Rugby World Cup 2019: How they line up for the quarter-finals in Japan

As the 2019 Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase, pool results have produced some expected match-ups - and some unexpected.

Half the field know what it takes to win the Web Ellis Trophy - the other half are still trying to figure that out and at least one of those teams will progress to the final four.

Here's how the quarter-finals stack up:

England v Australia

8:15pm, Saturday, October 19
TAB: England $1.29, Australia $3.35 

Head to head: Australia 25, England 24, one draw

2019 Rugby World Cup
England: Beat Tonga 35-3, beat USA 45-7, beat Argentina 39-10, no result v France

Australia: Beat Fiji 39-21, lost to Wales 29-25, beat Uruguay 45-10, beat Georgia

While the Wallabies hold the narrowest of edges historically, victory would put England on level terms.

The English have dominated the rivalry over the past decade, winning 10 of the last 12 encounters, including the last six.

They have slowly built their campaign from the opening round, without really getting out of first gear, taking advantage of a draw that pitted them against opponents ranked in ascending order. 

Of course, they missed the chance to face their highest-ranked rivals, which may yet be a blessing in disguise. To win the trophy, they potentially had to overcome five tier-one nations in as many weeks - the toughest schedule of any contenders.

Australia have a knack for putting four years of mediocrity behind them for the World Cup and coach Michael Cheika has done a wonderful job of building a siege mentality that makes them dangerous again.

New Zealand v Ireland

11:15pm, Saturday, October 19
TAB: NZ $1.19, Ireland $4.35

Head to head: NZ 28, Ireland two, one draw

2019 World Cup
New Zealand: Beat South Africa 23-13, beat Canada 63-0, beat Namibia 71-9, no result v Italy

Ireland: Beat Scotland 27-3, lost to Japan 19-12, beat Russia 35-0, beat Samoa 47-5

Heading into the tournament, these two teams were ranked No.1 and No.2 in the world. No-one really expected this match-up so soon in the draw.

Ireland's stocks plummeted, when they lost to the tier-two host team and they have skulked through the remainder of their games, grimly anticipating a showdown with the two-time defending champions.

A couple of years ago, this rivalry barely qualified as such, but times have changed since that fateful day in Chicago, when the Irish realised they actually could compete and prevail.

rwc playoffs
Photo credit: Newshub.

The All Blacks made an early statement in Japan, dispatching South Africa in their opening game, but have been on virtual vacation every since, missing a chance to build playoff form against Italy.

Some say they should be very nervous heading into this clash, others claim New Zealand will have no trouble snapping back to focus, when confronted by such worthy adversaries.

Either way, the vacation ends here.

Wales v France

8:15pm, Sunday, October 20
TAB: Wales $1.40, France $2.80

Head to head: Wales 50, France 44, three draws

2019 Rugby World Cup
Wales: Beat Georgia 43-14, beat Australia 29-25, beat Fiji 29-17, beat Uruguay

France: Beat Argentina 23-21, beat USA 33-9, beat Tonga 23-21, no result v England

Wales have dominated this rivalry in recent times, winning seven of their last eight meetings - all in Six Nations competition.

But last time they met in World Cup play, the French prevailed in the 2011 semi-finals, capping their own seven-out-of-eight run over five years. That result still haunts Welsh coach Warren Gatland.

The Welsh progressed through pool play relatively unscathed - one of just two teams to complete and win all their games, although some would argue they enjoyed a favourable bounce of the ball (or blow of the whistle) against Australia.

Meanwhile, 'Les Bleus' were typically enigmatic - brilliant one moment, woeful the next. They barely held off Argentina (and Tonga) and never got the chance to test themselves against England.

Even rumours of their almost inevitable World Cup mutiny got lost in the furore over the oncoming storm and cancelled matches.

Logic suggests Wales will be too consistent, but the heart remembers how dangerous even an out-of-sorts French team can be - especially at the knockout stage of a tournament.

Japan v South Africa

11:15pm, Sunday, October 20
TAB: Japan $4.85, South Africa $1.16

2019 Rugby World Cup
Japan: Beat Russia 30-10, beat Ireland 19-12, beat Samoa 38-19, beat Scotland 28-21

South Africa: Lost to NZ 23-13, beat Namibia 57-3, beat Italy 49-3, beat Canada 66-7

Home fans only dared to dream their 'Brave Blossoms' could make it this far, but wins over Ireland and Scotland have propelled the tier-two side into the deep end of the tournament, as the OTHER team to complete and win all their pool games.

Of course, they had been close before and the Japanese will draw heavily on the memory of their stunning upset over the Springboks four years ago in preparation for this week's rematch.

They'll have an entire nation behind them - but they'll also have that responsibility heavily on their shoulders. 

How long can they continue that dream run?

On the other hand, how good does South Africa's loss to New Zealand look now that they face the lowest-ranked team left in the World Cup?

Hard to imagine Japan matching the Springbok power - but then it was hard to imagine them toppling two Six Nations outfits to get this far.

The Blossoms will come hard at South Africa, but perhaps the enormity of the occasion will become too much for them.

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Join us for live updates of all Rugby World Cup quarter-finals next weekend.

Newshub.   

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz