Rory Best will captain the Barbarians against Fiji on his final appearance before he retires from rugby.

Former Ireland skipper Best is calling time on a 15-year senior career after Saturday's match at Twickenham.

It has now been confirmed the 37-year-old will lead Eddie Jones' side, with the England coach having also included three of South Africa's Rugby World Cup winners.

Makazole Mapimpi and loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira – also making the final appearance of his career – start, with Lukhanyo Am named on the bench.

In total, there are 10 South African players within the 23-man invitational squad.

Best's final international appearance for Ireland came in their 46-14 defeat to New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Barbarians: 15. David Havili, 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Curwin Bosch, 9. Joe Powell; 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Rory Best, 3. Enrique Pieretto, 4. Luke Jones, 5. Tyler Ardron, 6. Pete Samu, 7. Marco van Staden, 8. Josh Strauss.

Replacements: 16. Andrew Makalio, 17. Campese Ma'afu, 18. Hencus van Wyk, 19. Angus Cottrell, 20. Matt Philip, 21. Jano Vermaak, 22. Lukhanyo Am, 23. Morne Steyn.

As South Africa celebrate a record-equalling third Rugby World Cup triumph, the newly-crowned champions are among a host of top international sides heading into a new era.

Rassie Erasmus worked wonders in a short space of time to transform the Springboks from failures into the best side in the world after taking over as head coach last March.

He has now relinquished the role to concentrate solely on his position as director of rugby, having juggled both jobs, and he will be a tough act to follow.

Steve Hansen's glorious New Zealand reign also came to an end in Japan, while Warren Gatland's long Wales tenure is over and Ireland will start life without Joe Schmidt following their quarter-final exit.

Australia are in the market for a new head coach too, and France have moved on from the man who led them in Japan. We take a look at their situations.

 

SOUTH AFRICA

Erasmus only agreed to fill in as head coach when Allister Coetzee's turbulent spell in charge came to an end, but he has ruled out staying on.

The 46-year-old became the first man to oversee a Rugby Championship and World Cup triumph in the same year, but will now focus on a job with a wide-ranging remit.

South Africa are reportedly expected to promote from within to replace Erasmus, with defence coach Jacques Nienaber the leading contender.

Mzwandile Stick and Matt Proudfoot are also members of the current coaching step up who could be in the running.

 

NEW ZEALAND

The All Blacks are likely to opt for continuity as they consider who should be charged with the task of succeeding Hansen.

New Zealand were unable to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row, but Hansen has left a lasting legacy.

The 60-year-old spent 15 years on the coaching staff and was a huge success in the top job after earning a promotion.

Hansen championed his assistant, Ian Foster, to replace him. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors chief Dave Rennie are other possibilities.

 

AUSTRALIA

The under-pressure Michael Cheika quit as Wallabies coach after an emphatic quarter-final defeat to England.

Cheika's position had long since been called into question and the new man will take over a side sixth in the rankings and in need of a shake-up.

England head coach Eddie Jones has been linked with a second spell in charge of his country, but said before a defeat to the Springboks in the final that he has not been in contact with Rugby Australia.

Cheika said an Australian should replace him and Stephen Larkham could be in the reckoning, though Rennie may get the nod if they look overseas.

 

WALES

Wayne Pivac was confirmed as Gatland's successor last year - a reward for his success with the Scarlets.

The former policeman will have big shoes to fill, with Gatland having turned Wales into a consistent force and winning the Grand Slam in his final Six Nations.

Gatland parted by stating it would break his heart if Wales returned to the doldrums, as if his compatriot Pivac was not already aware of the standards he would be expected to maintain.

 

IRELAND

Andy Farrell gets his chance to be Ireland's main man after Schmidt decided it was time to take a break.

The experienced Englishman has made a big impact as defence coach and Irish Rugby Football Union chiefs are confident he can be a success.

One of Farrell's first jobs will be to appoint a new captain after Rory Best's retirement and he will take over a strong squad, one smarting from a World Cup quarter-final exit.

