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Rugby World Cup power rankings: Assessing England, South Africa and the final four

How do the last four stack up ahead of semi-final weekend in France?

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 20 October 2023 11:41 BST
England avoid huge Rugby World Cup upset with comeback win over Samoa

The Rugby World Cup’s final four have been decided after a thrilling quarter-final weekend in France.

Ireland and France, who topped our rankings last week, are out of the tournament, their dreams dashed by New Zealand and South Africa in two outstanding matches in Paris.

The southern hemisphere supplies three of the semi-finalists, with Argentina outlasting Wales in a brutal encounter in Marseille.

That leaves England, surprisingly, as Europe’s last hope after Steve Borthwick’s side survived a Fiji fightback to reach the tournament’s last fortnight.

How do the four remaining nations stack up in our power rankings? Here, The Independent assesses the semi-finalists.

Rugby World Cup power rankings

1. South Africa

Holders South Africa reached the semi-finals with a brilliant win over France (PA Wire)

Top of the pile after pipping the hosts in Paris are the Springboks. In a game of fine margins, their bench impact and calm telling crucial in the final few moments. England will be charged up for the semi-final given what happened in Yokohama four years ago but this version of South Africa might be even better.

2. New Zealand

The All Blacks take on Argentina in the last four (REUTERS)

New Zealand took the other instant classic in Paris, their 37-phase final defensive stand a remarkable physical and mental achievement. All three Barrett brothers were outstanding at the Stade de France, with Sam Cane producing a real captain’s performance, too.

3. England

England beat Fiji to reach another World Cup semi-final (Getty Images)

Credit must be extended to Steve Borthwick and England, who have navigated their way into a World Cup semi-final that, while far from ever being out of reach, looked distant during their August struggles. Will the emotional intensity of a World Cup final rematch against the Springboks enable them to lift their level?

4. Argentina

Argentina will hope to shock New Zealand and reach a first World Cup final (REUTERS)

Argentina celebrated their quarter-final win over Wales wildly, perhaps recognising that a last four berth makes this tournament a success. But the Pumas will be in the mix against the All Blacks, a side they beat twice during the four-year cycle before this tournament and who perhaps have a few physical frailties that Argentina’s gainline winners are capable of exploiting.

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