New Zealand

Nehe Milner-Skudder waving to Auckland crowds at the All Blacks homecoming

Nehe Milner-Skudder waving to Auckland crowds at the All Blacks homecoming

The All Blacks returned home to a frenzy of hakas and hysteria on Wednesday, with even the players stunned as 50 000 fans packed central Auckland to celebrate their Rugby World Cup victory.

“It’s huge to come back and see all this support and everyone turning out, it’s just overwhelming,” the tournament’s breakout star Nehe Milner-Skudder said as the crowd at the city’s Victoria Park roared approval.

The All Blacks arrived from London early Wednesday morning and celebrations began even before they stepped off the plane, with dozens of airport workers performing a haka on the tarmac to welcome them.

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Nehe Milner-Skudder

Nehe Milner-Skudder

New Zealand and Australia’s World Cup finalists join forces in a superstar Barbarians’ squad when they take on Gloucester and Argentina this month. Add a sprinkling of South Africans to it and you have the Barbarians squad.

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, the All Blacks’ opening try scorer in the 34 / 17 win against the Wallabies, is just 1 of 7 All Blacks in the squad.

Milner-Skudder will be joined by Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Charlie Faumuina, as well as fellow wing Waisake Naholo, when the world famous invitation club returns to action at Kingsholm on 17 November before taking on Rugby World Cup semifinalists Argentina in the Killik Cup match at Twickenham Stadium on 21 November.

Tevita Kuridrani – the scorer of Australia’s 2nd final try – has been added to the squad and joins Wallabies captain Stephen Moore and flank Scott Fardy in a 24-man group.

The squad also contains one of the world’s greatest lock partnerships in South Africa’s Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha who are backed up by rising star Lood de Jager.

Barbarians head coach Michael Cheika will have formidable firepower at his disposal with the likes of Fiji’s World Cup star Nemani Nadolo lining up with South Africa’s Pat Lambie and Australia’s Joe Tomane.

There is world class front row potential with Moore and Faumuina alongside South Africa’s Tendai Mtawarira, while flank Fardy was 1 of Australia’s most consistent Rugby World Cup performers.

There are 2 uncapped players in the squad: Cheetahs’ centre Francois Venter and Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea.

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Steve Hansen & Richie McCaw with the coveted Webb Ellis Cup

Steve Hansen & Richie McCaw with the coveted Webb Ellis Cup

Fans will be able to welcome back the All Blacks at homecoming celebrations in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington this week.

The All Blacks will travel home with the help of sponsor Air New Zealand which has sent an all black Boeing 777-300 to London to pick up the Rugby World Champions.

The team touches down on Wednesday morning at 07:00 NZ Time, arriving at Auckland International Airport before departing for an overnight stay in the city.

Aucklanders will then get a chance to celebrate their Rugby World Cup triumph at a very special event featuring the team at Victoria Park in central Auckland at midday.

The next day Christchurch will welcome the All Blacks with a street parade and official reception at Hagley Park. On Friday, Wellington will celebrate the All Blacks success with details and timing to be confirmed.

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World RugbyAs well as winning a host of new admirers for their adventurous approach throughout Rugby World Cup 2015, beaten semifinalists Argentina and headline-grabbing Japan have also enjoyed the biggest rise of all the competing nations in the World Rugby Rankings. Both are ranked 3 places higher than where they were when Rugby World Cup 2015 began at Twickenham Stadium on Friday 18 September.Los Pumas have moved up from 8th to 5th thanks to their 2nd place finish behind New Zealand in Pool C and the way that they effortlessly brushed Ireland aside in the quarterfinals.

A disappointing World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup campaign this summer left Japan languishing 13th in the rankings, and at that stage few people would have predicted what they would go on to achieve in England: 3 wins from 4 and a place in tournament folklore.

The Brave Blossoms’ historic 34 / 32 win over South Africa in Brighton may not have been enough to book them a place in the knockout stages but it did help them return to the world’s Top 10.

With points exchanges doubled to reflect the importance Rugby World Cup matches no-one fared better than Japan, going from 72.06 rating points pre-tournament to 77.05 at its conclusion.