 

FRANCE

France are in need of some stability with a World Cup to come on home soil in four years' time and they will be hoping Fabien Galthie is the man to provide it.

Galthie takes over from Jacques Brunel after Les Bleus were knocked out by Wales at the quarter-final stage in Japan.

Former France captain Galthie is contracted until 2023 and could be assisted by Shaun Edwards, who has played such a big part in Wales' success under Gatland.

England have named an unchanged team for the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday.

Eddie Jones will deploy the same starting XV that beat two-time defending champions New Zealand in last week's semi-final.

That means captain Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler have been declared fit to face the Springboks, having picked up knocks against the All Blacks.

Ben Spencer is among the replacements for England after travelling to Japan to replace the injured Willi Heinz.

"It has been a good week, the players have been together a while now so it's less about the volume of training this week, it's more about sharpening the sword," said Jones, who will oversee his 50th Test in charge of England.

"South Africa are a difficult opponent and we are going to have to fight really hard to win. We know the physical part of the game is going to be important and the players will go into this game well prepared knowing how we want to play. We will go and play with no fear.

"South Africa will probably play a similar type of game they have played all tournament so we need be good in the arm wrestle and when we have the opportunities to break the game up, we are then confident and composed enough to take them."

England are looking to win their second World Cup, having triumphed over Australia in 2003 and finished runners-up to South Africa in 2007.

 

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Ben Spencer, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.

Sonny Bill Williams has been named to start for New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off against Wales in what is expected to be his All Blacks farewell.

Two-time world champion Williams has been linked with a return to rugby league via ambitious Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack once his contract expires at the end of the World Cup.

With Toronto confirming talks, Friday's match against Wales is tipped to be the 34-year-old's last in a New Zealand jersey after he came off the bench in the All Blacks' shock semi-final defeat to England.

The bronze medal match at Tokyo Stadium in Chofu will be the scene of an emotional night for the dethroned All Blacks.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read will lead New Zealand for the last time before international retirement as head coach Steve Hansen prepares to depart.

Outgoing boss Hansen has made seven changes to the starting XV, with Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty coming in for their international farewells.

"This was a tough team to select because, as always, everyone wanted to play," Hansen said. "But with a short turnaround and the nature of the Tournament, we feel that this is the right team for this occasion.

"There's been a lot of external talk around this being the game that no one wants to play. However, from our point of view, we can't wait to play it. Everyone in the squad − players and management − are motivated by the opportunity to show that our last performance wasn't at the high standard that we know we can play at.

"This is a Test match against an opposition that will also be keen to make a statement. Therefore, we will need to turn up with real attitude, intent and work ethic, and then execute our skillsets to the highest level possible. The game will be physical and fast as both teams will look to play to their strengths. We are looking forward to it and can't wait."

 

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Matt Todd, Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett.

George Ford has returned to England's starting line-up for the blockbuster Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown with New Zealand on Saturday.

Coach Eddie Jones went with Owen Farrell at fly-half for the last-eight win against Australia but has brought Ford back to face the All Blacks in Yokohama. It means captain Farrell will again be shifted to outside centre at the expense of Henry Slade.

Billy Vunipola will win his 50th Test cap, while fellow back-row forward Mark Wilson is named in the 23 for just the second time in the tournament. He takes Lewis Ludlam's spot among the replacements.

"Preparation has been good this week after a solid win against Australia," said Jones. "When you get to this stage of the World Cup it is all about focusing on being in the moment and getting yourself physically right.

"The squad has approached the game well, with real maturity. It has helped having players here who have been on the [British and Irish] Lions tour and played against New Zealand. They have been involved in some of the biggest games in world rugby so this semi-final won't faze them.

"New Zealand are a great team, they have an impressive winning record since the last World Cup. Like any good team, you have got to take away time and space from them; you have to find areas you can pressure them. We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that."

