nzherald.co.nz go through the eight teams remaining in the Rugby World Cup and ranks the sides ahead of the quarter-finals round.
1 - All Blacks
Despite the loss of Dan Carter the All Blacks remain the tournament favourites and deserve that title after their convincing win over France during pool-play. With the return of Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, the forward pack is back to full strength and that is where knockout games are won. The big match for them will be next weekend when they will face either Australia or South Africa. Win that, avoid anymore injuries, and the 24-year wait will be over. IRB ranking - 1
2 - Ireland
They head into the play-offs as the in-form Northern Hemisphere side and are in with a real chance of reaching their maiden World Cup final. The main question is whether they can remain consistent throughout the rest of the tournament. They only time they have beaten two Sanzar teams in the same year was 2006, when both games were played in Ireland, which they will need to do to lift the World Cup.
IRB ranking - 5
3 - South Africa
The Springboks looked like a real threat to defend their title before they struggled past an aggressive Samoa side in their final pool match. It's not often a Springboks team gets outmuscled and it led to some panicked attacking play. However they have a highly experienced side who will learn from their mistakes at North Harbour. The loss of Frans Steyn is huge however, as it leaves them with the option to only convert penalties from inside the opponent's half. IRB ranking - 2
4 - Australia
It seems strange that a team who have lost to both Samoa and Ireland in the last four months are still a chance to take home the spoils but since their shock loss at Eden Park, Australia have bounced back strongly with solid performances against USA and Russia. Granted any of the quarter-finalists would have looked good against those minnows but this is a team that, with a little bit of momentum, can beat anyone. A win over South Africa would give them all the confidence they need. The fact that Quade Cooper and Will Genia have yet to fire could be a bad thing for their opponents. IRB ranking - 3
5 - England
Like Australia the English have yet to show their 'A game' but they are more likely not to have one. Jonny Wilkinson is looking far from his best and their forwards have been far from convincing so far. Have some of the best athletes at the tournament, pity they don't know how to play rugby. IRB ranking - 4
6 - Wales
It has been refreshing to see Wales play running rugby and it may be a brand of rugby that could see them get past Ireland and England, if they can get clean ball, but it surely won't lead them to the title when they come up against either the All Blacks, Australia or South Africa.
IRB ranking - 6
7 - Argentina
Sad to see the Pumas go backwards after such a strong showing four years ago to finish third and on the eve of their maiden Four Nations appearance. Their lack of depth has shown with injuries to crucial players and that could be a worrying sign for future clashes against the Sanzar trio next winter. IRB ranking - 7
8 - France
Yes the French are predictably unpredictable and therefore shouldn't be underestimated but it's hard to see a team who have seemingly quit on their coach recover after a shocking loss to Tonga. IRB ranking - 8
- HERALD ONLINE