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Rugby World Cup

Japan Withstand Scottish Comeback to Progress

Japan will play South Africa in their first-ever World Cup quarter-final after finishing the pool stages with a 100% record with victory over Scotland

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(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Japan have topped Pool A of the Rugby World Cup after a 28-21 victory over Scotland in what was a stunning showdown this afternoon.

Needing a win to progress to their first ever quarter-final the hosts went one better by securing a bonus-point victory over a determined Scottish outfit. 

Scotland got off to a perfect start when Finn Russell stepped into a gap in the Japanese defence five metres out from the line and shrugged off tacklers to get over for a try. Laidlaw converted to make it 7-0 after seven minutes. 

Ten minutes on and having missed a penalty kick Japan made a fantastic break down the left-hand touchline, showing great hands, before getting the ball to winger Kotaro Matsushima who went over for his fifth try of the tournament. Yu Tamura slotted over the conversion to bring the scores level. 

With 26 minutes on the clock Japan struck once again, with some more wonderful handling and offloading leading to prop Keita Inagaki barging over under the posts to put the hosts in front. Tamura smashed over the extras to make it 14-7. 

Tamura was off with another penalty with two minutes left until half-time. However, from a resulting Scottish 22 kick-out Japan came charging forward and centre Timothy Lafaele sent a beautiful grubber kick through the opposition 22 where winger Kenki Fukuoka gather and scored a try for the third game running. Tamura made no mistake with the kick from the left-hand touchline with the last action of the half as the home side went in 21-7 up at the half-time whistle. 

Japan flew out of the blocks in the second-half and had their bonus-point try after just three minutes as Fukuoka ripped the ball in a tackle before racing away to touch down under the posts. Tamura provided the extras as they went 28-7 up. 

Scotland clawed their way back with half an hour remaining as WP Nel powered over for a try beside the posts following a number of phases. Laidlaw swept over the extra two to give Scotland a lifeline. 

Five minutes later and Scotland dug further into the lead as some brilliant offloading eventually saw replacement prop Fagerson charge over the line for the try. This time Russell converted from the right-hand side to put his team within seven points of the hosts. 

However, despite pushing the Japanese for the remainder of the game Scotland couldn’t break through as the tournament’s host nation saw through the win. 

Due to their position as pool winners Japan will now face South Africa in the quarter-finals of the competition next Sunday while for Scotland it is the end of the road. 

Scotland Player Ratings

Starting XV:

Stuart Hogg (8), Tommy Seymour (7), Chris Harris (8), Sam Johnson (7), Darcy Graham (6), Finn Russell (8), Greig Laidlaw (8); Allan Dell (6), Fraser Brown (7), Willem Nel (8), Grant Gilchrist (7), Jonny Gray (8), Magnus Bradbury (8), Jamie Ritchie (8), Blade Thomson (7)

Replacements (9)

Rugby

Gatland Explains England RWC Final Comments

Warren Gatland has come out to explain his comments around England’s Rugby World Cup final as well as looking back on one vital mistake he made in his career

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(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has given his reason for predicting England’s fall in the Rugby World Cup final while talking to Off the Ball.

The coaching great, who stepped aside from his 12-year stint with Wales following the conclusion of their World Cup campaign was promoting his new book ‘Pride and Passion’ and explained how the emotional toll of England’s semi-final win over New Zealand was hard to follow up. 

“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he said. 

It proved to be the case for England as they failed to find another gear in the final, being dominated by South Africa who ran out 32-12 winners. He drew on past experiences in his career to back up his point, including a discussion about the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me. One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that. They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final. It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week,” he added. 

That Lions tour threw up some major complications for Gatland including a decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the third test, which caused huge backlash and the Kiwi regrets how he went about the decision that week. 

“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media. That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week. So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent,” he finished. 

Gatland’s experience is easy to see and he will take charge of yet another Lions tour in 2021 as he leads his charges to South Africa as he completes the full cycle of tours having also managed them to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017. In the meantime Gatland has taken up a role with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs as he returns to his homeland looking to add further success to his CV.

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International

Steyn’s Rugby Career Could be Over

Double World Cup winner Frans Steyn could be set to call time on his career early following his latest triumph

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(Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

Springboks great Frans Steyn looks likely to at least pull the curtain down on his European career in order to return to his homeland.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who managed to pick up medals from the 2007 edition of the tournament and this year’s one, beating England in both finals, is currently contracted to French Top 14 giants Montpellier. 

However, it is believed that he has held discussions with the club about ending his contract come the end of January instead of when it is supposed to expire in July and speaking to South African news-outlet Volksblad, he seems keen on settling down in his homeland. 

“Rugby has always been an inspiration for the Afrikaners, especially for farmers. If we had a bad week, if we watch good rugby on Saturday, then everything is better again. Only good rain, a good rugby weekend gives us the power to face Mondays again. It is a privilege that many farmers do not have. We know what to do in the future and what we need to have in place. We want to raise our children here and are attached to the rural feel that Bloemfontein offers. We want our children to have a good experience here as my wife and I had when one grew up here,” he said. 

The 32-year-old has a family farm in Bloemfontein and it is understood this is not the first time he has made the suggestion to return to the area, but it now looks more likely than ever that he will get what he likes. 

Steyn is expected to return to the French club next week, where he would play until January before his possible move back to South Africa. 

At this time it is unknown whether the back would continue his rugby career with local professional side the Cheetahs, who play in the PRO14, or whether he will end his career early, having played at the top level for such a long time already.

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International

Scots End Row with World Rugby

Scotland and World Rugby have been unhappy with one another for the guts of a month, but they have finally sorted their differences out

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(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

World Rugby have confirmed this morning that the Scottish Rugby Union has accepted the punishment received for comments made during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last month.

The punishment of a £70,000 fine and a meaningful apology was handed to the union following comments made by their chief Mark Dodson, who suggested sueing World Rugby as his team’s clash with Japan came under threat by Typhoon Hagibis. 

In what was a must-win game for the Scots to progress to the knock-out stages, he also criticised the running of the competition by the hosts. Eventually the match was played and Scotland lost 28-21, leaving them heading home, but World Rugby were not happy. 

Having announced the punishment last week, World Rugby have now released a statement to confirm that Scotland have accepted the decision. 

“World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter. The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party,” the statement read. 

It puts and end to a dragged out argument between the organisations which will be a relief to fans. The fine will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme, which is continuing to help the areas affected by the typhoon last month. 

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