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Richie McCaw & Steve Hansen to be knighted?

Richie McCaw & Steve Hansen to be knighted?

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and coach Steve Hansen will be offered knighthoods following New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup triumph.

But the timing will depend on when they retire, Prime Minister John Key said on Monday.

McCaw, 34, has already turned down the honour once, after New Zealand’s 2011 tournament win, saying he did not feel it was right to accept while he was still playing.

Key was asked if the inspirational skipper would be approached again about putting a “Sir” before his name in the wake of the 34 / 17 Cup final win over Australia and said: “That’s right.”

However, he said the offer would remain on hold until McCaw decides his future.

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Dan Carter, World Rugby Player of the Year 2015

Dan Carter, World Rugby Player of the Year 2015

Dan Carter has been named World Rugby Player of the Year 2015 in association with MasterCard during a star-studded World Rugby Awards ceremony at Battersea Evolution in London on Sunday.

Flyhalf Carter joins his All Blacks captain Richie McCaw as a 3-time recipient of the prestigious accolade, having also been named Player of the Year in 2005 and 2012, and follows in the footsteps of other previous winners such as Thierry Dusautoir, Bryan Habana and Jonny Wilkinson.

New Zealand was named World Rugby Team of the Year after becoming the 1st nation to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup with a 34 / 17 defeat of Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final on Saturday.

Australia coach Michael Cheika received the World Rugby Coach of the Year accolade after transforming the Wallabies in his 12 months at the helm, guiding them to The Rugby Championship title and the Rugby World Cup 2015 final.

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Sonny Bill Williams gives his Gold medal to young Charlie Lines, the boy who was tackled by a security guard

Sonny Bill Williams gives his Gold medal to young Charlie Lines, the boy who was tackled by a security guard

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams was presented with a new Rugby World Cup winners’ medal to replace the 1 he handed to a young fan after Saturday’s victory over Australia.

The boy, identified as 15-year-old Charlie Lines, was thrown to the ground by a security official after running on to the Twickenham pitch following New Zealand’s 34 / 17 triumph.

“I am sure that he’ll remember it. I’m happy that he has it because I know that he will really appreciate it,” Williams said at Sunday’s World Player of the Year awards.

“When he’s older, he can tell the story to his children.”

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Sunday he is unlikely to take his champion team through to the next Rugby World Cup.

Hansen who directed New Zealand to their 34 / 17 record-breaking victory over Australia in Saturday’s final at Twickenham Stadium is currently contracted through to 2017.

From being Assistant Coach when the All Blacks won in 2011, Hansen has enhanced his reputation since taking over as head coach 4 years ago.

Under his guidance they have won 49 of 54 games and the win over Australia made the All Blacks the 1st side to defend the Rugby World Cup crown and the 1st to win it 3 times.

But Hansen said the time is fast approaching for someone else to take over the prestigious coaching role.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw became the 1st man to lift the Rugby World Cup twice on Saturday and whether or not he opts to call it a day as an All Black, his place as the greatest leader of a rugby team the game has seen is assured.

Like the New Zealand juggernaut he has led with such distinction, McCaw has kept evolving and at the age of 34 his hunger for success and focus has been as intense as ever.

That the game’s outstanding loose forward has stood up to the demands of Test rugby for so long is a reflection of his durability, enthusiasm, consistency and the way he relishes pressure.

And he is not quite ready to bow out just yet.

“I still don’t want it to end. I’m still part of this team, I’m going to enjoy today, how can you have enough of this?,” he said after New Zealand beat Australia 34 / 17 to become Rugby World Cup winners for a record 3rd time.

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All Blacks celebrate the RWC 2015 win

All Blacks celebrate the RWC 2015 win

The New Zealand All Blacks withstood a gutsy AustralianWallabies fightback to claim victory 34 / 17 in the Rugby World Cup final and create history as the 1st side to win 3 titles, the last 2 back-to-back.

The All Blacks were given a Halloween night fright by the Wallabies, who battled their way back from 21 / 3 with 2 tries to get within 4 points of Richie McCaw’s side at 21 / 17.

