World Cup’s ‘Farewell’ side gone but not forgotten

Zander Fagersoninsists GregorTownsend is still the man to lead Scotland forward.

World Cup’s ‘Farewell’ side gone but not forgotten

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.”

Great fuel

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.”

Fond farewell

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:

15. Telusa Veainu (Tonga): The leading full-back in metres made (248) and tries scored, including a beauty against Argentina. Say no more.

14. Mattia Bellini (Italy): 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.

13. Waisea Nayacalevu (Fiji): The leading outside centre in metres made (219) and clean breaks (5), Nayacalevu also scored tries against tough opposition in Australia and Wales.

12. Siale Piutau (Tonga): He will be remembered for a try-scoring farewell to international rugby against USA, but the Tonga captain’s tackle count was most impressive, 42 the most of any inside-centre.

11. Semi Radradra (Fiji): Metres made (400), defenders beaten (29), carries (62): Semi topped all those categories. Throw in six tries and two player-of-the-match awards and his figures, and performances, were simply breathtaking.

10. Finn Russell (Scotland): Third-most metres made (126), second-most defenders beaten (11), third-most clean breaks (4) and most offloads (6). Impressive fly-half numbers in a Scotland team that was not always going forwards.

9. Santiago Arata (Uruguay): Tackles (38), defenders beaten (6), turnovers (six), the Los Teros scrum-half had it all, proving key in the win against Fiji. He’s got a decent boot on him, too…

1. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Argentina): Tetaz Chaparro made more carries and tackles per minute than any player playing 50% of his team’s game time in the pool phase — showing a level of stamina and commitment few loose-heads possess.

2. Joe Taufete’e (USA): Taufete’e showed remarkable staying power in clocking up 244 minutes during the tournament, topping the hooker carries chart with 37, while he was third on tackles and turnovers.

3. Michael Alaalatoa (Samoa): Completing a durable front row is the 128kg tight-head, whose 39 tackles puts him second on the list of No. 3s. Alaalatoa, whose brother Allan is in the Australia squad, also had the second-most turnovers of any tight-head.

4. Guido Petti (Argentina): The second-row’s numbers speak of a top-class all-rounder: 70 metres made (third in his position), most lineout steals of any player (5), second in second-row turnovers, third for defenders beaten.

5. Jonny Gray (Scotland): A renowned tackling machine, Gray’s 28 against Japan was a tournament high. But with 14 passes and a third-place ranking in his position for offloads and try assists, the Scotland second row is so much more.

6. Juan Gaminara (Uruguay): Not only did Uruguay’s captain play a key role in the shock win against Fiji, he also made 52 tackles in the pool stage, the third most by a blindside flanker, despite starting the match against Australia on the bench.

7. Jake Polledri (Italy): Polledri’s barnstorming performances included beating 27 defenders, the most recorded in any Rugby World Cup by a forward, despite playing just 196 minutes.

8. Beka Gorgadze (Georgia): A worthy successor to the similarly named Mamuka Gorgodze as Georgia’s go-to go-forward man. He made 149 metres, as well as the most tackles (38) and turnovers (5) of anybody in his position.

Local lingo

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

“Jamie Joseph (Japan coach) compared their two wings to Ferrari cars, so we have to not allow those Ferraris to go to fifth gear or sixth gear.”

— South Africa’s assistant coach Mzwandile Stic on dealing with Japan wingers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima.

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