Jones added: "It is a great achievement for Billy to reach 50 Test matches for England and something that is very special for the team. I know his family will be very proud of him and even more so to play the game alongside his brother Mako."

Like Jones, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen also made just one change to his starting XV, with Scott Barrett replacing Sam Cane.

 

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.

Scott Barrett will start against England in defending champions New Zealand's blockbuster Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Barrett is the only change to the starting All Blacks team who crushed Ireland in the quarter-finals last week, New Zealand announced Thursday.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has opted for Barrett over Sam Cane in Yokohama, with the latter dropping to the bench.

Ardie Savea will move to openside flanker for Barrett to take his place at six against England, who eased past Australia in the last eight.

New Zealand skipper Kieran Read will earn his 126th international cap after overcoming a calf injury, while he will also equal former hooker Sean Fitzpatrick by captaining the All Blacks for the 51st time.

Patrick Tuipulotu will line up on the bench in place of injured team-mate Matt Todd as Codie Taylor prepares for his 50th Test appearance.

"There's no doubt that this is a huge game and there's a lot of excitement around it," Hansen said. "We know what we have to do and we've had a great week's preparation. The team is exactly where we want to be, mentally and physically, ahead of the weekend.

"We're really looking forward to this opportunity. It's all about this game and the moments it will bring. In these moments, the word pressure is bandied around quite readily. However, that pressure is always there whenever you play quality opposition, regardless of who you are. It's about how you handle that in the moment and not getting distracted by the past or the future."

Hansen added: "Both teams have a common goal, which is to make the Final. However, we've arrived at this point with vastly different experiences from previous Rugby World Cups. No doubt, those experiences will resurface throughout the week and even in the game itself.

"Let's hope the game lives up to the expectation that both teams will have and is one for the ages."

 

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.

Head coach Steve Hansen suggested New Zealand's Rugby World Cup pedigree was key as they thrashed Ireland 46-14 to reach the semi-finals in Japan.

The All Blacks came into Saturday's contest having lost two of their previous three fixtures against Ireland, including a 16-9 defeat in Dublin when the sides last met in November 2018.

However, the two-time defending world champions were emphatic winners on this occasion, running in seven tries to underline their status as tournament favourites ahead of a last-four meeting with England.

Ireland have never made it past the quarter-finals of a World Cup, which proved significant in Hansen's eyes.

"Experience is a funny thing, isn't it? What is it that you've experienced? That's the key," he said.

"Our young guys, a lot of them have been involved in championship-winning teams in Super Rugby, in big moments, and that's why you can select them with confidence. And they've played well in Test matches that we've selected them in.

"It was interesting, everyone was talking about how many [experienced players] Ireland had. Half of our 23 had played in a knockout tournament and won it, and that was the difference wasn't it?

"I'm not being disrespectful here in saying this, but Ireland's experience was not to win and we had 11 guys that actually had experience of winning.

"That's why you've got to be careful when you start talking about experience because sometimes just because you've played for a long time, you might have learned a lot of things that you don't want to learn or you may have learned nothing along the way.

"I was a bit like that when I played - I didn't learn much."

Asked if New Zealand had performed better with "a monkey on their back", Hansen replied: "I don't know if you can call it a monkey but we got reminded and reminded and reminded and reminded that we had lost to Ireland.

"And All Black teams don't need to be reminded that they've lost two games to Ireland, out of 38 [actually 32]. They know that and they don't forget it.

"We remember our losses way more than we remember the wins. So it's banked, it's not something that you go and talk about, just everyone knows it."

Steve Hansen congratulated Joe Schmidt and Rory Best for their achievements in the international game after New Zealand put an end to Ireland's Rugby World Cup hopes on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries in a 46-14 triumph as they cruised through to a semi-final meeting with England, keeping alive their bid to lift the trophy for a third successive tournament.

Defeat for Ireland not only ends their campaign in Japan but also head coach Schmidt's six-year reign, as well as the playing career of captain Best.

