#360Rugby: England’s lack of leadership, welcome back South Africa

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Can England qualify from the Group of Death?

The Rugby World Cup is in full flow and this week #360Rugby takes in England’s lack of leadership, the superlative Alun Wyn Jones and an ominous return to form for the Springboks.

– EXCLUSIVE: White believes England will hurt
– #RWC2015 Diary: Long maul to the Millennium
– #360STATS: Sonny Bill Williams the star of the social RWC

England suffering from a lack of leadership
England backs coach Andy Farrell noted this week that the team are now in ‘fight mode’ and the hosts’ problems can be traced to a lack of leadership.

Coach Stuart Lancaster must take some of the blame for the shock loss to Wales, with poor squad selection in midfield a key factor behind the result. But Chris Robshaw’s decision making in the heat of battle has once again come up short as England turned down the chance to draw this crucial match.

Against Ireland in the Six Nations England failed to come up with a response to Conor Murray’s kicking game and it is this failure to adapt during the game that could see England come unstuck against one of the world’s most tactically astute teams in Australia.

The loss of Billy Vunipola to injury will have a detrimental effect to England’s attack but there is a silver lining. In Nick Easter England will gain a veteran back row and his extra leadership experience could be vital in easing the burden on Robshaw’s shoulders in their Pool A showdown.

Welcome back South Africa
England must take inspiration from the Springboks, who answered their critics after losing to Japan in emphatic style with a 46-6 crushing of Samoa.

The only dampener on the South Africa’s afternoon was the injury and subsequent retirement of captain Jean de Villiers. The blonde-haired centre’s untimely injury made all the worse given his inspirational story to regain fitness in time for the World Cup.

It must be said that de Villiers was not in the best form of his illustrious career but his very presence and leadership will be what Heyneke Meyer misses the most.

However, in Victor Madfield, Fourie du Preez and Bismarck du Plessis the Boks have plenty of other leaders to guide the team.

Meyer was always going to stick with his man through thick and thin but JdV’s absence, may now reunite South Africa’s most potent centre combination of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

Alun Wyn Jones the best in the business

Injury-depleted Wales submitted a Herculean team effort to overcome England and one player who encapsulated their spirit on the evening in his individual performance was Alun Wyn Jones.

The Ospreys second-row was exemplary in his work rate and seemed to hit every ruck, consistently slowing England’s attack down if not forcing a turnover.

The British and Irish Lion showed no signs of being hampered by his troublesome knee injury and used all of his 91-cap experience to re-group his players in the face of an early English onslaught and an injury crisis.

Imperious at the line-out and constantly in the ear of referee Jerome Garces without pestering him, the Welsh captain made his presence known for 80 minutes.

 Warren Gatland will be relying heavily on Jones to fire-up a fatigued side for a crunch match against Fiji – the team responsible for Wales’ exit from the 2007 World Cup.

Scotland no push-over
It took a half-time dressing down from Vern Cotter to get Scotland going but they simply blew the USA away in the second-half with five tries to secure a bonus-point victory.

With two wins under their belt the Dark Blues have one foot on a potential World Cup quarter-finals with a next match against South Africa likely to determine who wins the group.

The Africans’ thrashing of Samoa will see them start the match as favourites but they will have to be at their very best to repel a Scotland side that have transformed into an efficient attacking unit under their New Zealand coach.

The Scots will be sweating over the fitness of fly-half Finn Russell as the Glasgow playmaker looked back to his creative best before an ankle injury forced him from the field.

This is the supporters’ Rugby World Cup 

As the total match attendance figure nears the one million mark, it is important to note how brilliant the crowds have been at England and Wales 2015.

A World Cup record attendance of 89,267 piled in to Wembley Stadium to watch Ireland’s second team dispatch Romania, surpassing the previous weekend’s record breaking Rugby World Cup crowd of 89,019.

With Ireland’s bid for the 2023 World Cup gathering momentum, the sheer numbers and joy the green-clad fans bring to the tournament is enough to make World Rugby sit up and take notice.

However it is not just the top teams that are attracting the attention. Playing in front of packed stadia, teams including USA, Georgia, Japan and Namibia have received strong support with Romania playing in front of 140,000 fans across just two pool matches.

Almost equally impressive are the numbers of supporters without tickets who are traveling to fan zones to soak up the atmosphere with 378,000 visitors to date passing through the doors.

Extra time

If the first round was all about up-and-unders, the second round was all about off-loads. The ‘Sonny Bill’, if executed correctly, is an effective method of drawing several defenders in and releasing an on-running runner.

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Bowe sticks up for Irish centre Payne in the wake of criticism

Nick Purewal 09:08 30/09/2015
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Central to the debate: Ireland outside centre Jared Payne.

Tommy Bowe has leapt to the defence of Jared Payne after the Ireland centre’s World Cup form was savaged by former Ulster coach Matt Williams.

Ex-Ulster and Scotland boss Williams claimed Ireland have “huge issues” in midfield when analysing the 44-10 victory over Romania for Irish channel TV3.

