by Federica Romana Simone
With the end of the Quarter Finals, many dreams of glory of players and fans alike are over, although this is just the beginning of the real fun. New Zealand, France, Wales and Australia are the semi-finalists, which in fact comes as no surprise, with the exception of the Welsh.
New Zealand, France and Australia have got to the semis five times out of six and/or finals. Wales however is the real surprise package of this championship. After 24 years, Wales has finally made it into the Semi Finals, something which the country has not achieved since the very first World Cup in 1987. The Welsh however were a force to be reckoned with in their glory days of the 1970s. Actually, the fact that they haven’t made it this far in the last few competitions breeds confidence in the team and as coach Warren Gatland said to the Rugby News Service, he’s optimistic because he sees the lack of experience as a positive, declaring his charges have “no baggage” and “no fear of failure”. If their defense continues to hold firm, Wales have little to fear at the weekend against France and have every chance of progressing. In fact, the French this tournament have offered quite a mixed bag: offering everything from poor performances to exciting matches and outstanding passages of play, such as when they swept aside their old foes the English in the quarters. It is indeed quite hard to predict who will get through to the final and which France will turn up on the day.
However the most anticipated match of the weekend, which actually feels like the Final, is Australia vs New Zealand. The two titans of rugby will for sure provide all rugby fans the excitement that they’ve been waiting for since the beginning of the tournament.
The elimination of England, Ireland, South Africa and Argentina does not just mean the end of their dreams of bringing the cup home, but also the last World Cup for many players. England and its fans will have to say goodbye to Lewis Moody, Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall, Steve Thompson and Simon Shaw, all members of the victorious team of 2003. Victor Matfield, South Africa, is also on his way out, although he assured his fans that he won’t be spending too long away from the field. Rugby News Service “Hopefully it’s not long before I get back into it with coaching or whatever,” he told Rugby News Service. However, what seems to be most important for the European teams is to rebuild in Time for the 6 Nations, which will begin in February and will give many teams the chance to prove their strength once again and perhaps exact some revenge. The Semi Finals will take place on the 15th and 16th both at 10 am European time.