PARIS – Only eight teams remain in the hunt to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after the quarter-final line-up for the IRB Rugby World Cup was confirmed on Sunday.
Former champions South Africa, Australia and New Zealand were already confirmed as the winners of Pool A, B and C with one match remaining.
Australia, the only nation to have won the world cup twice, will play Pool A runners-up England in the first quarter-final at Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Saturday, 6 October at 15:00 CET after they beat Tonga 36-20 in Paris.
South Africa, the champions on home soil in 1995, will be on unfamiliar territory in their quarter-final in Marseille a day later as they have never faced Pool B runners-up Fiji in a world cup match before.
The only quarter-final taking place outside of France will feature New Zealand, who have always reached at least the semi-finals of every world cup, against Pool D runners-up France at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 6 October.
France had been expecting to win their pool, but were on the back foot after losing to Argentina in the tournament’s opening match and despite winning their next three matches they missed out on the luxury of a quarter-final on home soil.
The last quarter-final takes place at Stade de France in Saint-Denis where Pool D winners Argentina come face to face with Scotland, the runners-up in Pool C, at 21:00 CET on 7 September.
Argentina, unbeaten at RWC 2007, face Scotland for the first time in world cup history after they avenged their 37-17 loss to Italy in the Six Nations with a 18-16 victory in Saint-Etienne on Saturday to preserve their record of always reaching the last eight.
Tonga, Wales and Italy may have missed out on the quarter-finals, but they can at least take some in comfort in that, along with Ireland, they have secured automatic qualification for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand by finishing third in their pools.
* Karen Bond, Rugby News Service
Photo: William Webb Ellis Cup – Will Fiji go all the way?