But the cool boot of man of the match, Dan Carter, nudged the All Blacks ahead to give them breathing space at 27 / 17, before Beauden Barrett sealed matters with a length-of-the-field kick and chase in the 79th minute, converted by – who else? – Carter for a 34 / 17 final scoreline.

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Julian Savea's barnstorming try against Wales

Julian Savea’s barnstorming try against Wales

All Blacks winger Julian Savea’s remarkable 2nd try of his hat-trick in the 62 / 13 thrashing of France in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals was voted Try of the Tournament by television viewers on Friday.

It was Savea’s savage aggression that made the try so special as he smashed 3 big French tacklers aside to score in the left corner.

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New ZealandAustraliaAll Blacks (16) 34 / 17 (3) Wallabies (Final Score)

The New Zealand All Blacks and Australian Wallabies did battle in the 2015 Rugby World Cup FINAL at

Twickenham Stadium, London, England at 18:00 SA Time (16:00 UK Time, 16:00 GMT, Sunday 03:00 AEDT, Sunday 05:00 NZ Time).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

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Red Arrows

On 31 October, 9 of the iconic aircraft will treat fans in Twickenham Stadium, as well as the Richmond and Trafalgar Square fanzones, to a special flypast prior to the start of the final between New Zealand and Australia. They will flyover Trafalgar Square 7 minutes before kick-off, then over Twickenham Stadium and the Richmond Fanzone at 15:55 as the teams line up for the anthems.

 

Full House:

The finalists are set to battle it out for rugby’s greatest prize, the Webb Ellis Cup, in front of a sell-out crowd of 80 125. South Africa and Argentina will also go head to head in front of a full house in the Bronze final at The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – in front of 56 000 spectators.

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New ZealandNew Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named an unchanged side to face Australia’s Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.

The line-up is the same as the one that defeated South Africa 20 / 18 in the semifinals last weekend.

The last time the All Blacks named an unchanged starting line-up between successive Rugby World Cup matches was in 2011, when they made no changes to the team that defeated Australia in the semifinals then beat France in the final.

13 Players in the current All Blacks 31-man squad were part of the triumphant 2011 Rugby World Cup squad and Tony Woodcock, would have made that 14 if he had not left injured.

The players hoping to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a 2nd time are Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Sonny Bill Williams.

Conrad Smith, Nonu, Woodcock, Mealamu, Owen Franks, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw and Read all started in the 2011 Final and Williams came on as a replacement in that match.

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Super RugbyMassive experience and exciting new talents are the order of the day for all New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises as they reveal their 2016 squads.

The Highlanders have made minimal changes to their 2015 championship winning squad, with just 9 new additions to their 38-man squad. The side they beat in the 2015 final, the Hurricanes, have taken a similar approach, opting for continuity in retaining 30 players of the greater 39-man squad.

The Chiefs will boast 12 former and current All Blacks in their squad and a further 14 fresh faces. 4 Players have been promoted from the Crusaders’ wider training group with a further 11 players joining the franchise for the 1st time.

The Blues are the only side who have gone against the grain as head coach Tana Umaga has built his 2016 squad around 6 core players, as he looks to resurrect the franchise to his former glory.

We look at all New Zealand’s Super Rugby squads:

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World RugbyThe Southern Hemisphere nations consolidated their positions as the Top 4 in world rugby after a weekend of battle that resulted in the Top 2, New Zealand and Australia, moving through to this Saturday’s final of Rugby World Cup 2015.

South Africa, who lost 20 / 18 to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semifinal on Saturday, retain their position as world No 3 ahead of Argentina, who were defeated 29 / 15 by Australia in Sunday’s semifinal.

The Springboks and Pumas will contest the Rugby World Cup bronze final on Friday and the winner is likely to be the world No 3, with the sides separated in the rankings by less than 1 point.

Under the points exchange system used to calculate rankings, sides take points off each other based on the match result; whatever 1 side gains, the other loses. Such points exchanges are doubled during the Rugby World Cup to recognise the unique importance of the event.

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Nigel Owens

Nigel Owens

Nigel Owens has been appointed to referee the final of Rugby World Cup 2015. The 44-year-old from Wales is a veteran of 67 Tests but on Saturday at 17:00 SA Time (16:00 UK Time) he will take charge of the biggest match of his career to date.

