Zander Fagerson insists Gregor Townsend is still the man to lead Scotland forward. Questions have been raised over the head coach’s future as his side’s miserable 2019 ended in World Cup failure.
Former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol claims his old team-mate is under pressure but Townsend has already declared his desire to fight on and turn his team around.
And he has got support from Glasgow prop Fagerson who said: “I’m 100% backing Gregor, definitely. If you read everything (that’s written about the team), you wouldn’t play rugby in the morning. It’s one of these things. If you read too many tweets it’s not great, there’s a lot of keyboard warriors out there.
“We’ve not been good enough. We know that. There’s been some pretty harsh internal reviews. We’ll take our learnings from it. If we learn from it, it will be worthwhile.
“We showed glimpses of what we can do but if we’d done that for the full 80 minutes, we could have won the Japan game. This is international rugby — it’s cutthroat and if you give these teams a sniff they will punish you.
"We need to be more clinical but we’ve definitely learned a lot of lessons this World Cup and grown as a squad. It’s going to be a hard review and we need to learn from this. If we learn from it, then it won’t have been a waste of time.”
Stephen Jones says that Wales’ 2011 World Cup semi-final defeat against France will produce “great fuel” for Sunday’s quarter-final in Oita. Former Wales fly-half Jones went on as a second-half substitute eight years ago, missing a conversion as Wales suffered an agonising 9-8 defeat after skipper Sam Warburton had been controversially sent off.
“It’s great fuel to drive you forward to achieve your goals,” Wales assistant coach Jones said. “It was a tight game. Even when we were down to 14, we battled hard and it still could have gone either way. We had gathered a lot of momentum in that World Cup, and we were in a good place.
“It is unfortunate we lost the game and the manner in which we did. There were some wonderful experiences of that 2011 World Cup. Yes, it was disappointing. That’s sport.
This is a different group of players. Some were involved that day, but the vast majority weren’t. You look at the recent games against France and the boys have had some good success.
Wales expect to have a fully-fit squad to choose from,including centre Jonathan Davies, fly-half Dan Biggar, and wing George North, who have all been recovering from knocks.
“You want a full complement. You look at those players, huge experience, great skill-set. Jon has a physical threat, and you saw what he did with that last line-break just before he got injured. It’s vital we have everyone fit and healthy.
“They (France) are a very physical outfit, wonderful athletes, but we are really concentrating on ourselves and getting our own house in order.”
The official World Cup website has announced its ‘Farewell XV’, comprised of a team whose countries failed to qualify for the quarter-finals — but they still covered themselves in glory. This is more of a data XV than a gut instinct pick, it should be pointed out:
The leading full-back in metres made (248) and tries scored, including a beauty against Argentina. Say no more.
A breakout tournament for the tall winger, who made 160 metres and seven clean breaks in just 120 minutes of rugby, scoring a try in each of his games.
South Africa may have to come up with some new calls for the quarter-final against Japan on Sunday.
“Normally when we speak Afrikaans, it’s an advantage as the opposition don’t understand,” said Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick.
But three of the Brave Blossoms have played professional rugby in South Africa — flanker Pieter ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne, second-row Wimpie van der Walt, and right-winger Kotaro Matsushima.
“They will probably have some inside communication from our camp,” said Stick.
Quote of the day
— South Africa’s assistant coach Mzwandile Stic on dealing with Japan wingers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima.