Rugby World Cup 2011: Guscott on England v France & Ireland v Wales
BUILD-UP - WHAT DOES ENGLAND'S TEAM SELECTION TELL US?
If I know head coach Martin Johnson at all, he will always go back to instinct, especially in this high-pressure situation.
Whether Saturday's quarter-final against France is his last match in charge of England probably rides on this selection.
I would call his first XV a safety-first choice, but I guess he would call it reverting to experience.
The combination of Nick Easter, Ben Youngs, Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood from nine to 12 indicates to me a strategy based around kicking and a solid defence.
Flood and Wilkinson will be able to put boot to ball and move England around the pitch, while Easter's experience will help Youngs secure clean ball from the back of the scrum.
That seems to be their gameplan, but an option may be to use Flood as a distributor from inside centre.
If so it will be intriguing to see if Flood can ignite the backline from there, because Wilkinson certainly hasn't at fly-half and is unlikely to this weekend.
TACTICS - WHAT ARE ENGLAND AND FRANCE'S WEAKNESSES?
Every time France play England they seem to get caught up in the emotional baggage of the match.
They seem to have this irresistible urge to try to take on England physically up-front and, given their unbelievable skill one to 15, I find that astonishing.
As a player I won seven of my 10 meetings with France and mostly I just had to watch our forwards duff up their forwards.
The danger men for France are winger Vincent Clerc and full-back Maximme Medard, so if I was coach Marc Lievremont I would focus their efforts away from the pack, attack wider and encourage the backs to hit holes.
This particular French side appear to be an unhappy, unsettled side that is not firing, but they always have the game in them to scare the best side in the world. For England's sake, I hope it doesn't emerge on Saturday.
With Mike Tindall out of contention with a dead leg, England's midfield defence is weaker with Flood in the centres than they would be with the alternative, Shontayne Hape.
France centres Aurelien Rougerie and Maxime Mermoz are heavyweight, direct runners and if they had a gameplan to highlight the perceived weakness of Flood then I would be worried.
Playing Flood outside Wilkinson also ensures England's first two receivers from the set-piece are fairly predictable in attack.
They are almost two players you can ignore. Neither will frighten opponents with their boshing ability and the French are certainly not going to be scared by their pace.
PLACE-KICKING - WHO WILL BE GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY FOR ENGLAND?
It would amaze me for any coach to start with Jonny Wilkinson and not deploy him as the starting goalkicker.
Partly because he has been very reliable up until this World Cup, but also because it is very hard to see what else he brings to the side.
He had a period a few years back for England where he stood flat and really attacked the gain line.
I have seen him do it for his French side Toulon since then, but he just doesn't seem to be able to do that for this England team.
PREDICTION - WHO WILL MAKE THE LAST FOUR?
I think England will take it.
They haven't been playing brilliantly, but they have played four and won four and got themselves out of two sticky situations against Argentina and Scotland.
I think they are better prepared.
It will not be a huge margin unless the French really capitulate and I do not expect them to. They hate the English too much.
IRELAND OR WALES - WHO HAVE BEEN MORE IMPRESSIVE SO FAR?
Both sides have been in exceptionally good form.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has picked his side based on form and it is not always that you get national team coaches, especially in the home unions, doing that.
They have arguably the best props in the world, while in the second row Alun Wyn Jones is rediscovering the form that anyone who watched him over the past few seasons believed that he had.
Captain Sam Warburton is right up there with New Zealand's Richie McCaw and Australia's David Pocock as the best open-sides in the world while scrum-half Mike Phillips is getting back to his best.
Rhys Priestland has fully justified his place as number one fly-half. He is playing with maturity and has released Jamie Roberts at 12, who is in even better form than he was for the Lions in South Africa in 2009.
One advantage Ireland have, though, is the experience they have throughout the team. The national team seem to have captured the spirit that carried Munster and Leinster to Heineken Cups.
At fly-half, Ronan O'Gara is playing as well as I have seen him and is striking the ball beautifully. It is going to be so tight.
KEY BATTLE - WHERE WILL THE MATCH BE WON?
The breakdown is crucial. It may boil down to how long Warburton can stay on the field because he is going to take a battering from the Irish pack. Ireland sparked against Australia because there was no Pocock scrapping for the ball for the Wallabies.
Warburton is a different story. He will get to the breakdown first most of the time and it will be crucial whether Sean O'Brien can get there soon after and blast him off before he turns over the ball.
If O'Brien and Stephen Ferris, who is also very quick, can nullify him, then they will have the same advantage that they had against Australia.
If Wales' Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate get to grips with the the running power of Ferris and O'Brien, then I believe their backline offers more attacking options.
PREDICTION - WHO WILL MAKE THE LAST FOUR?
Both sides deserve to be in the last four, but the draw is what it is and I'm going to go for a Welsh win because I think they are carrying a little more momentum.
But I still would not be surprised if O'Gara's boot wins it for Ireland.