All Blacks rocked by heartbreaking tragedy at Rugby World Cup

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

The All Blacks’ Barrett brothers will be playing with heavy hearts for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup after the sudden death of their grandfather.

Edward Michael Barrett - the grandfather of All Blacks stars Scott, Beauden and Jordie - died on Sunday.

He was 78.

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Edward reportedly died at Taranaki Base Hospital surrounded by wife Mary and other members of his family.

"Dearly loved and cherished husband of Mary for 57 years,” a death notice read.

"Loving father...and adored 'Granddad Ted' of all his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren."

The All Blacks will play their quarter-final clash with Ireland on Saturday, three days after a mass is held for Edward.

Jordie, Scott and Beauden Barrett in action at the Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

Rugby World Cup quarters set

A mouth-watering quarter-final schedule should provide answers to one of the sport's enduring questions.

Do teams get peak performance from a bye week or from regular games?

The unwelcome intrusion of typhoon Hagibis on the final weekend of pool play has created a glaring discrepancy in three of the quarter-finals.

Only the clash between the unbeaten hosts and South Africa in Tokyo pits two teams to have completed their allotment of four games.

Before that, Oita hosts England against Australia and France versus Wales, while three-time champions New Zealand face Ireland in Tokyo.

The English, French and All Blacks are all coming off final pool games that were cancelled by the atrocious weather.

Their respective opponents all played, setting up a debate over who drew the short straws.

There can be little conjecture over the world ranking system, with the eight top-rated teams filling out the playoff berths.

Interest will continue to centre on the Japanese fairytale although they will be the biggest outsiders in any of the four games, given their comparative lack of experience and size against the thunderous Boks.

Yet the seventh-ranked Brave Blossoms have defied expectations, thoroughly deserving of wins over Ireland and Scotland.

It leaves them among an elite clutch of unbeaten teams alongside top-three ranked powerhouses New Zealand, Wales and England.

Quarter-finals at a glance:

SATURDAY, OCT 19

3-ENGLAND V 6-AUSTRALIA in Oita

The men in white are two from two in quarter-finals against the Wallabies. More pertinently, they've reigned supreme in their last six Test meetings and will be hard to halt unless Michael Cheika's men can conjure 80 minutes of clinical rugby. It's been too patchy in pool play.

Key: Australia have a week to unearth some authority from their halves. England have that in spades and it shapes as a major point of difference.

1-NZ V 4-IRELAND in Tokyo

Their only World Cup meeting was a Jonah Lomu exhibition in 1995 pool play at Ellis Park. Ireland have lost all six of the quarter-finals they've reached while the All Blacks have stumbled only once in eight visits. However, after 111 years of failing to beat New Zealand, the Irish have done it in two of their last three Tests.

Key: The Irish pack at their best can be ruthless. Something special up front could deprive the star-studded Kiwi backs of quick-ball oxygen.

SUNDAY, OCT 20

2-WALES v 8-FRANCE in Oita

It's typically about now Les Bleus awake from their World Cup slumber, or in-fighting. Six from eight at the quarter-finals stage compares favourably with Wales' one from four. The Welsh will still be haunted by their only knockout phase match against France, when pipped 9-8 in an Eden Park semi-final eight years ago.

Key: The young French side must unlock some joie de vivre. They average less than 12 points per match against the unforgiving Welsh defence in their last nine meetings.

7-JAPAN v 5-SOUTH AFRICA in Tokyo

What more do the brave blossoms have to give? After riding a national tide of sentiment to reach the last eight for the first time, they run smack into a Springboks team who won't have forgotten the humbling result in Brighton four years ago. Kenki Fukuoka against Cheslin Kolbe is an under-sized wing duel to watch.

Key: The hosts hang their hat on speed and energy. Expect the gigantic Boks to try to twist the contest into a battle of muscle.

with AAP