Owens will become just the 7th referee to do the job, following in the footsteps of Kerry Fitzgerald (1987), Derek Bevan (1991), Ed Morrison (1995), Andre Watson (1999 and 2003), Alain Rolland (2007) and Craig Joubert (2011).

His experience and his consistency over many years, as well as his excellent form during the build-up to and during Rugby World Cup 2015, has won him selection to the pinnacle match in the sport at the end of a tournament in which the high quality of officiating has been a feature.

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Nehe Milner-Skudder

Nehe Milner-Skudder

World Rugby has announced the shortlist for the inaugural Breakthrough Player of the Year 2015 award, with the winner set to be revealed at the World Rugby Awards dinner at Battersea Evolution, London, on 1 November.

With some of the world’s exciting young players leaving their mark on Rugby World Cup 2015, the 3 nominees for this prestigious award are Scotland centre Mark Bennett, Georgia scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze and New Zealand winger Nehe Milner-Skudder.

“They are all worthy candidates for this award but unfortunately there can only be 1 winner. I’m sure all 3 players have a bright future not only for their teams and the countries they play for but for world rugby in general. I really look forward to watching their careers.”

In order to be eligible for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award, players must have played less than 1 year of senior international rugby.

The nominees were selected by an independent panel, comprising former Wallaby scrumhalf Gregan, former Argentina captain Felipe Contepomi and journalists Stephen Jones, Sarah Mockford and Jim Kayes.

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South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks (12) 18 / 20 (7) All Blacks (Final Score)

The South African Springboks and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in a Semifinal at the 2015 Rugby World Cup at

Twickenham Stadium, London, England at 17:00 SA Time (16:00 BST, 15:00 GMT, Sunday 04:00 NZ Time).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

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Springboks vs All BlacksOld age is not for sissies, they say.

At Twickenham Stadium on Saturday youth will not be for sissies, as those men will fling themselves body and soul into the Rugby World Cup semifinal between New Zealand’s All Blacks and the South African Springboks, still the game’s greatest rivalry.

Those 46 men, in peak fitness, will risk everything in a sport that is as near as it can be to battle.

They will risk sinew, muscle, bone, heart and mind – everything short of life itself and, who knows, if it were asked of them would life be too big a sacrifice?

And then 80 minutes later they will shake hands and even hug the men they battled against – despite the fury of their effort and despite even the disappointment of defeat.

The match will not be a hate-filled war.

The 2 sides have met 3 times before in Rugby World Cups.

South Africa just won the Final in 1995 and then won the 3rd place play-off in 1999. New Zealand walloped South Africa in the quarterfinal of 2003.

The people of both countries will know about this match and experience their own level of tension in the hopes and fears of the day.

It is a part of the culture of those countries.

In days when matches between the 2 countries were few and far between, as travel dictated (and there were racial hamstrings in 3 New Zealand sides to South Africa till 1970), South Africa led New Zealand in the winning tally.

Those days ended when the world was an easier place for travel.

Then New Zealand pulled ahead and are now 17 matches ahead, with the Springboks still closer in the rivaly than all other sides against New Zealand, which also means that they are more likely to beat the All Blacks than other teams would be.

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Heyneke Meyer, Steve Hansen, Daniel Hourcade & Michael Cheika... the 4 Rugby World Cup 2015 SEMIFINALS coaches

Heyneke Meyer, Steve Hansen, Daniel Hourcade & Michael Cheika… the 4 Rugby World Cup 2015 SEMIFINALS coaches

For the 4 coaches of the Rugby World Cup semifinalists – Argentina’s Daniel Hourcade, Australia’s Michael Cheika, New Zealand’s Steve Hansen and South Africa’s Heyneke Meyer – the coming weekend promises to be a defining moment in their careers.

Win and they can look forward to leading their teams out for the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham Stadium next Saturday, lose and they will be left to prepare for Friday night’s bronze medal match at the Olympic stadium, wondering what might have been.

Hansen summed up the contrast earlier in the week: “You either stand up and be counted or go home. Even worse, you have to play that other game.”

