Rugby World Cup: What next for Wales after topping pool?

Wales have made a flying start to the World Cup, winning all four of their games and qualifying top of Pool C. Credit: PA
  • By ITV Wales Journalist Will Hardy

"We probably struggled a little bit at times today." That was Warren Gatland's assessment after Saturday's victory over Georgia.

It might not have been pretty but it was more than enough. The win sees Wales sail through to the last eight having topped Pool C - one of just four teams to have won all four of their matches so far.

Soon attention will turn to Marseille and the first knockout stage game, but first Wales need to find out who they will play.

The answer to that will become clear today.

Japan play Argentina at midday on Sunday. Credit: PA

The winner between Japan and Argentina will come up against Wales next, whilst the loser will be going home.

But losing does not mean all is lost. A third-place finish in Pool D will guarantee automatic qualification for the next Rugby World Cup in 2027.

By reaching the quarter-finals Wales have already guaranteed their spot in four years time, when the tournament will be held in Australia.

How do Wales compare to Japan and Argentina?

Based on current world rankings, Wales narrowly have the upper hand.

Currently seventh best, Warren Gatland's team are two places above Argentina and five above Japan, who sit ninth and 12th respectively.

Of course, though, that could count for very little in a tournament like the World Cup.

Wales have lost just one of their last six games against Argentina, most recently beating them 20-13 last November. Credit: PA

But previous results are encouraging.

Wales have lost just once in their last six games against Argentina, having won four and drawn once.

Most recently, Wales won 20-13 at the Principality Stadium last November under the guidance of Wayne Pivac.

Less perhaps can be read into past results against Japan.

The last time the two teams lined up against each other, Wales took a narrow 33-30 win in Cardiff in 2016 thanks to a last-minute drop goal.

The Wales squad has changed considerably since then, with the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts all playing that day.

Who could Wales play in a semi-final?

Of course there is a long way to go before contemplating a semi-final - either Japan or Argentina will provide stiff opposition first.

Even if Wales do manage to win next Saturday, things would not get any easier.

Sunday's victory against Georgia ensured Wales finish top of Pool C Credit: PA

Ireland or the All Blacks would come next - Ireland confirming their spot in the quarter-finals on Saturday night as they beat Scotland comprehensively.

If Wales get through to the final four, they would travel to Paris for a semi-final on Friday 20 October.

Get through to the penultimate stage and Wales would then go on to play one of five teams in either the final or a bronze medal play-off match.

Ireland, who beat Scotland comfortably on Saturday night, could be Wales' opponents in the semi-finals. Credit: PA

The teams on the other side of the quarter-final draw are hosts France, England and South Africa.

Fiji are likely to grab the eighth and final quarter-final spot on Sunday, completing that side of the draw. As strong favourites, they need to beat Portugal to go through as runners-up in Pool C.

Otherwise Australia will scrape through by the barest of margins.

Whoever they play in the quarter-finals, Wales will line up next Saturday at 4 o'clock in Marseille, with live coverage on ITV1.

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