CASTRES, FRANCE – The short Rugby World Cup hiatus between group matches does not mean that nothing is happening. Here’s a rundown of the latest news from the tournament.
Take the three!
Japan coach Eddie Jones has admitted he was screaming: “Take the three! Take the three!” when his side, 32-29 down at the time, won that late penalty against South Africa on Saturday. Three points would have given Japan an impressive draw. His captain Michael Leitch instead went for the try – and the rest is history.
Is anyone else taking Jones’s statement about Japan’s World Cup ambitions a little more seriously? As the future Stormers’ coach said: “We’ve not made a bad start.”
Sticking with South Africa v Japan, this:
Train pulls into Brighton, SA fans insist Japan supporters get off first, give them a guard of honour and cheer them off. Amazing day.
— Olly Barratt (@ollybarratt) September 19, 2015
Can Blossoms do Eagles a Favour?
USA coach Mike Tolkin is another taking a few positives out of Japan’s shock win. And not just because he’s hoping that The Brave Blossoms can do the Eagles a favour by tiring out key Scottish players.
Tolkin told AP: “I think it changes the way Scotland might approach the game. The more rest days you get is always better at this level.”
Tolkin expects Japan to stick with their winning high-tempo ball-in-hand formula.
“One thing about the Japanese is that they’ve always been very disciplined, Eddie Jones will see to that,” Tolkin said. “They’ll be focused and ready to go for the next games, no doubt about that.”
He added that the “fantastic win” over South Africa demonstrates that second-tier teams are improving. “We play Japan at least twice a year and it shows teams like us are on the rise,” he said.
Officials at the Rugby World Cup are keen to cut the amount of time TMOs are taking to make their decisions. TMO referrals took up more than 10 minutes during England’s win over Fiji on opening night, while Tonga v Georgia was also plagued by stoppages.
“It’s worth noting that just 28% of stoppage time in the opening match was taken up by the TMO process,” World Rugby match officials selection committee chairman John Jeffrey said in a statement. “But we are committed to reducing that while not compromising on accuracy.
“As such, all involved – referees, TMOs, technicians and television producers – are working together to achieve that.”
What’s in a name?
Have you ever wondered about Australian prop Scott Sio’s name? Of course you haven’t. But it’s steeped in World Cup and Samoan lore. His dad David played in the 1991 tournament for Western Samoa – and he faced a dilemma. He had just helped his nation reach the quarter finals when he heard his wife had given birth to a son. Samoan tradition dictates that families traditionally name a child to commemorate specific events – so Sio Snr said that if Western Samoa won their quarter final, the newborn would be named Manu. If the result went the other way, he would be called Scott. The final score was 28-6 …
Welsh injury concerns
Assistant coach Shaun Edwards has insisted that Wales’s injury worries are not as bad as have been feared ahead of their vital Pool A match against England at Twickenham.
He confirmed that Warren Gatland had put some players on standby for a call-up. Tournament rules require the head coach to call up any replacements 48 hours before a match to ensure there are a minimum of four props in the matchday squad.
Meanwhile, Tyler Morgan became the fourth Welshmen to answer Warren Gatland’s batphone after the World Cup 31 was announced. He replaces Corey Allen, who strained a hamstring after scoring a first-half hat-trick in the 54-9 win over Uruguay.
South African-born Josh Strauss qualified under residency rules to play for Scotland on Sunday – and coach Vern Cotter has wasted no time getting him into the squad. He is on the bench for Wednesday’s clash with Japan, part of a side showing nine changes from the 23 that played the last warm-up game – with 12 of the 23 making their World Cup debut. Six of those changes are on the bench, while fullback Stuart Hogg is among those set to start.
The 83rd name on PSA’s list
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre called on Castres Olympique winger Remy Grosso to replace the injured winger Yoann Huget.
The powerful Grosso, who scored nine tries last season in a struggling Castres side and has touched down once in the Top 14 already this season, has been part of the French sevens set-up this year, but has yet to earn a full international cap.
If he makes it on to a pitch – and it’s likely he will play a part in the matches against Canada and Ireland, Grosso will become the 83rd player selected by PSA for Les Bleus – equalling an unimpressive record of his predecessor, Marc Lievremont.
World Cup rules mean Grosso will miss the midweek match against Romania. The Eastern Europeans are fielding their most experienced side ever – with a combined 648 international appearances. Tight-head prop Paulica Ion and fly-half Danut Dumbrava will equal the Romania record, held by RWC 2011 head coach Romeo Gontineac, of playing in four World Cups while Ovidiu Tonita could join them if he comes off the bench.
And finally… Fiji’s Dominiko Waqaniburotu will miss his country’s clash against Australia tomorrow after picking up a one-week ban for a dangerous tackle on England’s Jonny May in the opening match of the tournament. He will be available for selection for the Wales game.
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