One thing the coaches share is that none had spectacular playing careers – Cheika’s Australia Under 21 caps represent the closest any of them came to international rugby – though all 4 have worked tirelessly as coaches to earn the positions they currently occupy.

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Springboks vs All Blacks

Let’s not beat around the bush, the All Blacks are firm favourites to beat the Springboks in their Rugby World Cup semifinal clash at Twickenham Stadium in London on Saturday.

Since Heyneke Meyer took over as Springbok coach in 2012, the Springboks have only managed 1 win over their old rivals in 7 attempts.

Overall, the All Blacks now boast a healthy 52 to 35 lead in the head-to-head standings, with 3 draws.

It is therefore no wonder local bookmakers have the All Blacks as 9-point winners. They have been more impressive than the Springboks in 2015 and after their 62 / 13 annihilation of France last week, again proved that their attacking skills are far more superior than that of the Springboks, who struggled to cross the whitewash in their win over Wales.

In the modern era, it would be fair to say that if the 2 teams play each other on 10 occasions, that the All Blacks would win 8 of those.

However, Saturday is a Rugby World Cup semifinal and there will be more nerves.

There’s also another aspect of the game – the weather – which could sway the pendulum more in South Africa’s favour.

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Fourie du Preez scores the winning try against Wales in the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarterfinal

Fourie du Preez scores the winning try against Wales in the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarterfinal

The Springbok mantra has been summed up by captain Fourie du Preez in one strong sentence – We didn’t come to the World Cup to lose in a semifinal.

Du Preez was speaking ahead of the Rugby World Cup showdown with the All Blacks at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday for a place in next week’s final, and showed the focus of the Springbok talisman as they head into what he calls “the biggest game of my career.”

Coming from a Rugby World Cup winner that is quite a statement but it also shows the challenge facing the Springboks against a rampant World Champion All Black side and what they will need to do when they get on the field.

The Springboks have looked more relaxed this week – perhaps because they know what to expect or know the All Blacks so well , but Du Preez contends it is still the same as in the previous 5 weeks before.

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Lood de Jager

South African Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named an unchanged starting 15 to face New Zealand’s All Blacks in the 1st Rugby World Cup 2015 semifinal, on Saturday at Twickenham Stadium in London, England.

The only change to the matchday squad is at replacement lock – where Victor Matfield has overcome his hamstring injury and takes over from Pieter-Steph du Toit, bringing even more experience to the bench.

There is a provisa though, Lood de Jager still has to pass a fitness test on Friday, to be able to play, and if he does not pass that fitness test, Victor Matfield will slot into the starting berth at No 5, with Pieter-Steph du Toit then coming onto the Replacements bench.

It’s the 1st time since last November that Meyer has been able to name an unchanged team for back-to-back Tests and only the 6th time since his appointment in 2012.

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Joe Moody

Joe Moody

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made 1 change to the side that thrashed France for their semifinal showdown against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Joe Moody replaces the injured Wyatt Crockett (groin) at loosehead prop, with Ben Franks being promoted to the bench to provide cover.

1 Is the least number of changes that the All Blacks have made to their starting line-up so far in the tournament and the fewest between successive Rugby World Cup matches since making no changes at all to the side that defeated Australia in the 2011 semifinals and went on to beat France in the final.

No player in international test rugby has been on the winning side against the Springboks more often than Richie McCaw (19 times). Only Australia’s George Gregan (30 times) has played them more often than McCaw (25).

Brodie Retallick (6), Wyatt Crockett (5), Sam Cane (3), Luke Romano (2), TJ Perenara (1) and Codie Taylor (1) have won all of their individual test appearances against the Springboks.

McCaw sets a Rugby World Cup record in captaining his side for the 12th time in the competition, surpassing the 11 captain’s appearances by Martin Johnson and Will Carling (both England), Raphaël Ibañez (France), John Smit (South Africa) and Sam Warburton (Wales).

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen on Thursday promised “a performance to be proud of” in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semifinal against the South African Springboks.

Hansen only made 1 chnage to his side with Joe Moody coming in for loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett who suffered a groin strain in the All Blacks 62 / 13 quarterfinal win over France.

