In Depth

Rugby World Cup: Japan make history as quarter-finals take shape

Scotland are sent packing by the Brave Blossoms in Yokohama

Hosts stun Scots to set up Springboks clash

Japan defied not only the weather on Sunday but also Rugby World Cup history to become only the fourth non-tier one side to reach the quarter-finals, and the first since Fiji in 2007.

The Brave Blossoms’s stunning 28-21 defeat of Scotland in Yokohama, less than 24 hours after Typhoon Hagibis had ripped through Japan, leaving a trail of death and destruction, put a smile back on the face of the nation. 

“You just look around and see how special a moment this is for the whole country,” said Japan head coach Jamie Joseph. 

“While we are celebrating, there will be a lot of people that aren’t. I really want to acknowledge the families that have lost people to the typhoon, that really motivated our team and we talked about it.”

The victory meant Japan finished top of pool A, with Ireland second, leaving the Scots to catch a flight home - only the second time they have failed to reach the last eight of a World Cup.

Japan meet South Africa on Sunday (11.15am UK time) in a re-run of their sensational pool match in 2015, when the Springboks were stunned in the final minute in the biggest upset in World Cup rugby history.

Weary Wales face France

A second string Wales team ensured they finished top of pool D but it was a leaden performance against Uruguay. 

The South Americans took a leaf out of the Japanese book in their commitment and energy, and the part-timers’s approach rattled the Welsh. 

Leading 7-6 at half-time, the Six Nations champions didn’t emerge revitalised in the second-half, squandering numerous opportunities with dropped balls or forward passes. 

“We were poor at times, not clinical, too many turnovers in that first half and probably blew about four or five chances,” reflected Wales head coach Warren Gatland. 

“They’re a tough outfit to put away. They’re tenacious, they make the tackles and they’re a tidy little side.”

Nonetheless, Wales secured a 35-13 bonus point win with late tries from Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies to set up a quarter-final clash on Sunday (8.15am UK time) with France, who were runners-up to England in pool C. 

Wales are favourites but fatigue could be a factor on Sunday. Gatland’s men have played two physical matches in four days - Wednesday’s win over Fiji was arguably the most bruising match of the tournament - whereas France have had their feet up for the last eight days. 

The cancellation of their final pool match against England on Saturday means they’ll be well rested for the quarter-final clash in Oita. 

“We know how hard it will be, they have quality individuals and seem to thrive in quarter-finals and semi-finals,” said Gatland.

“We have a pretty good record against France, but they are a tournament team. People write them off and then they produce a performance no-one expects.”

England take on the Wallabies

The first quarter-final will be between England and Australia in Oita on Saturday (8.15am UK time).

The Wallabies finished second in pool D, labouring to an unimpressive 27-8 win against Georgia on Friday, and they now face an England team who have beaten them in their last six meetings. 

Australia head coach Michael Cheika and England chief Eddie Jones are old associates, stretching back to their coaching days in Sydney, and Cheika has got in the first dig ahead of the quarter-final. 

Learning that Jones had said England’s cancelled match against France worked to their advantage in giving them longer to rest, Cheika said: “They’ve had the best preparation according to the coach so they’d better go out there and win. We’ll see how we go.”

And asked if he agreed England were favourites because of their two-week rest, Cheika said: “I don’t know the relevance of it. The only relevance is Saturday. It doesn’t matter, all the different things, who’s had a week off, who’s had a week on, who’s been resting, who hasn’t.”

That was the gist of comments made by England scrum-half Ben Youngs, who in the course of 94 international caps has learned to focus on the here and now. 

“My experience is that you can’t read into what happens in the past, it’s just about that 80 minutes,” said Youngs. “Don’t believe your own hype as a side.”

Ireland prepare for the All Blacks

Ireland finished their pool A campaign with a thumping 47-5 win over a disappointing Samoa side, but the victory came at a price. 

Centre Bundee Aki was sent off in the first half for a high tackle on Ulupano Seuteni and he’s likely to be banned for the quarter-final against New Zealand on Saturday when he faces a disciplinary panel.

Although Ireland beat the All Blacks in Dublin 11 months ago, their form has dipped this year and the two-time defending champions are the red-hot favourites to progress to the semi-finals. 

“The All Blacks are a sort of team that you could play at your best and still not get the result,” said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who’ll be aware his team have never got beyond the quarter-final stage of the World Cup. “For us it would be to a degree a mountain to climb.”

New Zealand vs. Ireland starts at 11.15am (UK time) on Saturday.

Today’s back pages

Japan honour typhoon victims after stunning win over Scotland

Rugby World Cup quarter-finals 

England vs. Australia
  • What: RWC quarter-final 
  • When: Saturday 19 October 
  • Where: Oita Stadium, Oita 
  • UK start time: 8.15am 
  • TV coverage: live on ITV 
New Zealand vs. Ireland
  • What: RWC quarter-final 
  • When: Saturday 19 October 
  • Where: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo 
  • UK start time: 11.15am 
  • TV coverage: live on ITV 
Wales vs. France
  • What: RWC quarter-final 
  • When: Sunday 20 October 
  • Where: Oita Stadium, Oita 
  • UK start time: 8.15am 
  • TV coverage: live on ITV 
Japan vs. South Africa
  • What: RWC quarter-final 
  • When: Sunday 20 October 
  • Where: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo 
  • UK start time: 11.15am 
  • TV coverage: live on ITV

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