AP Photos from Rugby World Cup Quarterfinals Reflect the Intense Emotions of Dramatic Knockout Games


AP Photos from Rugby World Cup Quarterfinals Reflect the Intense Emotions of Dramatic Knockout Games

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PARIS — The Rugby World Cup quarterfinals shattered expectations and defied rankings as powerhouses Ireland and France, both highly esteemed and seemingly unstoppable, were unceremoniously ousted from the tournament.

Ireland, previously holding the top spot in world rankings and on an impressive 17-game winning streak, faced a stunning defeat at the hands of New Zealand in a game where the margin between joy and despair was a mere four points.

Host nation France, ranked second and unbeaten at home for over a year, suffered a heartbreaking loss to defending champion South Africa in a nail-biting match that saw the French team’s brilliant attacking display fall short.

Argentina emerged victorious against Wales, while England, the sole team to uphold pre-match expectations, outlasted Fiji in a thrilling encounter.

In the Ireland-New Zealand clash, 38-year-old Irish captain Jonathan Sexton bid farewell to international rugby, leaving behind a legacy of records but falling short of the ultimate prize. Ireland’s history in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals continued its unfortunate trend, with the team never having reached the semifinals despite participating in eight quarterfinals.

France, boasting this World Cup’s leading try-scorer Damian Penaud, top points-scorer Thomas Ramos, and the world’s best player in captain Antoine Dupont, saw their impressive run cut short by South Africa’s late surge.

Wales’ flyhalf Dan Biggar retired with a bitter defeat, while Argentina celebrated a come-from-behind victory against them in Marseille. Despite a late comeback, rugby’s favorite underdog, Fiji, narrowly fell short against an England team that defied expectations to remain the only unbeaten team in the tournament.

Looking ahead to the semifinals, three-time winner New Zealand will face Argentina on Friday, while England prepares for a rematch against defending champion South Africa on Saturday — a showdown evoking memories of the 2019 final with English hearts set on revenge.

From a global perspective, the first weekend of knockout games reinforced a recurring Rugby World Cup pattern. Three out of the four semifinalists hail from the southern hemisphere, which has produced eight of the nine World Cup winners. The tournament, initially anticipated as a moment for the north to rise, saw New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina dispel such presumptions.



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