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World Rugby has rebuked Scotland for trying to force Rugby World Cup organizers to guarantee its decisive pool match with host Japan is played on Sunday.
Scotland needs to beat unbeaten Japan to reach the quarterfinals, while Japan could advance to its first quarterfinal with a draw. The match is scheduled for Yokohama, which is expected to be hit hard on Saturday by Typhoon Hagibis.
The two matches in the area on Saturday, New Zealand-Italy and France-England, were cancelled for safety reasons. Cancelled matches are logged as draws in the standings.
The Scots reacted with a statement expecting ”contingency plans” from organizers to ensure their pool game goes ahead, despite there being no allowance for contingency plans for any pool games that have to be called off. The Scots then reportedly threatened legal action on Friday if their match with Japan is cancelled.
”It is disappointing that the Scottish Rugby Union should make such comments,” World Rugby said in a statement, ”at a time when we are doing everything we can to enable all Sunday’s matches to take place as scheduled, and when there is a real and significant threat to public safety owing to what is predicted to be one of the largest and most destructive typhoons to hit Japan since 1958.”
World Rugby noted that Scotland, like all other 19 teams, signed the terms of participation agreeing that if a match can’t be played on the day it is scheduled, then it will not be postponed to the following day and will be considered cancelled.
The governing body said it looked into breaking the terms and rescheduling all eight matches from Friday to Sunday, but ”the complexity of team movements for eight matches, meant that an even-handed application was just not possible without putting safety at risk. Therefore, it was the fair and correct decision for all teams to maintain the position outlined in the terms of participation.”
World Rugby said it wouldn’t comment further because ”we are fully focused on the safety of everyone and this weekend’s matches.”
Australia has finished off the pool stage with a 27-8 bonus-point win only secured with two late tries against a committed Georgia in wet and windy conditions at Shizuoka.
Australia had almost 80% of possession and 85% of the territory in the first half and led only 10-3 at the break, with scrumhalf Nic White burrowing over for the only try in the 22nd minute and flyhalf Matt Toomua landing the conversion and a penalty goal.
The Australians were already qualified for the quarterfinals but still needing a hit-out to prepare for a likely quarterfinal against England. The Georgians provided a genuine contest, making 128 tackles in the first half to put up a defensive wall as the Wallabies struggled to translate an attacking game plan in slippery conditions.
A solo try from winger Marika Koroibete was a highlight on the hour, and put the Australians out of reach of an upset loss to the Georgians.
Alexander Todua sprinted into the corner to score Georgia’s only try in the 70th minute, but the Australians responded with two tries in the last five minutes to flanker Jack Dempsey and replacement scrumhalf Will Genia.
An error-prone Australia is leading 10-3 at halftime after struggling in slippery conditions against a committed Georgia in the Pool D game at Shizuoka.
The two-time World Cup winner was expected to be further ahead but was hampered by poor handling in the wet and finished the half with 14 men after No. 8 Isi Naisarani was yellow-carded for a shoulder-led contact with the head of Georgia veteran Mamuka Gorgodze in the 35th�minute.�
Australia scored the only try when scrumhalf Nic White burrowed over in the 22nd�minute. Matt Toomua landed the conversion and added a penalty goal in the 38th.��
Soso Matiashvili scored Georgia’s points with a penalty goal in the 28th.
Uruguay has made nine changes to the starting lineup that lost to Australia for its last Pool D match against Wales on Sunday in Kumamoto.
Tight forwards German Kessler, Diego Arbelo, and Manuel Leindekar, and backs Felipe Berchesi, Nicolas Freitas and Andres Vilaseca are the only players who repeat as starters.
Of the six, all but Arbelo are making their fourth start in the tournament.
Centers Vilaseca and Juan Manuel Gaminara will be making a team record eighth Rugby World Cup appearance. Agustin Ormaechea and Rodrigo Silva could join them if they come off the bench.
Uruguay has beaten Fiji and lost to Georgia and Australia so far.
Lineup: Gaston Mieres, Leandro Leivas, Juan Manuel Cat, Andres Vilaseca, Nicolas Freitas, Felipe Berchesi, Santiago Arata; Alejandro Nieto, Santiago Civetta, Juan Manuel Gaminara (captain), Manuel Leindekar, Ignacio Dotti, Diego Arbelo, German Kessler, Mateo Sanguinetti. Reserves: Guillermo Pujadas, Juan Echeverria, Juan Pedro Rombys, Diego Magno, Manuel Diana, Agustin Ormaechea, Tomas Inciarte, Rodrigo Silva.
Ireland has concerns over the state of the playing field at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium for Saturday’s Pool A match against Samoa.
