Southern hemisphere could be on top of the rugby world

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: Fourie du Preez (captain) during the South African national rugby team training session at Pennyhill Park on October 13, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: Fourie du Preez (captain) during the South African national rugby team training session at Pennyhill Park on October 13, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images) Gallo Images

Outsider Argentina holds the key to an historic southern hemisphere quarter-final clean sweep at rugby union's World Cup.

Bookmakers have New Zealand raging favourites to account for the flamboyant French, South Africa is expected to overwhelm Wales, while Australia should advance to the semi-finals for the sixth time against Scotland.

It would put a swift end to the ongoing northern hemisphere-southern hemisphere debate if Argentina could make it four-from-four this weekend.

In all bar one of the previous seven World Cups, honours between the two hemispheres have been split 2-2 in the semi-finals.

Since the tournament was first played in 1987, the closest the southern hemisphere has come to having four teams in the semis was in 1999 when the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks won their quarter final games, with France being the only northern hemisphere side to get through.

Ahead of this weekend's quarter-finals, bookmakers have South Africa $1.29 favourites to beat the Welsh, New Zealand even shorter again at $1.18 to beat France, and Australia the shortest of all at $1.10 to beat Scotland.
Argentina is the $2.55 underdog against Ireland ($1.55) in a game that could go either way.

HAPPY DAY: Australian players celebrate victory to send England out of the World Cup.
HAPPY DAY: Australian players celebrate victory to send England out of the World Cup. GETTY IMAGES

On form, South Africa, given a rude shock early in the campaign by Japan, should be too big and physical for Wales at Twickenham, even without their captain Jean de Villiers.

Scheming No.9 Fourie du Preez is expected to be named halfback.

Wales will rely heavily on its fighting spirit to stay in the match, but it is hard to see the Springboks letting this one go.

Argentina may be outsiders, but the Pumas pushed New Zealand in their opening pool game and have been able to score plenty of points in their matches against Georgia, Tonga and Namibia, finishing with five more than the All Blacks from their four games.

Ireland was impressive in beating France last weekend, but will be without the talented Paul O'Connell (hamstring) and Peter O'Mahony (knee), while flanker Sean O'Brien is suspended. Fly-half Johnny Sexton (groin) is also under an injury cloud.

The All Blacks are expected to win through to the semis for the seventh time in eight World Cups against France, although the French will no doubt be after a repeat of their famous quarter-final win against New Zealand at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in 2007.

Leading 13-3 at half-time, New Zealand went down 20-18 in a massive upset as France rallied.

Two current All Blacks, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, who played in that loss, will no doubt remind teammates of the dangers of thinking France should just be a speed bump.

The fourth of the quarter-finals should see Michael Cheika's Wallabies end Scotland's brave bid, although Scotland has won two of the last three Tests between the countries.
Injury clouds remain over Israel Folau (ankle) and David Pocock (calf), but both are expected to play.



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