After 40 pool matches of spectacular upsets and watershed performances, the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s quarter-finalists have been decided.
Here’s eight factors that will decide the weekend’s knockout duels.
• Scroll to the bottom for all the quarter-final match times
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The Wallabies’ ‘wall’
The Wallabies’ army of critics has frequently derided their soft underbelly and paper mache-strength scrum – and most of that criticism has been justified in recent years.
But the green-and-golds have emphatically turned those weaknesses around in blitzing the so-called ‘group of death’, emerging as the biggest threat to New Zealand’s World Cup crown in the process.
Following their blistering, Bernard Foley-inspired 33-13 rout of England, the Wallabies produced one of the great defensive efforts in a 15-6 defeat of Wales.
They grimly kept their line intact with two men in the sin-bin during the second half.
Their scrum was dominant against both set-piece obsessed British outfits.
Australia conceded less points than any side in the group stage with 35 (equal with Ireland) despite being placed in arguably the toughest pool in World Cup history, giving up a miserly two tries to their opponents across four games.
Scotland are the biggest outsiders of the eight quarter-finalists, but they have proved prickly customers for the Wallabies in recent years.
Bringing to end a run of 16 losses at the hands of Australia, the Scots held on for a famous 9-8 victory at Murrayfield in 2009 and snared a 9-6 win in Newcastle in 2012.
In their last meeting in 2013, the Wallabies needed all of Israel Folau’s brilliance to get away with a 21-15 result in Edinburgh.
Incredibly, despite chalking up two wins, Scotland has not scored a try in their last four encounters with Australia.
Shocked Boks’ resurgence
South Africa’s stunning loss to Japan was the story of the tournament’s pool stage, but the forceful manner in which the two-time champs have put their campaign back on the rails has flown under the radar.
Boasting a dangerous blend of youth, experience, hard nuts and flashy strike players, South Africa are the sleeping giants of the tournament.
After cruising to a comfortable win over Uruguay, Wales scored just three tries in their remaining three pool games – but they conceded just two all tournament.
Savaged by injuries prior to and during the World Cup, Wales are not the type of side to blow their opponents off the park, but they are capable of beating anyone in a dog-fight.
All Blacks find their mojo
Overwhelming tournament favourites New Zealand were forced to overcome a halftime deficit to open their title defence with a victory over Argentina, while they bumbled their way through disjointed wins over lightweights Namibia and Georgia.
The trend looked set to continue when they led Tonga just 14-3 at halftime in their final pool fixture, but an explosive second-half took care of Kiwi fears.
Captain Richie McCaw returns for the quarter-final with the finishing line of one of the great sporting careers – and a dream farewell – in his sights.
The French hoodoo
Besides an in-form Australia, there’s nothing that makes Kiwi fans more nervous than playing France at a World Cup – regardless of how poor ‘Les Bleus’ might be tracking.
The inscrutable French staged an incredible 43-31 comeback victory over the All Blacks in the 1999 semi-final in Marseille, repeating the dose 20-18 in a wildly controversial quarter-final in 2007 at Millennium Stadium, the venue for this clash.
Both still give Kiwis night terrors, while the anxiety of the heart-stopping 8-7 triumph over France in the 2011 final at Eden Park is still raw.
Their insipid 24-9 loss to Ireland may as well have been a 50-point win, such are Les Bleus’ enigmatic tendencies.
Ireland’s injury toll
Tipped by pundits as likely final candidates – despite having never reached the World Cup semis – Ireland are in the grips of an injury and suspension crisis that has severely hampered those chances.
Inspirational captain and 115-Test lock Paul O’Connell’s international career is over due to a hamstring injury and blindside Peter O’Mahony (knee) is also out of the tournament following a brutal win over France.
Ireland will field a forward pack with three new faces against the traditionally strong Argentina unit.
Pumas’ newfound attacking flair
Argentina have a long-held reputation as master scrummagers, with big, aggressive forward packs and prolific point scoring No.10s – but not much more.
The Pumas have shattered those stereotypes as one of the most impressive sides of the 2015 World Cup’s group stage, however.
Their total of 179 points – which includes 22 tries – is the highest of any team in the tournament.
A pair of honourable losses to New Zealand and a landmark defeat of South Africa this year, along with an upset of Australia in 2014, has instilled confidence that the Pumas are capable of beating the world’s best.
Quarter-final match times (AEDT)
South Africa vs Wales: 2am Sunday
New Zealand vs France: 6am Sunday
Ireland vs Argentina: 11pm Sunday
Australia vs Scotland: 2am Monday
All matches broadcast live on Foxtel and GEM.