Rugby Final Four Preview by Someone Who Knows the Rules

If you’re a rugby enthusiast, or just a fan of compelling, historic sports action, it’s worth staying up late (or getting up early) to watch the Rugby World Cup semifinals this weekend. Both matches will be broadcast live from New Zealand on Universal Sports and available on-demand 24 hours later from Universal Sports. France takes on Wales at 1am Pacific/4am Eastern on Saturday, while host New Zealand faces Australia in the same time slot on Sunday morning.



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Wales is a proud rugby nation that achieved may of its greatest victories prior to the professional era. Wales’ best showing so far in the Rugby World Cup was third place in the inaugural RWC in 1987. Thanks to Ireland upsetting Australia in pool play to send the Wallabies to the other bracket, Wales has a real chance of advancing to the Final this time by beating France. The French have already been to the RWC Final twice, and when they are at their best, they can beat anyone (just ask New Zealand, who have been booted from 2 prior World Cups by Les Blues). However, the deciding factor may be which French side shows up: the team that lost in a shocking upset to Tonga in the pool stage (which earned a Thuuz rating of 100), or the one that beat England convincingly last weekend. Perhaps the injection of some Tongan-born talent in Toby Faletau at number 8 will give Wales the advantage.

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New Zealand seems to enter every World Cup as the odds-on favorites, but they have only won it once (see the reference to France above and the movie Invictus). Many expected the Semifinal matchup between New Zealand and Australia to happen a week later, in the Final. Australia actually beat New Zealand in late August in their last Tri-Nations match Down Under. Upsetting the All Blacks at home will be quite another matter, especially with the Kiwis eager to reclaim the Webb Ellis Cup after 24 years. The Wallabies chances were given a major boost, however, when All Black fly-half Dan Carter, widely considered the best player in all of rugby union, injured his groin recently during kicking practice. Even without Carter’s flair, this should be a tremendously entertaining match. If you can’t watch the kickoff live, don’t be surprised if you get a Thuuz “Great Game” alert early Sunday morning.