Rugby World Cup: How are the quarter-finals shaping up?

England forwards coach Steve Borthwick (left) and head coach Eddie Jones (right
England forwards coach Steve Borthwick (left) and head coach Eddie Jones (right) attend Wales v Australia to assess two teams they may meet in the last eight

First, a disclaimer.

Not yet halfway through the pool stages, it is really too early to be looking at the potential last-eight match-ups.

But it's also too tempting not to, especially if you're England coach Eddie Jones.

His attempt to slip into Wales' Pool D win over Australia under a baseball cap on an under-the-radar scouting outing, was blown wide open when his face appeared on the Tokyo Stadium big screen.

Rugby World Cup - Route to the quarter-finals
Pool APool B Pool CPool D
Quarter finals
* - pools listed in current positions with 1/2 games played
JapanItaly EnglandWales
IrelandSouth AfricaArgentinaAustralia
SamoaNew ZealandFranceGeorgia
19 OctoberWinner Pool CvRunner-up Pool D
Winner Pool BvRunner-up Pool A
20 OctoberWinner Pool DvRunner-up Pool C
Winner Pool AvRunner-up Pool B

So what can we expect the fixture list to be in three weeks' time when we hit quarter-final weekend?

Let's have a - highly speculative - look ahead at what the four matches could be:

Saturday 19 October

England v Australia (08:15 BST)

Jones was attending Wales v Australia for business rather than pleasure.

If England are to progress from Pool C, they will play a team from Pool D in the last eight.

At the moment everything is going according to plan for Jones. His side are top of Pool C, albeit with their trickiest matches to come in the shape of Argentina (5 October) and France (12 October).

England Australia
England beat Australia 12-10 in a testy encounter in Marseille in 2007, with Jonny Wilkinson slotting all four penalties

However, England have won their past nine matches against the Pumas, and beat France 44-8 at Twickenham in February.

If their remaining matchers follow those form guides, their likeliest last-eight option are Australia, who, despite defeat by Wales, will still be favourites to beat Georgia and Uruguay and finish second in Pool D.

England beat Australia in the last eight of the 1995 and 2007 tournaments.

New Zealand v Ireland (11:15 BST)

The All Blacks are pretty much assured top spot in Pool B after beating South Africa in their opening match of the World Cup. The world number ones and two-time defending champions have Canada, Namibia and Italy to come.

Pool A is the hardest to predict, after Japan shocked Ireland on Saturday to take top spot.

Ireland face the haka in Dublin in 2018
After 28 straight losses against New Zealand, Ireland have won two of their last three meetings

The hosts should beat Samoa, who they also saw off in the 2015 tournament, but are likely to need to overcome Scotland on in their final pool match to top the group.

The hosts will be riding a wave of patriotic support by then, while Scotland's dismal defeat by Ireland in their first match of the tournament has been compounded by key injuries to Hamish Watson and Ali Price.

If Japan hold on to top spot, then Ireland, presuming they keep Samoa and Russia at bay in their remaining pool games, will be paired with the All Blacks.

The good news for Joe Schmidt's men is they have won two of their past three meetings with New Zealand.

Sunday 20 October

Wales v France (08:15 BST)

Can you ever rely on the French?

For this, we are going to have to.

Sam Warburton
Warburton's red in the 2011 contest contributed to Wales' defeat in only their second Rugby World Cup semi-final

Their narrow 23-21 win over Argentina in their Pool C opener may prove vital in securing a place in the last eight.

The last time Wales and France met in the Rugby World Cup was the fateful semi-final of 2011 where Wales narrowly failed to pull off a remarkable win, losing 9-8 despite playing more than an hour with only 14 men following captain Sam Warburton's red card.

Wales have won four of their past five matches against France, although the two teams have not been separated by more than nine points in any of those contests.

Japan v South Africa (11:15 BST)

A repeat of the Brighton Miracle?

Four years ago, Japan stunned world rugby with a thrilling last-gasp toppling of South Africa on England's south coast.

Will the result contrive to throw them together once more?

Karne Hesketh
Karne Hesketh's match-winning try thrilled Brighton and shocked the world in 2015

What an occasion this would be, although Jamie Joseph's Brave Blossoms would have to improve on their result earlier this month.

Back on 6 September, they lost 41-7 to the Springboks in a World Cup warm-up.

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