New Zealand boss Hansen praised his opposite number's achievements during his time in charge of Ireland; Schmidt won the Six Nations three times, including a Grand Slam campaign in 2018.

Before fielding a question in his post-match news conference, Hansen spoke glowingly about his compatriot, and hooker Best, who announced in April he would be retiring after the World Cup.

"Firstly, before we talk too much about the game, I'd really like to take the opportunity on behalf of myself and the All Blacks to congratulate two men on the opposition - Rory Best and Joe Schmidt," Hansen said.

"Both had magnificent careers in their respective roles for Ireland.

"They've made a difference in their time and, it doesn't matter what team you play for, if you can make a difference while you're there then you've done your job.

"So both of those guys, I understand, are finishing up and we'd like to acknowledge them publicly, what a wonderful job they've done."

Joe Schmidt admitted Ireland had "been a little bit flat" throughout 2019 after their Rugby World Cup hopes were emphatically ended by ruthless New Zealand on Saturday.

The All Blacks were at their clinical best in a one-sided quarter-final in Tokyo, scoring seven tries to ease to a 46-14 triumph and set up a last-four clash with England next weekend.

Ireland were architects of their own downfall, though, particularly during a first half when they made a number of errors while allowing their opponents to open up a 22-0 lead by the interval.

After celebrating Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations in 2018, as well as a first win over New Zealand on home soil, Ireland have failed to hit the same heights this year, with their World Cup exit a disappointing end to Schmidt's reign.

"It wasn't just the 22 points [in the first half], it was all the ball we gave them," Schmidt said in his post-match interview.

"I think we missed touch with penalties for us to get good field position three times, and that just meant we were chasing our tail. They had so much ball in our half, in our 22, that it was very, very tough going.

"We had a few chances in that first half, I think one of the tries – the third one the All Blacks scored -  we had a really good gap on the inside and just didn't quite play, didn't quite have the feel.

"We have been a little bit flat all season, which is disappointing. We were great last year and just maybe come off the top of that and haven't been where we've wanted to be all year."

As well as their head coach, Ireland also said their farewells to skipper Rory Best, who suffered a heavy defeat in his final international outing.

The hooker thanked the departing Schmidt for taking his game to a new level during an emotional interview before going on a lap of honour with his children after concluding media duties.

"The crowd have been fantastic, as has the support I have received from home, from the fans, whether we're at home or away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and, in particular, Joe," Best said.

"He brought Irish rugby and probably my game in particular to a new level. A lot of credit must go to him."

An emotional Rory Best doffed his cap to New Zealand after the two-time defending champions ended the Ireland captain's career with a crushing 46-14 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat.

The All Blacks were in a class of their own at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday, Aaron Smith claiming a quickfire first-half double and Beauden Barrett also crossing to put the holders 22-0 up at the break.

Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett touched down in the second half, with Ireland having to wait until 11 minutes from time for Robbie Henshaw to go under the posts and get them on the board before they were awarded a late penalty try.

New Zealand will face England in a blockbuster semi-final next week and Best was full of praise for Steve Hansen's men after they sent him into retirement on the back of a hammering.

The hooker said: "The All Blacks were fantastic tonight. We felt we prepared well, we felt we had a game plan, we felt we have enough in our armoury to beat them, but they came out of the blocks hard at us, put us on the back foot and like good sides do, they never let us off that again.

"I think they were just really, really clinical. They didn't let us get on the front foot and this is a front-foot, momentum game, especially in knockout rugby.

"The boys who are here will have to look back at this and see how they can get better, but right now you have to give enormous credit to the All Blacks - they were fantastic tonight."

Best was given a huge ovation when he was interviewed on the pitch after the match and the 37-year-old expressed his gratitude to head coach Joe Schmidt at the end of his reign.

"I've loved every minute of it," said Best. "The support that I've got from fans when we are at home and away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and public and in particular Joe, who is moving on.

"I think he brought Irish rugby and probably my game to a different level and a lot of credit and a lot of thanks must go to him."

