#RWC2015 Diary: Disciplined Ireland avoid paying penalty

DISCIPLINED IRELAND
#RWC2015 Diary: Disciplined Ireland avoid paying penalty

New Zealand are the least likely to concede a penalty, but when they do there’s a 50/50 chance it will be in their own half of the pitch.

France and South Africa are the most likely to concede penalties though the South Africans are more likely than the French to concede one in their own half.

Ireland have the best record for avoiding conceding penalties in their own half with less than half of the penalties awarded against them being inside their half.

Australia are the team most likely to give away a penalty in their own half with close to three quarters of penalties awarded against them being in their half.

Argentina:

9.75 pens per game (56% in own half).

Australia:

11 (72%) France: 12.25 (47%) Ireland: 10.5 (45%) New Zealand: 9.25 (51%) Scotland: 9.75 (64%) South Africa: 12.25 (57%) Wales: 11.5 (47%)

IN JONNY’S SHADOW

Matt Giteau can never seem to escape the shadow of his old mate Jonny Wilkinson. The Wallabies’ maestro, who was in the team that succumbed to Wilko’s “boot of God” in the 2003 World Cup final, was reflecting on the prospect of winning his 100th cap in Sunday’s quarter-final against Scotland at Twickenham when he was reminded that, in his first test back in 2002, it was also Jonny’s marksmanship that ensured he started his international career with a loss.

The pair have since become great friends, forging a dynamic partnership at Toulon, but Giteau always enjoys taking a friendly potshot at his perfectionist mate. So when informed he was talking about England’s hero in a lecture theatre at the Australians’ Lensbury Hotel named “The Wilkinson Room” in Jonny’s honour, it was all a bit too much.

“I’d have had this press conference moved if I’d known that,” Giteau remarked in mock horror, before conceding that “everyone loves Jonny. I’m no different - I just like having a go at him”.

BOKS SETTING STANDARDS

South Africa’s Bryan Habana will have a chance to become the Rugby World Cup’s all-time leading try scorer when he makes his fifth start of RWC 2015 in his team’s quarter-final against Wales.

Habana is the joint top scorer at RWC 2015 with Julian Savea (NZL) on five, but is also level with Jonah Lomu (NZL) for the all-time record of 15. Schalk Burger will set a South African record for RWC appearances with his 18th match, moving him one ahead of 2007 captain John Smit.

Team:

W Le Roux, JP Pietersen, J Kriel, D De Allende, B Habana, H Pollard, F Du Preez(capt); T Mtawarira, B Du Plessis, F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L De Jaeger, F Louw, S Berger, D Vermeulen.

Replacements:

A Strauss, T Nyakane, J Du Plessis, PS du Toit, W Alberts, R Pienaar, P Lambie, J Serfontein.

ALL ABOARD TO CARDIFF

The Irish support is legendary but may have hit new heights at the Millennium Stadium last weekend at the final Pool D match between France and Ireland. The official crowd in the stadium was 72,168 and estimates suggest about 90% of them were Ireland supporters. To anyone in the stadium it certainly felt that way. The streets around Cardiff were also paved with green-clad supporters, with the fanzones packed out, and many players have remarked on how crazy their bus ride into the stadium was as they passed through the throng.

Prop Jack McGrath, at 23 one of the youngest in the Ireland squad, had never experienced anything like it. “The crowds were 10, 15 people deep, banging on the bus,” he said. There will be another invasion of Cardiff this weekend for Ireland’s quarter-final against Argentina, and it could be expensive. One travel website reported that hotel rooms in the city centre were being priced at £1,000 (€1350) for Saturday night and £500 Sunday.

SYMPATHY VOTE

“I haven’t seen the incident, but I feel for them. It’s the World Cup, you have worked hard for it and when you get to possibly three finals to play, you miss out.” Australia head coach Michael Cheika reflects on the suspensions that have ruled Scotland forwards Ross Ford and Jonny Gray out of Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final against his team.

FRANCIS HAS NO REGRETS

Tomas Francis is set to be involved in a World Cup quarter-final on Saturday — so it comes as little surprise he has no regrets about his chosen Test career path.

The York-born Exeter prop might conceivably have been part of England’s squad in a home World Cup.

But while the England players have dispersed to all parts following a miserable pool stage exit, Francis and Wales will take centre-stage at Twickenham against twice world champions South Africa.

The 23-year-old, though, does not seek vindication for going down the Wales route.

It was an opportunity afforded him courtesy of his grandmother, who hails from Abercrave in the Swansea Valley, and he has taken to international rugby impressively after making a Wales debut only two months ago.

“England didn’t have much interest, and I have never really seen myself as an England prop, if you look at the mould they like,” he said.

“I always based my game on set-piece, really, and I was a big lad who got around. My game developed, and I added a bit more, and I always felt I would fit in better with the Wales set-up.

“The way Wales play their rugby is the same as Exeter.

“That’s the game I enjoy playing.”

Francis has enjoyed a remarkable rise, having gone from a 24-stone university prop four years ago to World Cup tight head and been involved in all four of Wales’ pool games.

“When I was at Doncaster, I was playing Championship rugby on a Saturday and Yorkshire U20s on a Sunday,” he added.

“I tried to get into the England Counties U20s set-up, and they said I wasn’t fit enough. They tried to play two trial games back to back, and in the second game, I was too tired, apparently.

“I was always going to go this way. It is not a case of proving people wrong, I just want to be the best prop I can be, and that is going to be with Wales.”

BRISTOL GET BORTHWICK

Championship club Bristol have announced the appointment of former England captain Steve Borthwick as forwards coach.

Borthwick will link up with Bristol early next month after being part of Japan’s coaching team during a memorable Rugby World Cup campaign that featured victories over South Africa, Samoa and the United States.

Japan became the first team in World Cup history to win three pool matches and not qualify for the quarter-finals.

The 36-year-old also skippered Bath and Saracens during a long playing career. He won 57 Test caps.

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