England NZ
England's Owen Farrell and New Zealand's Beauden Barrett go head to head Image Credit: AFP

Tokyo: It is semi-final time at the Rugby World Cup as England and New Zealand clash on Saturday in a blockbuster between the top two teams in the global rankings.

Wales and South Africa meet on Sunday as the Six Nations champions and Rugby Championship title-holders go head to head.

Here is a look at the key match-ups in both games:


Owen Farrell v Beauden Barrett

They may occupy different positions, with Owen Farrell down to start at inside centre and Barrett now at fullback, but they both fulfil key playmaking roles for their respective teams, having each had plenty of experience at fly-half.

Barrett still often comes into the line at first receiver, a move that makes the most of his speed and superb handling skills.

He started the tournament with a lower leg problem, although there was no sign of him being hampered during a 46-14 quarter-final thrashing of Ireland, where he was named man of the match.

England captain Farrell leads from the front with extraordinary physical commitment in defence, which tends to overshadow his passing ability.

He is also a more reliable goalkicker than Barrett, something which could prove decisive if Saturday’s contest is a close encounter.

Jonny May v George Bridge

The two electric wings have been in fine form at the World Cup, giving their sides a valuable cutting edge.

With socks often round their ankles and similar running styles, the pair are also cut from the same rugby cloth.

The 29-year-old May failed to score in his first seven Tests before finally crossing the whitewash against New Zealand in 2014.

But he comes into this weekend’s match with a fine record of 27 tries in 50 England appearances, including a double last time out against Australia — a match where he went off shortly before the finish with a “twinge”.

New Zealand’s Bridge only made his international debut last year but the 24-year-old has since scored nine tries in eight Tests, including one during the win over Ireland.

Maro Itoje v Brodie Retallick

The rival locks have already had several memorable international contests, including during the British and Irish Lions drawn series in New Zealand two years ago.

But when England last played the All Blacks in November 2018 it was Retallick more than anyone who helped the world champions recover from a 15-0 deficit in a match they won 16-15 with a superb line-out display.

Yet he is also a considerable force in open play and such is the importance of Retallick, the 2014 World Player of the Year, that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was prepared to do without him in New Zealand’s early games at this World Cup, knowing he would be unavailable as he recovered from a dislocated shoulder.

Itoje is still only 24 and before he made his England debut in 2016, coach Eddie Jones said he wanted to transform him from a “Vauxhall Viva into a BMW”.

The Saracens second row is certainly now one of England’s key players, his athleticism at the set-piece matched by dynamism in open play and an ability to win turnover ball.

Going up against Retallick in a World Cup semi-final will be an acid test of his progress.


Gareth Davies v Faf de Klerk

De Klerk has been one of the stand-out players at this World Cup, his shock of blond hair and diminutive stature setting him apart in a game of giants.

He is the player every team would want: a combative, livewire presence who corals his towering forwards, also offering a precise kicking game and service on a platter to fly-half Handre Pollard.

Davies has proven himself as poacher supreme, one intercept off Will Genia leading to a crucial try in the pool victory over Australia.

“He has scored a few tries from intercepts,” de Klerk says of Davies. “He is more there to disrupt the attack and get in between the nine and the first forwards, or nine and 10 in the second pod.

“We are aware of it, and we know he does it very well — he’s got great speed off the line. We are going to have to be awake on that.”

Alun Wyn Jones v Eben Etzebeth

As the Prince of Wales told the Welsh players when he visited them at training this week, the Springboks are “bloody big”.

The lock pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager form a prime example of that, more than filling the enforcer role so long held by the likes of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.

Etzebeth might facing charges of racial abuse, but that has not stopped him performing in Japan, the linchpin of a Bok pack that will undoubtedly go toe-to-toe with Wales.

Jones will be at the heart of Welsh efforts to undermine the devastating South African rolling maul, dominant line-out and midfield ball-carrying by the forwards.

“They’ve gone back to their strengths,” Wales coach Warren Gatland says of South Africa. “And their strengths are definitely that physicality up front with driving line-outs and a strong scrum and ball-carrying and beating teams far side.”

De Jager adds: “It’s been a big focus, and against Wales, there will be a massive focus on the line-out, maul and scrum.

“The team that wins that battle will most likely come away with the win on Sunday. We are going to put a big emphasis on the set piece for this game.”

Justin Tipuric v Pieter-Steph du Toit

Flanker Tipuric is at the heart of Wales’ blitz defence, a proven scavenger who is strong over the ball.

He has formed a sterling relationship with Aaron Wainwright, with Ross Moriarty at number eight, and that back row will have to be at their very best come Sunday.

Du Toit is a rangy, solid player who is key for the Boks in the breakdown battle as de Klerk and Pollard look to set South Africa’s outside backs free.

Both Tipuric and Du Toit are effective line-out jumpers and will have crucial roles to play in the battle for set-piece dominance.Catch the Match



England v New Zealand

Tokyo Stadium



Wales v South Africa

International Stadium Yokohama


Matches broadcast on BeIN SPorts