JONATHAN DAVIES: England step up to the plate
4:37pm Monday 8th October 2007 in Sport
England can look forward to a World Cup semi-final against France in Paris next Saturday night - and that is a terrific achievement by Phil Vickery and his team.
England really picked their game up in the opening quarter-final against Australia. They seemed to have a lot more direction about them.
They played to their strengths and they attacked the weaknesses of Australia. They attacked them at the set-piece and the breakdown, and they gave Wallabies scrum-half George Gregan a tough ride.
I don't think Jonny Wilkinson is currently at his best, but he gives England good field position and direction - and he also knocks the goals over.
England were so dominant in the scrum, it was incredible. Wales tried to have a go at Australia in that area last month, but Andrew Sheridan was tremendous in the front row and they just kept on going at Australia. There was no respite.
Defensively, England also stepped up. They were far more aggressive than they had been, and you could see by the players' reaction at the final whistle just what it all meant to them.
It is outstanding to have come back like they did following a 36-0 thumping against South Africa only three weeks earlier.
After the Springboks game, England said themselves they were totally inept, but they are creating chances now and once the pack were on the front foot against Australia, it really was solid World Cup rugby.
There was nothing flash about it, and you take your points when they are available.
As for New Zealand versus France, there were people walking around Cardiff on Sunday morning in a trance, especially the Kiwis. They couldn't believe what they had seen the night before.
New Zealand showed a lack of composure, and if there was any indication of an injury to Dan Carter before the game, I was amazed they didn't include Aaron Mauger in their match-day 22.
After about 25 minutes France knew they had a chance, and they went on to take their opportunities. I just thought it was an amazing game in a great atmosphere.
Half-backs Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Lionel Beauxis are knocking their goals over, and there is such a depth of talent in that French squad.
This is turning into an amazing World Cup story for the French.
They lost their opening game to Argentina, and then they had to play away from home in their own World Cup against the tournament favourites.
The abiding memory for me though was Elissalde running like crazy towards the touchline with time up. I am not sure full-back Damien Traille knew what Elissalde was doing, but everyone else in the ground did!
It has happened yet again for New Zealand in a World Cup - an early exit - and it is really difficult to put your finger on the reasons why.
South Africa, I felt, got caught up in a game for 20 minutes against Fiji they didn't want to get caught up in, and if J P Pietersen hadn't made that fantastic tackle on the Fiji lock, then the Springboks would have been behind.
Credit to Fiji, though. I think the minnows have been fantastic in this World Cup, but the leadership of South Africa's senior players was vitally important when it came to the crunch.
The Springboks closed shop and got back into the game plan they wanted to play. It was the type of good game management that Wales didn't have against Fiji.
Argentina made their way through at Scotland's expense, but they looked ponderous, whereas they had played with such pace in beating Ireland the week before.
The up and under seemed to be their only weapon. If they play against South Africa next weekend like they played against Ireland, who knows, but if they play like they did last night then they will struggle.
Scotland defended admirably, but I just feel they maybe should have played a little bit more football in the game to break Argentina down.
Scotland didn't really participate in the game until they had to chase it. Maybe it wasn't the sort of game we wanted to watch until then, and Scotland finally realised they had to throw it about to try and win.
It was a shame Scotland didn't realise it until it was probably too late.
I think it is France and South Africa for the final, but as we saw on the weekend, with good defence, a big pack and a goalkicker you can beat anyone.