It has been a fascinating Rugby World Cup so far and with the pool stages completed, eight teams remain.
It’s now that the coaching really starts, as it will be the decision the coaches make tactically over the next three weeks that will determine the home of the Webb Ellis Cup for the next four years.
All coaches now have enough information on the teams they will face – both from during the Tournament and also over the last four years. There are no surprises this far in. That is why coaching will now make the difference.
Tactical awareness, tactical astuteness, subtleties and nuances. Each coach needs to come up with a point of difference that will guide their team to victory.
The coaches need to make the tough calls and find the balance between risk and reward. Do you take a risk and try something different? Or do you do the same thing you have done for the last four years? In a way that is a risk too as you need to do what you have done before perfectly.
Flair and excitement
Teams must be accurate in everything they do. One mistake can cost a team a place in the semi-finals.
Looking at the first quarter-final it is a pity Wales and Ireland are meeting at this stage as they clearly are two of the better teams in the tournament to date and both deserve a place in the final four.
They’ve both made a big step up from where they were in the Six Nations. Ireland had no momentum coming in to RWC 2011 as they lost all four Tests leading in but they have been exceptional and with Wales, Warren Gatland deserves credit as he has brought this young team to their peak right at the crucial moment. Wales deserved to win their pool and were desperately unlucky against South Africa.
In regard to New Zealand and Argentina, New Zealand (even without Dan Carter) are favourites but you must compliment Argentina as at every Rugby World Cup they find a way of making it to the final stages, even with limited playing resources. What they have achieved in 2007 and 2011 is phenomenal.
For the New Zealand players and staff, the injury to Carter is a huge challenge but one the All Blacks can conquer.
France against England has always been one of the toughest and biggest derbies in world rugby. If they are to win, France must play with flair and excitement, as they are their strengths and that is how they beat New Zealand twice in crucial RWC matches. It will be difficult to beat England playing conservative, forward dominated, kicking rugby.
Nine and 10
The fly halves will be important this weekend. At this stage the nine and 10 combination is crucial, none more so than Will Genia and Quade Cooper for Australia and Fourie Du Preez and Morné Steyn for South Africa.
Looking at that match there are positives and negatives for both teams. Australia would have loved the fact they have beaten South Africa twice this year, which has given them a psychological edge. But they also have players coming back from injury so they may be unsettled.
South Africa have incredible experience on their side, with 17 players back from the side that won RWC 2007. They have more experience in all key decision areas.
The backbone of any team is the numbers 2, 8, 9, 10, 15 – and after that throw in the tighthead prop. Except for full back, South Africa have a player in every one of those positions from the last RWC. They also have an exceptionally strong bench. The loss of Frans Steyn though has to be dealt with.
Like every weekend of the tournament so far there will be some great Rugby and intriguing matches. I am looking forward to kick-off.