The 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final line-up has been confirmed following the conclusion of the group stages in France. Here are some of the highlights and surprises from the tournament so far.
Portugal shocks Fiji with last-minute try
In one of the biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup history, Portugal defeated Fiji 24-23 in their final Pool C match in Toulouse. The European minnows scored a try in the final minute and converted it to snatch a dramatic victory over the Pacific Islanders, who had led 23-10 at one point.
Portugal, ranked 24th in the world, had never won a match in the Rugby World Cup before, losing all seven of their previous games. Fiji, ranked 11th, had beaten Australia and Italy in their previous matches and needed only a draw to secure a quarter-final spot.
The Portuguese players and fans celebrated wildly after the final whistle, while the Fijians were left stunned and heartbroken. Portugal coach Patrice Lagisquet said it was “a dream come true” for his team, while Fiji captain Leone Nakarawa said they had “let down” their country.
Fiji still makes it to the last eight despite loss
Despite their shock defeat to Portugal, Fiji still managed to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2007, thanks to their superior points difference over Australia. The Wallabies, who had won the Rugby World Cup twice, were eliminated at the group stage for the first time ever.
Fiji will face England in the quarter-finals, a rematch of their opening game in 2015, which England won 35-11. England topped Pool A with four wins out of four, beating France, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. England coach Eddie Jones said he was “looking forward” to playing against Fiji, who he described as “a very dangerous team”.
Ireland and South Africa set up blockbuster clash
Ireland finished top of Pool B after beating Scotland 36-14 in Paris on Saturday, setting up a mouth-watering quarter-final against South Africa. The Irish scored five tries to secure a bonus-point win over their rivals, who were knocked out of the tournament.
South Africa came second in Pool B after thrashing Tonga 45-24 in Lille on Sunday. The Springboks scored seven tries in a dominant display against the Pacific Islanders, who had no points from their four games.
Ireland and South Africa have met seven times in the Rugby World Cup, with each team winning three times and one draw. The last time they faced each other was in 2019, when Ireland won 29-15 in Dublin.
Argentina edges out Japan in thrilling encounter
Argentina secured the second spot in Pool D after beating Japan 39-27 in a high-scoring game in Nantes on Saturday. The Pumas scored five tries, with winger Mateo Carreras grabbing a hat-trick, to hold off a spirited challenge from the Brave Blossoms.
Japan, who had stunned Ireland and Scotland in 2019 to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, needed a win to repeat that feat. They scored four tries of their own, but could not overcome Argentina’s superior physicality and experience.
Argentina will face Wales in the quarter-finals, a team they have never beaten in the Rugby World Cup. Wales topped Pool D with four wins out of four, beating Australia, Italy, Georgia and Uruguay.
France and New Zealand to renew rivalry
France and New Zealand will meet in the quarter-finals for the fifth time in Rugby World Cup history, with both teams having won two times each. The hosts topped Pool A with four wins out of four, while the All Blacks came second in Pool B after losing to Ireland.
France and New Zealand have produced some of the most memorable matches in Rugby World Cup history, such as France’s comeback win in 1999 and New Zealand’s narrow escape in 2011. The last time they met was in 2015, when New Zealand thrashed France 62-13 in Cardiff.
France coach Fabien Galthie said he was “excited” to play against New Zealand, who he called “the best team in the world”. New Zealand coach Ian Foster said he was “aware” of France’s threat, especially playing at home.