In an interview with Omnisport last April, the great Brian O'Driscoll acknowledged Ireland would prefer the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held 12 months earlier than scheduled.

How Joe Schmidt's men must have wished that had been the case on Saturday, as they suffered a humbling 46-14 defeat to a rampant New Zealand and exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage yet again.

In 2018, Ireland were almost unstoppable, racking up 11 wins from 12 Tests - including a Six Nations Grand Slam and an historic maiden home win over the All Blacks in November.

Their only defeat, at the hands of Australia in June, was swiftly avenged, as they followed up that loss in Brisbane with victories in Melbourne and Sydney to earn a first series victory in Australia since 1979.

Before that tour and the triumph over the All Blacks, though, O'Driscoll delivered an assessment that can now be viewed as startlingly prophetic. 

In the wake of Ireland's Grand Slam success, the former British and Irish Lions centre said: "Would we prefer to have the World Cup this September? Yes, we would, because of where we feel we're at versus the rest of the world.

"But 18 months is a long time in international rugby. It will give other teams an opportunity to build on the work they've done.

"South Africa won't be the side that they currently are in 18 months' time; they always get it together for a World Cup. France seem to be a side that will definitely improve. Wales have a lot of injuries [and will be stronger in future]. England are not going to be as disappointing as they were in this year's Six Nations.

"So there's lots of teams that have time to be able to right their wrongs in terms of recent form and make sure that they peak come Japan 2019."

Unfortunately for O'Driscoll and his countrymen, while several nations have improved significantly, Ireland's recent peak has undeniably passed.

A week on from last November's triumph over New Zealand, Ireland swept the major honours at the 2018 World Rugby awards, scooping the team of the year prize as Schmidt and Johnny Sexton were named coach of the year and player of the year respectively.

The following day, Schmidt announced his intention to stand down and end his coaching career after the World Cup. Ireland's fortunes have declined sharply ever since.

Defeats to England and Wales in this year's Six Nations saw the team finish third 12 months on from their Grand Slam glory.

If that represented a concerning dip, the alarm bells were certainly ringing by the time Schmidt's side were trounced 57-15 by England at Twickenham in August.

Skipper Rory Best said he and his team-mates were "nowhere near where we need to be", adding: "The only upside is that it is the middle of August not the middle of September."

Ireland won their remaining warm-up games against Wales and further much-needed optimism was provided when they recorded a comprehensive 27-3 win over Scotland in their opening Pool A fixture.

Yet it proved a false dawn.

A shock loss to hosts Japan six days on laid bare Ireland's issues once more and ultimately pressed Best and Co into the least enviable quarter-final slot, as opponents of the All Blacks.

Had the game taken place in 2018, Ireland would surely have fancied their chances.

Instead, this contest felt like a foregone conclusion from the outset and so it proved as a glittering era under Schmidt came to a painful end.

New Zealand remain right on course to retain the Rugby World Cup after they eased through to the semi-finals with a 46-14 thrashing of Ireland at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries as they emphatically crushed their opponents, setting up a showdown with England - 40-16 winners over Australia in the first knockout tie of the 2019 tournament - in Yokohama next weekend.

As for Ireland, the heavy defeat means they are still yet to get beyond the last eight at a World Cup, a record seventh quarter-final exit bringing a disappointing end to Joe Schmidt's otherwise successful reign.

They had won two of the past three meetings between the teams but hopes of further success disappeared during an error-strewn opening half, New Zealand scoring 22 points without reply to make the result a formality with 40 minutes still left to play.

The All Blacks had opened their campaign in Japan with a hard-fought win over South Africa, but that heavyweight clash was a month ago, leading to suggestions rustiness could be an issue after cruising through the rest of their Pool B fixtures.

However, it soon became clear there was no need for head coach Steve Hansen to be concerned about his team being undercooked.

