RWU HQ – South Africa have made just two changes from the side that beat Scotland 34-16 for their final Rugby World Cup Pool B game against USA Eagles.
Coach Heyneke Meyer has revealed that only JP Pietersen and Jannie du Plessis, who both picked up knocks against Scotland, have dropped out of the Springboks’ squad for Wednesday’s match at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium in London.
Lwazi Mvovo will replace Pietersen, with Frans Malherbe coming in for Jannie du Plessis, while Bryan Habana – who, with 113 caps, has more than the combined Eagles’ backline – has switched to the right wing.
After leading the Springboks against Scotland last time out, Fourie du Preez will captain his country for the second time in his 74-test career, Schalk Burger will equal John Smit’s record of 17 World Cup appearances, and Morne Steyn is in the matchday 23 for the first time at this World Cup. In New Zealand four years ago, he racked up 62 points to become the tournament’s top scorer.
It is arguably the strongest squad that the Springboks could field, despite the fact that the Eagles have named a weakened side for Wednesday’s match as they target a win in their final match against Japan on Sunday.
Seven Eagles players will make their tournament bow against South Africa, and USA coach Mike Tolkin has said the four-day turnaround between the game against the Springboks and the encounter with the Brave Blossoms prompted his team selection.
Announcing his team, Tolkin said: “It comes to a point in this tournament with a four-day rest where you have to use the whole squad. Every team that has been in this situation has had to do the same thing. We have to use the full squad, and we’re confident in this full squad.
“Each game we go into, we prepare to win. We need to play more of a complete game than we’ve done.
“The morale’s good, the work ethic’s very good. We’re just disappointed we didn’t get those wins (against Samoa and Scotland). We knew each World Cup game is a challenge but we also felt that we could win.”
South Africa squad v USA: 1 Tendai Mtawarira 2 Bismarck Du Plessis 3 Frans Malherbe 4 Eben Etzebeth 5 Lodewyk De Jager 6 Francois Louw 7 Schalk Burger 8 Duane Vermeulen 9 Fourie Du Preez (c) 10 Handre Pollard 11 Lwazi Mvovo 12 Damian De Allende 13 Jesse Kriel 14 Bryan Habana 15 Willie Le Roux Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits 17 Trevor Nyakane 18 Coenie Oosthuizen 19 Pieter-Steph Du Toit 20 Willem Alberts 21 Rudy Paige 22 Morne Steyn 23 Jan Serfontein
Ghost of Henry VIII haunts Wales
Welsh prop Samson Lee has revealed that several of his team-mates are convinced they have seen the spectre of King Henry VIII at their Oakland Park Hotel base.
He told reporters: “A few boys think they’ve seen a ghost but I’m not sure they actually have.
“I think it’s best to stay away from room 1313. Some of them reckon they have seen Henry VIII. It has been discussed over food and stuff like that and Dan Lydiate isn’t happy about it.
“He actually thinks he’s seen a ghost, but I think he’s dreaming. He had a bang on the head and that might be the problem.”
Despite their supernatural scares, Lee is convinced Wales can give Australia’s resurgent pack a real fright when they meet at Twickenham on Saturday.
He said: “I thought we improved a lot in the scrum in that second-half against Fiji, we have to concentrate on Australia and get things right.
“We’ve got to get our scrum right from last week. We’ve just got to work on our little things which are very fixable. At the end of the day the scrum is just about who pushes the hardest. Different things go on in the scrums like people’s angles but at the end of the day it’s about who wants to push the most.”
Hooper out of Wales clash
Australia’s Michael Hooper has been suspended for one week after admitting an act of Foul Play contrary to Law 10.4(h) (dangerous charging) of the Laws of the Game.
Following a review of video footage, Hooper was cited for charging into a ruck or maul without the use of arms or grasping the player Mike Brown during Australia’s Pool A match against England at Twickenham.
The suspension means the flanker will miss the Pool A decider against Wales on Saturday, but will be available for the quarter-finals.
Australia coach Michael Cheika, meanwhile, is sweating on the fitness of fullback Israel Folau, who picked up an ankle injury in the 33-13 victory over England. Kurtley Beale is on standby to replace him. Winger Rob Horne is set to miss the match after being forced him off early with a shoulder injury against England, with Drew Mitchell or Joe Tomane likely to step into the breach.
Japanese rugby fans smash TV record
Japan’s stunning performances at the Rugby World Cup have not been lost on rugby followers at home, despite the time difference.
A total 25million fans stayed up long into the night to watch the Brave Blossoms record their second win of the tournament as they followed up their upset of the Springboks in the opening round by beating Samoa 26-5.
The TV figures eclipsed the previous record of 20.7million held by France, when national broadcaster TF1 televised the first semi-final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup between France and England in Paris.
The new record could be short-lived, however, as Japan are in with a chance of making the quarter-finals. They need to beat USA in their final pool match on Sunday and hope other results go their way.
Rugby fever is spreading rapidly in Japan. The newly formed Sun Wolves franchise is set to join an expanded 18-team Super Rugby championship, and the nation will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
New-look backline for England’s farewell
It comes as no surprise to see that England coach Stuart Lancaster has made eight player changes for the host nation’s final match of the World Cup, with seven players making their first and only starts of the tournament.
Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, Danny Care and Alex Goode all come into the starting XV for the Pool A match in Manchester. In the pack, Mako Vunipola starts in place of Joe Marler at loosehead, with James Haskell and Nick Easter replacing Tom Wood and Ben Morgan in the back row.
Owen Farrell also takes over from the injured Brad Barritt at No12 with George Ford returning to fly-half. Sam Burgess has been dropped from the matchday 23.
England squad v Uruguay: 1 Mako Vunipola 2 Tom Youngs 3 Dan Cole 4 Joe Launchbury 5 Geoff Parling 6 James Haskell 7 Chris Robshaw (c) 8 Nick Easter 9 Danny Care 10 George Ford 11 Jack Nowell 12 Owen Farrell 13 Henry Slade 14 Anthony Watson 15 Alex Goode Replacements 16 Jamie George 17 Joe Marler 18 David Wilson 19 George Kruis 20 Tom Wood 21 Richard Wigglesworth 22 Jonathan Joseph 23 Mike Brown