s very powerful, great in the air and always keeps his team going forward.  

Beauden Barrett, New Zealand

Plays at 15 but can also play out half and has been Rugby World player of the year in recent times. He is an easy choice. 

Owen Farrell, England

He has good control of the game and is always very consistent. He’s not one of those guys who comes on for one week and is gone the next.

He plays 80 minutes week in, week out, giving his team a lot of direction and having everyone singing off his hymn sheet.  

Billy Vunipola, England

He has been one of the best back rows in Europe for the last number of years. I have played against him several times and he is a beast of a man. Incredible player and brings so much to the England squad.  

Cheslin Kolbe, South Africa

Another amazing winger who has been one of the stars of this World Cup. He could be the World Cup player of the tournament if he continues in this rich vein of form. 

Ireland

I am not surprised Gary Ringrose has been picked as Ireland’s best player during this World Cup.

He was consistent in this competition but did get the most opportunities. Had Robbie Henshaw been fit from the beginning I wonder would Ringrose have started ahead of him and Bundee Aki? I’m not so sure.  

Ringrose is one of the players Andy Farrell will build his team around along with the likes of James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour. These young players are the future for Ireland.  

If I was in Andy Farrell’s shoes and had to choose the next Ireland captain, I would choose James Ryan.

He’s so young and can build not only to the next World Cup, but the one after that.

He captained Ireland’s U20’s for a couple of years, so he has experience in the field. He seems to be the type of person who would take great satisfaction in this opportunity.  

You can’t take away what Joe Schmidt has done for the team and the trophies he has won with both Ireland and Leinster.

Everyone remembers the way you bow out and unfortunately, he has bowed out in a way he wouldn’t have wanted to finish.

However, he can hold his head high and reminisce about all the good times he has had in Irish Rugby.  

I will be back next week to build up to the Rugby World Cup final, I am excited to see who comes out on top! 

Stephen.

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Author

Stephen Ferris

After a fine backrow career with Ulster and Ireland, Stephen Ferris will be sharing his thoughts on all the big rugby talking points here on Ladbrokes News, including the World Cup and Six Nations.