The pitch was recently re-laid and the Irish found during Friday’s final practice that it appears to cut up too easily.
”We’ve been given all assurances by World Rugby that it’s safe to play on and that’s all we can ask for … I trust the pitch will do its job,” Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek said. ”When it comes to a symmetric position, where there’s a couple of big packs going at it, you’re always going to be a bit cautious and ask the questions.”
One of the main worries for the two burly forward packs will be having a stable base and not losing footing easily.
”That’s always my concern, whether it’s in training or on the pitch,” Feek said. ”Make sure the scrums stay up; not just for safety but for the game itself.”
Back-rower CJ Stander starts the match at No. 8 for Ireland and he spoke of the terrain’s inconsistency, particularly in the way the surface was re-laid.
”It’s actually good grass, it’s just not stable on a few points. It’s actually A-grade grass, it’s just how they put it down,” he said. ”It just needs a bit more time, there’s nothing we can do about that now. When you get to open space to run into, it’s actually not that bad.”
That open space is where veteran winger Keith Earls hopes to get his first try of the tournament.
He was not overly impressed by the pitch during the captain’s run but said it looks worse than it probably is.
”It doesn’t look great to be honest, but when you’re out there it’s quite flat and firm and doesn’t feel too bad to run on,” he said. ”We’ll just have to get on with the job.”
With one of the pool stage’s most anticipated games at the mercy of a typhoon, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is preparing for the must-win encounter with host Japan with the expectation it’s going ahead on Sunday.
If Ireland beats Samoa on Saturday, Scotland will need to beat Japan to qualify for the next stage.
Japan is 3-0, including an upset win over the Irish. Scotland opened with a heavy loss to Ireland, but has recovered to win its next two games with bonus points.
Townsend made 12 changes to his starting lineup for the Pool A showdown scheduled for Yokohama, recalling seven players to the starting XV who were rested for the midweek win over Russia.
Forwards Allan Dell, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson and backs Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Sam Johnson and Stuart Hogg are returning fresh. Only Fraser Brown, Darcy Graham and Tommy Seymour are in the starting XV for back-to-back games.
Saturday’s game at Yokohama between England and France was cancelled because of concerns over the impact of Typhoon Hagibis, and so was New Zealand’s game against Italy in Toyota.
There’s been a lot of speculation about the game in Yokohama being canceled, with the most destructive typhoon of the season expected to hit late Saturday.
Scotland rugby officials have confirmed they’re contemplating legal action against World Rugby if the game is canceled and Scotland is deprived of a chance to play for a quarterfinal spot.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Blade Thomson, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury, Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Willem Nel, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell. Reserves: Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Pete Horne, Blair Kinghorn.
Cheslin Kolbe sat out a Springboks training session on Friday and coach Rassie Erasmus says the exciting wing is ”still nursing” a twisted left ankle from the win over Italy a week ago.
Kolbe was meant to be back in action by now but his recovery is going slower than expected. Erasmus said there’s an 80-90% chance Kolbe will be back in full training on Monday. South Africa still has nine days prep time before the quarterfinals.
Loose forward Francois Louw and scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies also missed training.
Louw has a few bumps and bruises and a swollen knee, Erasmus said, and was ”at that age where after every game, he takes a little bit longer (to recover).”
Jantjies might be the biggest worry. The backup scrumhalf has a hamstring strain and Erasmus was asked if he was considering calling a new No. 9 into the squad. Erasmus said not yet but he was ”a little bit nervous” over the youngster.
The Springboks were back on the training field after getting two days off to explore Japan, and Erasmus said they were slow getting back to business.
”You could see in the training session, in the first 5-10 minutes, they were still switched off a bit,” he said.
Tonga captain Siale Piutau says he’s retiring from international rugby after the game against the United States on Sunday. It’ll also be his 34th birthday.
Piutau made the announcement in front of reporters as Tonga named its team for its last match in Japan.
He says it’s so he can spend more time with his family: ”I’ve been away three months and my kids are at an age when I think it’s important to have a father figure at home.”
Piutau will continue to play for English club Bristol. The center has 42 test caps for Tonga and has been to three Rugby World Cups. He was part of the Tonga team that beat France at the 2011 World Cup.
Tonga will go all out against the U.S. to take a victory away from this World Cup. The last time the Tongans failed to win a game at the tournament was 2003.
Piutau says, ”I’m not putting the focus on myself but I want to leave the team on a high, that’s my priority.”
United States captain Blaine Scully has been selected to play his 11th Rugby World Cup game and equal the U.S. record.
Scully leads a team with three changes for the last Pool C
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