Aaron Smith darted over twice from close range in the first quarter, and even when Ireland did eventually threaten with ball in hand on the half-hour, miscommunication between Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls coughed up possession and New Zealand ruthlessly made them pay, Richie Mo'unga initially hacking the loose ball on before leaving it for Beauden Barrett to finish.

A sorry first half for Schmidt's team was summed up by a penalty decision being reversed, denying them a chance to get on the scoreboard before the break, while any remote idea of a comeback disappeared when Kieran Read's pass off the floor set up hooker Codie Taylor eight minutes into the second period.

Matt Todd and the excellent Bridge also crossed as New Zealand refused to show any mercy, though the former finished the game in the sin bin after Ireland were awarded a penalty try.

Robbie Henshaw had already crossed by then to make sure the Irish avoided the indignity of being shut out, yet the All Blacks deservedly had the last word when Beauden Barrett's pass put brother Jordie in at the right corner.

Vulnerable All Blacks? Forget about it!

Typhoon Hagibis forced the postponement of New Zealand's final group game against Italy, yet they did not take long to get back into the swing of things. An early show of physicality set the tone for a dominant display as they made a statement to those who have designs on ending their long reign as world champions.

Say it ain’t so, Joe…

This was not how Schmidt hoped his tenure would end. He had twice plotted defeats of his homeland previously, but there was to be no hat-trick. Still, he departs after over six years in charge having won three Six Nations titles, including completing the Grand Slam in 2018. Sadly for Ireland, they appear to have peaked a year too early in terms of the World Cup.

Sevu Reece and George Bridge add a "fearless" edge to New Zealand's squad for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final tie with Ireland, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Reece and Bridge have both impressed so far for the two-time defending champions in Japan and have made the cut for Steve Hansen's XV against Ireland on Saturday as two of the world's best teams face off.

The duo's inclusion sees Rieko Ioane and the experienced Ben Smith miss out on Hansen's 23-man squad, but Foster believes the World Cup debutants can be key.

"There is a little bit of fearlessness about them," Foster told a news conference.

"Some of it is probably because they haven't been at a World Cup before, they probably don't what is at stake, in some sense.

"But they are really sensible young men. They train hard, they play hard. When you haven't got Ben and Rieko in the group, that is a tough decision, because they are two pretty special people in our group.

"We just felt that George and Sevu have done enough. There is a bit of spark there and we will run with that."

Ireland lost to hosts Japan in their second outing but comfortable victories over Scotland, Russia and Samoa saw them progress, as they recovered some form following doubts coming into the tournament.

Foster sees confidence and momentum as the deciding factors in this last-eight tie.

"I am pretty sure they will have some tricks up their sleeve, and we like to think we have got a couple up our sleeve," he added.

"That is the nature of preparing for a big Test match. But to be honest, games like this are often not about a special trick or surprise. It is about your confidence, how you deal with the pressure and how you keep executing your own game.

"It is one thing to know each other's game, it's another to execute it properly and to stop the other person doing it. That is what play-offs are about, it is about having that composure to trust yourself and really back yourself to keep doing what you do well."

The Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase this weekend, with Ireland looking to finally reach a semi-final and Japan bidding to cause another upset.

Joe Schmidt's team may have beaten two-time reigning champions New Zealand in two of their previous three meetings, but Ireland have a rotten record in World Cup quarter-finals.

Hosts Japan face South Africa – the team they stunned in the pool stage four years ago – in their first World Cup quarter-final, while Wales meet France and England take on an Australia side they have an excellent recent record against.

Here, we take a look at the Opta data for the four quarter-final clashes.

 

England v Australia

6 - England have dominated the Wallabies of late, winning each of their previous half a dozen meetings since Australian Eddie Jones was hired as head coach in 2015.

7 - No player won more turnovers than Maro Itoje's seven in the pool stage and the England forward only featured in two of his team's three matches.

29 - Jones' side averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage – the most of any team – while Australia, with 13, averaged the fewest.

New Zealand v Ireland

7 - Ireland are in their seventh World Cup quarter-final and have lost all of their previous six matches at this stage – the joint most last-eight losses, along with Scotland.

