THIRD PLACED PLAYOFF: ARGENTINA V ENGLAND, STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS SATURDAY, 6.00AM
There is little doubt that England have had a far superior World Cup to Argentina but this line is far too big given this is essentially a meaningless game. These two met in the opening Pool D game of the tournament and England were convincing winners 27-10. It is worth noting that Argentina did indeed jump favourites in that game. England convincingly won Pool D, conceding just 39 points, while they snuck home over Fiji in their quarter before losing 16-15 on a 78th minute penalty to South Africa. Argentina failed to impress during the pool phase but Michael Cheika's men were super in downing Wales in the quarters before being hammered by the All Blacks in the semis.
History is certainly a good guide for Argentina being able to win this, let alone cover. A Southern Hemisphere team has won six straight third-placed playoffs, dating back to the 1999 World Cup. On four of those occasions, they rolled a Northern Hemisphere side. Three of those wins have been by at least double digits.
Argentina stunned France in 2007 and look primed to do the same to England in 2023.
WORLD CUP FINAL: NEW ZEALAND V SOUTH AFRICA, STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS, SUNDAY, 6.00AM
South Africa and New Zealand have won the last four World Cups between them and they will make it five when the Springboks and All Blacks square off in Paris. After New Zealand became the first team to win back-to-back World Cups in 2011 and 2015, South Africa are in line to defend their World Cup crown after finding success in Tokyo in 2019. While they have won six of the nine World Cups, remarkably South Africa and New Zealand have met just once in a final and not since the famous 1995 final where the Springboks won 15-12.
Both South Africa and New Zealand lost in the pool stages with the Springboks going down to Ireland and the All Blacks to hosts France. The Springboks did concede just 34 points in their pool games and went into the finals with the best defensive record but they have lived dangerously in the finals with one-point wins over France and England. Both of those wins showed plenty of grit though and they come into the final with a far more-seasoned run than the All Blacks. New Zealand did not overly impress in their pool games despite three thumpings of minnows and since snuck home over Ireland before having few dramas with Argentina.
There has been little between the Springboks and All Blacks of late. South Africa won 35-7 in a World Cup warmup while the All Blacks won at home in the Rugby Championship. Overall the last six have been evenly split.
South Africa were the best team headed into the World Cup and they look outstanding value to lift the Webb Ellis Cup again.
It is somewhat a myth that World Cup finals are low-scoring affairs. While there have undoubtedly been some grinds, the last two deciders have been free-flowing affairs with 51 and 44 the finals tally of the last two finals. Both teams have played high-scoring finals this year with the All Blacks games tallying 52 and 50 and the Springboks 57 and 31. Five of the six quarters and semis hit at least 46 points. Since 2016, 10 of the 14 meetings between the two nations have hit at least 42 with seven reaching 55. This number is far too low.
Fancy the best value to score in the World Cup final is lanky Springbok forward Pieter-Steph Du Toit. Du Toit is not a renowned tryscorer but is having a strong year with two in his eight internationals. He also scored when the Springboks last played the All Blacks at a World Cup.
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