“We’re ready to go,” Hansen said ahead of the Twickenham clash.

The defending champions had prepared well during the week to “produce another game we can all be proud of” after demolishing France.

“Though we’ve met many times over the years, we’ve only played 3 times at the Rugby World Cup and these Cup finals matches are totally different,” Hansen said.

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Vodacom Stats AppSouth Africa may have squeaked through in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match against Wales but the statistics suggest a more dominant performance by the Springboks.

Statistics taken from the Vodacom Rugby App demonstrate how Wales had to defend South Africa’s relentless attacks on the advantage line.

The Springboks topped the carries stats in the quarterfinals with 157, forcing the Welsh to make 197 tackles in their encounter.

Influential flanker Schalk Burger was South Africa’s main strike runner taking the ball up 26 times in the match.

Burger led the carries statistics over the weekend with compatriot Duane Vermeulen behind him with 15.

The wave after wave of attack by the South Africans is also reflected in the fact that 5 Springbok players feature among the Top 5 in the carries category.

Springbok centre Damian de Allende (14), Eben Etzebeth (13) and Handré Pollard (12) followed behind Burger and Vermeulen in the stats.

Argentina, who upset Ireland to book a semifinal clash against Australia made the 2nd most carries with 122, with the Wallabies following in 3rd with 112.

The 4 Southern Hemisphere teams that will feature in the semifinals topped the Carries statistics with Argentina (122), Australia (112) and New Zealand (109) following behind the Springboks.

South Africa did not only test the Welsh defence but were also made to work hard to keep the opposition off the line by making 123 tackles – the 2nd most of the weekend.

Wales and South Africa kicked the most of all the quarterfinal matches, with the Springboks making 46 kicks from hand and the Red Dragons 2 less.

The Welsh’s desperate defence on the day is reflected in the individual tackles stats with 4 of their players among the Top tacklers.

Loose forward Dan Lydiate tops the stats with 24, with Alun Wyn Jones (19), Taulupe Faletau (18) and Sam Warburton (17) following behind him.

Scotland’s Jonny Gray with 18 and Burger with 16 were the only players among the Top 5 from other countries.

While the weekend produced its fair share of nail-biting moments it was not the case in the match between New Zealand and France.

The All Blacks were in sensational form as they stepped up a gear as they set a new Rugby World Cup quarterfinal victory margin beating the French by 49 points.

Running in 9 tries it is no surprise they dominate the Metres run and Clean breaks categories, as they ran the French rampant.

They ran 732 metres, which was 142 metres more than their nearest rivals, Argentina, while they made 19 clean breaks – more than double as many as Australia who ranked 2nd with 9.

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WhistleThe Match Officials have been confirmed for the semifinal stage of Rugby World Cup 2015 this weekend, with Jérôme Garcès and Wayne Barnes selected as Referees.

The 1st semifinal will take place at Twickenham Stadium between South Africa and New Zealand on Saturday (kick-off at 17:00 SA Time, 16:00 BST) with France’s Garcès in the middle. He will be joined on the line by compatriot Romain Poite and Ireland’s John Lacey, with George Ayoub of Australia being the Television Match Official.

The following day at the same venue, Argentina will take on Australia in the 2nd semifinal (kick-off 17:00 SA Time, 16:00 BST) and England’s Wayne Barnes will take charge. His Assistant Referees will be Jaco Peyper of South Africa and Ireland’s George Clancy. New Zealand’s Ben Skeen will be TMO.

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Ian Foster

Ian Foster

One lesson the All Blacks have taken from the disputed Australia vs Scotland Rugby World Cup quarterfinal is that they cannot leave the outcome of their semifinal against South Africa to the referee.

“That showed us if the game’s tight at the end anything can happen,” All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said Monday.

And Foster expects a similar nail-biting finish when the All Blacks play arch-rivals South Africa on Saturday to decide who will go through to the final against Australia or Argentina.

After reviewing the controversial end to the Australia vs Scotland match, World Rugby said referee Craig Joubert was wrong when he awarded a last minute penalty that secured Australia’s 35 / 34 victory over Scotland.

