Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup Quick Hits: France face big task against the Springboks

Maro Itoje carries the ball
England were fortunate to defeat Samoa in their final pool game

England are favourites to defeat Fiji in their World Cup quarter-final but Simon Mail is keen to take them on, while hosts France face a big task against South Africa in the final quarter-final...

  • England fail to convince despite wins

  • Fiji hold claims for repeat victory

  • France face huge Springboks showdown

England v Fiji
Sunday, 16:00
Live on ITV

England advance without impressing

England have struggled to convince at the World Cup, despite topping their pool and Steve Borthwick's team face a tricky quarter-final against Fiji in Marseille on Sunday. Wins from all four matches in their group does not tell the full story and England will need significant improvement if they are to trouble the leading nations in France.

A heavy reliance on their kicking game has significantly limited England's attacking approach. England were heading for a closing pool defeat against Samoa last weekend, but Danny Care's late try helped them edge to an unimpressive 18-17 victory. Borthwick has gambled on Owen Farrell at fly-half for their knockout tie despite the form of George Ford in France. Marcus Smith is also handed a start at full-back with Freddie Steward left out of the squad.

Fiji had an almighty scare in their last match but, needing only a point to progress, they limped into the knockout stage despite a shock 24-23 defeat to Portugal. Fiji almost defeated Wales in their tournament opener and their first victory over Australia for 69 years was decisive in leading them to the quarter-finals.

England will know the threat Fiji represent all too well after their most recent meeting. Fiji clinched their first win over England with their 30-22 victory at Twickenham in a World Cup warm-up in August. The Pacific Islanders punished their opponents' mistakes and will sense a quick repeat is feasible.

The 2019 finalists England are 1.392/5 favourites for their quarter-final but this looks too short based on their performances in France and earlier this year. Fiji are temping as outsiders at 4.03/1 but preference is to back them in the handicap market. Even if Fiji fall short of reaching the semi-finals, they are fancied to keep it close given a seven-point head start at 10/111.91.

Back Fiji +7 to win @ 10/111.91

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France v South Africa
Sunday, 20:00
Live on ITV

France to end Springboks' reign

The final quarter-final is an unmissable showdown with hosts France facing defending champions South Africa in a heavyweight encounter. The lopsided World Cup draw meant these teams always knew a huge last-eight challenge awaited them and one of these two potential winners will exit on Sunday at the Stade de France.

France will never have a better chance of winning a World Cup if they can get past the Springboks. Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards have led France through to the knockout stage with confidence after their opening night victory over New Zealand. Damian Penaud has starred for Les Bleus with six tries to lead the way in the scoring standings. France are handed a huge boost, with scrum-half Antoine Dupont fit to return this weekend after his fractured cheekbone.

South Africa face the ultimate test but the Springboks have shown they have the ability to go close back-to-back World Cup triumphs. Their slender defeat to Ireland was only a minor setback and South Africa possess the attacking flair and physical strength to give France a huge examination. Head coach Jacques Nienaber has opted to select Manie Libbok at fly-half despite concerns over his kicking and Cobus Reinach at scrum-half.

This match is worthy of a World Cup final and pits the teams with the two best defensive records against each other. France are the slightest of favourites at 1.865/6 which shows how evenly matched they are, with South Africa available at 2.3811/8.

In the most recent clash, France prevailed 30-26 last November in Marseille. Something similar is envisaged on Sunday with home advantage likely to tip the balance, with France backed to edge through by no more than 12 points at 2.789/5.

Back France to win by 1-12 points @ 2.789/5

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Who will win the Rugby World Cup? Latest betting odds

New Zealand are the new 13/102.30 favourites to win the World Cup following their win over Ireland on Saturday night. They will face Argentina in Friday's first semi-final with the Pumas available to back at 25/126.00 to lift the trophy.

France are the 12/53.40 second favourites ahead of South Africa at 7/24.50. Should the hosts win Sunday's quarter-final they will lkely displace the All Blacks at the head of the market.

England failed to convince despite topping their pool and are 12/113.00 to win the tournament with today's opponents Fiji the rank outsiders at 50/151.00.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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