Day eight at the Rugby World Cup: Japan to face Ireland
Can the Brave Blossoms beat the team ranked number one in the world?
Home expectations will be high on day eight of the Rugby World Cup as Japan limber up for a potentially feisty Group A affair against Ireland in Shizuoka.
In Group C, Argentina will look to shrug off their close opening defeat to France as they face a Tonga team who did their own reputation no harm against England.
Meanwhile, Namibia can be confident of making their African derby against South Africa a closer call than previous meetings when they meet in Group B in Toyota.
O’Mahony eager to beat the Blossoms
Peter O’Mahony is itching to play a part in Ireland’s Group A clash with the hosts after his role in the opening win over Scotland was abridged by a head injury.
After passing the required Head Injury Assessment, O’Mahony returned to full training on Tuesday and insists he is “fresh” for the high-profile showdown.
“It’s not something you plan, obviously it’s my second World Cup but the first game of the tournament and it wasn’t ideal to be coming off that early,” said O’Mahony.
“But, it’s part and parcel of rugby these days. You get through your return to play stuff, the S&C guys and the medical team are well used to it at this stage, it’s bread and butter for them and they were very good.
“I’m feeling fresh, I only got 25 minutes or whatever so I am looking forward to playing.”
Matsushima and co keen to improve
Hosts Japan might have kicked off their campaign with an emphatic 30-10 win over Russia but few in the Brave Blossoms’ camp were content with the performance.
Coach Jamie Joseph admitted nerves got the better of his side but hat-trick hero Kotaro Matsushima has ramped up the pressure once again by making a bold personal prediction.
“There were a lot of things that didn’t go well against Russia, said Matsushima.
“I think there will be good chances and once the ball comes out wide, and I’d like to score two tries.”
Japan coach Joseph has sprung a selection surprise by leaving captain and blindside flanker Michael Leitch on the bench.
Officials under pressure to get it right
The standard of refereeing has already come in for criticism during the tournament and the pressure on match officials shows no sign of abating.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has expressed concerns prior to the Japan game over referee Angus Gardner, who officiated in his side’s Six Nations loss to Wales in March.
Schmidt said: “Obviously last time we had Angus (Gardner) it wasn’t great for us.
“We didn’t play particularly well but we didn’t feel we got a lot of the rub of the green from Angus either.”
Joseph and Japan have reacted by spending much of the week claiming Cian Healy angles in illegally at the scrum.
Urdapilleta happy after playing the waiting game
Benjamin Urdapilleta is eager to seize his long-awaited chance to impress as Argentina look to bounce back from their opening defeat to France when they meet Tonga.
Urdapilleta spent six years in the international wilderness prior to being called up into the World Cup squad – and has been told he will replace Nicholas Sanchez at fly-half against the Tongans.
He told a press conference: “I am really happy, enjoying the moment and anxious for the match to arrive.
“During a game, if I see an opportunity, I take it, but first I do fulfil what the coaching staff asks, which is the gameplan, and I feel good about it.”
Mind the gap
South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus has warned his Springboks not to expect another cricket-score victory when they face fellow Africans Namibia in Toyota.
South Africa inflicted a massive 105-13 defeat upon their African rivals in 2007 and four years later repeated the feat with an 87-0 triumph.
But Erasmus expects a more competitive match this time around which will illustrate the strides being made by the so-called smaller nations.
Erasmus said: “It won’t be the Namibia of previous tournaments, which was just a rollover.
“The gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 nations has definitely shrunk. You don’t get 100 points, 80 points and 70 points anymore – it’s been shown in the first week (of the tournament).”