Foster said it would be up to the All Blacks to avoid being put in the same situation even though he expected the match would be a close call.

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Julian Savea

Julian Savea

JP Pietersen

JP Pietersen

South African Springboks wing JP Pietersen insisted on Monday he is looking forward to confronting New Zealand All Blacks flyer Julian Savea, arguably the most potent attacking threat in rugby, in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semifinal.

Savea was in supreme form with a hat-trick out of 9 New Zealand tries as the reigning world champions thrashed France 62 / 13 in the quarterfinals.

There were times at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday when the 1.93m, 103kg Savea simply bounced off would-be French tacklers.

His blistering pace and strength has brought the 25-year-old wing 38 tries in just 39 Tests, including 8 in 4 matches at this Rugby World Cup, has seen Savea compared to All Blacks star Jonah Lomu.

Pietersen, no shrinking violet himself at 1.9m and 102kg, was well aware of the task confronting him this weekend.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

South Africa’s Springboks and New Zealand’s All Blacks will renew one of the greatest and most bitter rivalries in rugby in their Rugby World Cup semifinal at Twickenham on Saturday… but off the field, the coaches and players remain firm friends.

For both nations, the game provides the ultimate challenge on a rugby pitch and in the adrenalin-pumping atmosphere of a high stakes showdown at such a prestigious venue, it promises to be another bruising battle.

However, behind the intensity and bone-crunching tackles is a mutual respect between the teams on the pitch that has in more recent years extended to solid friendships off it.

None more so than between the 2 coaches – New Zealand’s Steve Hansen and South Africa’s Heyneke Meyer.

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HighlandersThe Highlanders have confirmed 2 exciting new midfield signings for the 2016 season, Canterbury’s Rob Thompson and Otago’s Matt Faddes.

Thompson, is an exciting player who debuted for Canterbury in 2013 and after a solid year earned a wider training group contract with the Crusaders leading to his Super Rugby debut against the Blues in 2014.

A powerful runner, who has the strength to play in the midfield and the speed to play in the outside backs, Thompson will provide versatility and depth to the Highlanders midfield stocks.

Thompson commented that “the Highlanders play an attractive style of rugby that appeals to me, they look to be a quality outfit and I’m looking forward to getting down there and doing my bit to continue the success they are enjoying.”

Faddes, like backs coach Tony Brown, grew up in South Otago and has been playing for Otago since 2011, debuting against North Harbour.

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Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina

British prosecutors have dropped a charge of sexual assault against former All Black Mils Muliaina for allegedly groping a woman in a nightclub, his New Zealand-based agent said Tuesday.

The 35-year-old was dramatically arrested in April, when police swooped at Gloucester Rugby’s Kingsholm Stadium after his Irish side Connacht had played an away game at the ground.

He was charged over a supposed incident in Cardiff city centre on 7 March, when a woman said he had “touched her bottom while she was dancing”.

Muliaina said it had been an ordeal, not only for himself but also his 7-year-old son, declaring he intended to “put this behind us and carry on with life”.

“I always knew I had nothing to hide, I had done nothing wrong. However, being unable to comment publicly has been incredibly frustrating,” he said in a statement.

“While I understand the police have a job to do, the manner of my arrest and the subsequent outcome of their investigation remains difficult to understand.

“It has been an extremely tough 7 months.”

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World RugbyThe Top 4 spots on the current world rankings are all taken up by Southern Hemisphere teams, with Argentina moving up to 4th.

The Pumas and South Africa were the biggest climbers after their wins over Ireland and Wales respectively in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.

Los Pumas moved up 2 places on the rankings – overtaking Ireland and Wales. South Africa improved their position from 5th to 3rd after a tough 23 / 19 win over Wales.

Ireland plummeted from 3rd to 6th on the rankings, while Wales also fell from 4th to 5th.

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New ZealandThe New Zealand All Blacks broke their own Rugby World Cup quarterfinal victory margin with their demolition of France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

The All Blacks scored 9 tries in their 62 / 13 romp in a one-sided repeat of the 2011 World Cup final.

Their 49-point margin of victory bettered their previous record of 27 points when they accounted for Scotland 30 / 3 at the 1987 tournament.

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