17 - The All Blacks have won a record 17 consecutive World Cup games coming into this encounter – a run that dates back to a quarter-final defeat to France in 2007.

29 - New Zealand have scored a try in each of their last 29 World Cup matches, last failing to do so in 2003.

Wales v France

8 - In the eight meetings between these two nations since Les Bleus beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, Warren Gatland's team have won seven times. Only the All Blacks have beaten France more often in that span (10 times).

4 - Wales won all four of their pool-stage matches for the first time since 1987. They have never won five World Cup games in a row.

6 - Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Tests in which they have been leading at half-time – the most such defeats of any side in that time. One of those came against Wales when they were 16 points ahead at the interval.

Japan v South Africa

3 - Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup was their first over a Tier One nation. Since then they have won two of their three games against such opponents, beating Ireland and Scotland in this tournament.

5 - Kotaro Matsushima is one of the leading try-scorers at this World Cup, along with Wales wing Josh Adams, having crossed five times.

47 - The Springboks won 47 out of 47 lineouts on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to maintain a 100 per cent success rate.

Joe Schmidt acknowledges Ireland's victory over New Zealand a year ago means they will not be able to "sneak up on" the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

A shock defeat to Japan consigned Ireland to second in Pool A and a meeting with New Zealand in the quarter-finals this weekend.

Schmidt's side have recovered well from the reverse at the hands of the host nation, though, and will be confident heading into the clash in Tokyo.

Ireland beat the All Blacks on home soil for the first time last November and Schmidt claims his team "know how to get up for big games".

However, he acknowledged the threat Ireland showed in that breakthrough victory means New Zealand will be well prepared.

"We're certainly not going to sneak up on them anymore. We're not going to surprise them," he told a media conference.

"I think they're well aware of how we play and what they're going to do to combat that and what they're going to put into their own armoury to make sure we're chasing them about."

But Schmidt sees how that previous triumph can play into Ireland's hands, boosting players he believes must back themselves if they are to stand any chance.

"The unfortunate thing about any 23 that comes up against the All Blacks is they can play very well and still not get the result," he said. "That's the quality the All Blacks have, the athletes they possess.

"But [Ireland] have connected up very well and they have had some pretty successful experiences together.

"A number of the players within the side have contributed to a fair bit of history for us - the first time we've won at home against the All Blacks and a few other milestones along the way.

"The accumulation of those experiences together hopefully builds a bit of confidence, because you need to have some belief.

"You can't go out against an All Blacks side and accept that you're second fiddle. You've got to go out and put your best foot forward. We hope that this 23 will be committed to doing that."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

New Zealand - Kieran Read

Heading into the knockout stages, some of the biggest names in world rugby will be turning out for their countries for the final time. All Blacks skipper Read will be among them if Ireland triumph.

"I think you have got to really embrace what the emotions are going to bring," he said ahead of this mammoth clash.

Ireland - Rory Best

Best featured in impressive wins against South Africa and New Zealand in recent years and, having been criticised by some coming into the tournament, it is time to step up again. The captain, who debuted against the All Blacks in 2005, should be in inspired form, knowing defeat would make this his last international.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- New Zealand have won 28 of their 31 Test meetings with Ireland (D1, L2), but their two defeats have come in their past three clashes (2016, 2018).
- The sides have met just once before at the World Cup, with the All Blacks winning 43-19 in their pool stage clash in 1995.
- Ireland have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the seventh time, yet they have never progressed to the last four at the tournament. Their six defeats at this stage are the joint-most along with Scotland.
- New Zealand have won their past 17 World Cup games, a record for any nation in the tournament's history. However, their most recent defeat came in a quarter-final - a dramatic 20-18 loss to France in 2007.
- Conor Murray has scored four tries in nine Tests against New Zealand (three for Ireland, one for the British and Irish Lions). No player outside Australia or South Africa has crossed against the All Blacks as often.

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