– EXCLUSIVE: White believes England will hurt

– #RWC2015 Diary: Long maul to the Millennium
– RWC15: Cheika insists Australia will be underdogs

Williams believes Ireland will struggle to reach the latter stages of the tournament with Payne at 13 – leading Bowe to stick up for his Ulster team-mate.

Bowe branded Williams a “bad cop” pundit, insisting Ireland would take little notice of outside opinion.

“I was just chatting to one of the lads yesterday about how good it is to actually play alongside Jared,” said Bowe.

“As a squad, we know what a talented player Jared is. He has a lot of time on the ball and he makes it easy for us wingers and people inside and outside him to play with because he’s just so consistent.

Ireland star man Tommy Bowe has rescued to Jared Payne's defence.

“His communication is very good from a defensive point of view and he’s probably one of the best passers of the ball in the squad.

“He has a bit of X-Factor about him when he gets the opportunity to put it on.

“He’s been a key part of the squad and team over the last year or two.”

Williams believes Ireland should promote Darren Cave to outside centre for Sunday’s vital Pool D clash against Italy at London’s Olympic Stadium. Ireland will qualify for the quarter-finals with victory over the Azzurri and Williams is calling for changes.

“He’s making really poor decisions: he’s kicking the ball all the time and he’s kicking very badly,” said Williams of Payne.

“He’s not making breaks. He’s running across field.

“So, you can tick just about every box for doing things wrong as an outside centre in attack.

“I certainly do not believe that for us to go deep in the tournament that’s going to be good enough.

“We have to get some centres that are going to show the ability to go through teams.”

 New Zealand-born Payne is likely to be reunited with usual centre partner Robbie Henshaw for Ireland’s crucial Italy clash.

Henshaw is fit again after hamstring trouble, with head coach Joe Schmidt expected to restore his first-choice centre pairing.

“He makes it easy for us wingers because he’s just so consistent” – Tommy Bowe

Meanwhile, Italy talisman Sergio Parisse must still pass two more fitness tests before being cleared for Sunday’s match.

Captain and linchpin Parisse finally joined Italy’s World Cup camp this week, and jumped straight into training on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old Stade Francais number eight remains confident his calf hematoma will clear in time for him to start.

 Italy’s team doctor Vincenzo Ieracitano said: “He’s happy to be here and confident he will be able to play.

“Tomorrow he will definitely train with the rest of the squad, then on Thursday he will go through a fitness test in the gym.

“And if that goes well we will see how he gets on in training and then we will have another check to see if he can play.”

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UAE Rugby achieve top-8 finish in Asia

Matt Jones - Editor 00:34 27/09/2015
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Abu Dhabi Harlequins winger Justin Walsh in action against Thailand.

The United Arab Emirates are already eying bigger and better things after they confirmed at least a top eight finish at the second leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Thailand.

– VIDEO: Hurricanes reflect on victory over Al Ain
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Roelof Kotze’s men got off to a flyer by beating the Philippines 12-7 in Bangkok.

They went on to lose 33-10 to South Korea in their second Pool C match, but the Koreans’ 42-7 trouncing of the Philippines in the final group game meant the UAE finished second and will play in today’s Cup quarter-finals, guaranteeing them a finish within the top eight teams.

Their path to glory will be tough though, with Kotze’s charges drawn against Asia’s top ranked team Japan in the last eight, who scored 87 points and conceded just five in Pool A wins against Singapore (33- 5) and Kazakhstan (54-0).

UAE captain Niall Statham, however, says they have nothing to fear in their encounter with the men from the Land of the Rising Sun.

“It was great to have achieved our target of the top eight but we constantly re-evaluate and the goal is now top six,” said the Jebel Ali Dragons flanker.

“We’re not content with the top eight as a best ever finish, it’s now our minimum expectation.”

Abu Dhabi Harlequins winger Chris Marshall has taken to life at international level like a duck to water since making his UAE debut in the opening leg of the Series in China at the beginning of the month, and the 25-year-old added another try to his tally in the opening game in Thailand against the Philippines.

Returning Dubai Exiles man Charlie Sargent also touched down for the UAE, Sargent’s clubmate Justin Walsh then adding a conversion.

The UAE were outscored five tries to two by the South Koreans in their second match. For the Koreans, Seong Min Jang ran in two scores. Quins winger Adel Al Hendi and Dragons full-back Ryno Fourie were the UAE try scorers.

“It’s been a good day,” said 23-year-old Walsh. “We were a little disappointed with the performance against South Korea but in the second half we pulled it together and won the half.”

There were still positives to extract from defeat though and it certainly has not dampened spirits in the UAE camp, with Kotze’s team assured of bettering their Bowl triumph and ninth placed finish overall in Qingdao three weeks ago.

“Although the South Korea loss was disappointing, we outscored them in the second half so we’re carrying self belief into the game against Japan,” said Statham.

“It’s great to test ourselves against a top side in the world. We’re excited to be mixing it with the top teams. We’re obviously a bit disappointed we didn’t get closer to Korea but it gives us a clear vision of where we need to improve.

“Other teams are taking notice of us now and we’re really excited to see jusy how far we can go.”

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