The knockout schedule has been set for the Rugby World Cup and if the All Blacks are going to make it three in a row they face a big ask.

Following Japan's stunning win over Scotland on Sunday, the hosts finished top of Group A jumping ahead of Ireland. That means Joe Schmidt's side will face Steve Hansen's All Blacks in Tokyo on Saturday - a game many were picking as a potential final.

in 2011 the All Blacks' path to the final was through Argentina, Australia and then France. Four years later it was France, South Africa and Australia. A potential path to the final and title in Japan looks more daunting.

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Quarter-final - Ireland

On the eve of the tournament, Ireland were ranked number one in the world and the All Blacks second so not a stretch to say this is the toughest quarter-final match-up for either team.


Ireland have had the advantage over the All Blacks in recent years beginning with that 40-29 win in Chicago in 2016, their first victory over New Zealand in 28 tests going back to 1905. They followed that up with a 16-9 win in Ireland last November. The All Blacks would surely much prefer playing Japan.

Potential semifinal - Australia or England

England were ranked third in the pre-tournament World rugby rankings and Australia sixth. If it's All Blacks-Wallabies, Michael Cheika's side will at least go into the game with belief following their impressive 47-26 thrashing in Perth. England haven't beaten the All Blacks since 2015 but they have gone very close, losing by just a point at Twickenham last year.

Potential final - South Africa, Wales, France or Japan

Going on pre-tournament rankings South Africa were fourth and Wales fifth, although Warren Gatland's side did briefly reach number one at the end of August.

Apologies to the hosts, but Japan aren't making the final. Who knows when it comes to the French? They've made the final three times before, when probably no one thought they would on each occasion. Not going to rule them out. According to the TAB, All Blacks-South Africa to play in the final is their favourite option, with odds paying $2.88 this morning. New Zealand v Wales is equal second favourite paying $5.50.

The All Blacks would probably favour playing Wales after a string of close encounters and several defeats to the Springboks over recent years.

But of course to even get to the final, the All Blacks first need to beat Ireland on Saturday.

Quarter-final draw

• England v Australia, Saturday, 8.15pm, Oita

• All Blacks v Ireland, Saturday, 11.15pm, Tokyo


• Wales v France, Sunday, 8.15pm, Oita

• Japan v South Africa, Sunday 11.15pm, Tokyo