RUGBY WORLD CUP 2012

FROM 6AM TOMORROW – ITV1

Aside from ensuring a northern versus southern hemisphere final, Australia’s qualification into the unexpected side of the draw has thrown up two mouthwatering last-eight fixtures, and more than enough reason to set the alarm for 6am on Saturday and Sunday.

Ireland take on Wales in the weekend’s first match in what promises to be an absolute thriller. The Boys in Green did not experience the best of build ups, but the dramatic 15-6 win over the Wallabies has seemingly changed their mindset. However, this should not overshadow Wales’ impressive form. They were unlucky to lose to South Africa by a single point and then continued by racking up a total of 147 against Namibia and Fiji. For every talented player in Ireland’s line-up, Wales have a man to match; Luke Charteris is every bit as dangerous a line-out threat as Paul O’Connell and crucially, Wales’ Lions prop duo of Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones are back to their best. Declan Kidney’s men are installed as 5/6 favourites, but I fancy Wales at 11/8 with Paddy Power.

The early fixture on Sunday also threatens to be a classic as the Wallabies take on the Webb Ellis Cup holders South Africa. The Springboks have been dealt a huge blow now that Bakkies Botha is added to the injury list alongside Francois Steyn and this surely tips the balance in Australia’s favour. The Wallabies looked good in the early period against Russia and if they get their noses in front I can see them pushing on to win this comfortably. It is worth buying their points supremacy at 1.5 with Sporting Index.

Although we have seen it before, there is unlikely to be an upset where the tournament hosts New Zealand are concerned this weekend. However, the 28 point start offered to Argentina in Ladbrokes’ handicap market is generous. If the All Blacks have a weakness it is in the scrum and the physicality of the Argentinean forwards will test them. Colin Slade is a capable substitute for the injured Daniel Carter at fly-half, but the Pumas will go all out to limit service to him. Back Argentina to get within the handicap at 10/11 with Ladbrokes.

POINTERS...

Wales to beat Ireland at 11/8 with Paddy Power

Buy Australia’s supremacy at 1.5 with Sporting Index

Argentina to beat New Zealand (+28) at 10/11 with Ladbrokes