Japan reaches the last 8 of the Rugby Union World Cup: New Zealand remains the favorite!

Japan reaches the last 8 of the Rugby Union World Cup: New Zealand remains the favorite!

Sawako Uchida and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese rugby union team made history by reaching the last 8 of the Rugby Union World Cup for the first time. Of course, while one shock against Ireland or Scotland was possible, to beat both was not foreseen by the majority of pundits.

However, the quick handling of Japan and tenacious tackling perplexed Ireland. By the end, Ireland wilted. Yet, in fairness to Scotland, they did fight back despite ultimately losing. Thus, for Japan to beat Ireland and Scotland was remarkable.

The last eight teams consist of Australia, England, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and Wales. Ironically, New Zealand and South Africa match might be the real pointer. Indeed, it isn’t impossible that they will meet again in the final because both teams are outstanding. Equally important, South Africa seems to be getting stronger with each game. In truth, both teams have a spice of sparkle and extra panache.

However, on the opposite scale, France seems nervous and lacking in confidence. After all, the comeback by Argentina was admirable and they had a kick to win the game. Then France played very scrappy against Tonga. Hence, Wales should beat France. However, with France, you just never know – even if it seems unlikely!

The clash between Australia and Wales was a classic because of the changing fortune of the game. At one point, Wales began to run riot against Australia. Yet, by the end, the Welsh fans were baying for the final whistle. Indeed, just like New Zealand against South Africa, the game between Australia and Wales witnessed two very talented teams.

England looks like a well-oiled machine and up to now, they haven’t been challenged by anyone. It could be that England is peeking at the right time. Despite this, Australia is a very talented team. However, the current weak-spot of Australia is starting slowly. Australia can’t keep on being sleepy early on in the last eight of the tournament. Hence, the game between Australia and England is too close to call. Therefore, no outcome would shock in this game of contrasting styles.

Ireland seems too one-dimensional at the moment so they need to change this against New Zealand. Of course, they can play sparkling rugby based on speed and strength – for example, they steamrolled over Scotland. Yet, against Japan, Ireland seemed at a loss. However, the passion of the team and fans will bring out their A-game against New Zealand. Even so, it seems that New Zealand will be too good for Ireland – but, of course, in sport, you just never know.

Finally, for Japan, they have to play South Africa in their next game. It is difficult to believe that lightning will strike twice for Japan against South Africa. In saying that, many people said this when Japan beat Ireland. In other words, surely they can’t beat Scotland but they did. Without a doubt, this is the greatest Japanese team to come out of this nation. Thus, South Africa will not underestimate them. Yet, sadly, the fear is that they will falter in the last 20 minutes against South Africa unless they have a big enough cushion. Of course, with bias, it is hoped that Japan can continue to shock the rugby union-viewing world. Therefore, the heart says Japan but the brain picks South Africa.

At the moment, it looks like a final between New Zealand v South Africa – or New Zealand v Wales. If New Zealand comes unstuck, then it is most likely to be against England providing England beat Australia.

Yet, in the world of sport, you just never know. Hence, Denmark and Greece have both won the UEFA European Football Championships against the odds. Thus, with such high passion in all remaining teams – apart from France who is slumbering along – then you just never know!

Therefore, each team remaining will believe that the cup is destined for them!

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