RWC 2019: Stuart Hogg calls on Scotland to play the game of their lives against Japan

Press Association Sport 10:47 12/10/2019
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Scotland star Stuart Hogg.

Stuart Hogg says Scotland must be ready to play their biggest game of their lives as they bid to reach the last eight of the World Cup.

Gregor Townsend’s team are due to take on Japan in Yokohama on Sunday and a win of at least eight points will take them through to quarter-finals.

Typhoon Hagibis could yet throw a spanner in the works and blow the Dark Blues out of the tournament if World Rugby deems the match is not safe to play and rule it a draw.

But Hogg is preparing as if the match will kick-off as planned at the 70,000-seater International Stadium and wants his side to grasp the enormity of the occasion.

“I think making it to the quarters would definitely be up there with the biggest things I’ve done so far,” declared Scotland’s star full-back.

“We’ve been in since the start of June working incredibly hard to get to where we want to be and come Sunday we’ve got a chance to let loose and get to a quarter-final.

“For myself and a lot of the boys this could be the biggest game of our careers and one we’re very much looking forward to getting stuck into.

“It’s a huge Test match for us but the majority of the squad have played in big games. There are a lot of boys with experience.

“It’s going to be a hell of a ding-dong battle.”

Scotland got off to a dismal start as they slumped to Ireland in their Pool A opener.

But this weekend they return to the same venue where that pasting from Joe Schmidt’s men took place in having claimed back-to-back bonus point wins without conceding a single score against Samoa and Russia.

Now Hogg has urged his side to maintain their recent standards and not slip back to the sloppy ways that hurt them last time out in Yokohama.

“For us as professional players we have to be on the money at every single opportunity,” said the British and Irish Lion. “We made it difficult with the way we started this tournament.

“But we’ve still got a chance going into the last game of making it to the quarter finals.

“The Japanese players are all terrific individuals who also play really well collectively.

“We need to make sure our defence is on the money to shut them down at the earliest opportunity and then make the most of our opportunities in attack.

“But we’re fully aware of the strengths that they have – but we see opportunities as well. There are some tasty match-ups but we truly believe we can win this Test match.”

The Japanese public have taken the Scots to the hearts in recent weeks, with Greig Laidlaw – who will resume the captaincy against the Brave Blossoms after Stuart McInally was dropped to the bench – the unlikely pin-up boy.

But they now find themselves cast as the baddies looking to kill off the hosts’ hopes of a fairytale run to the last eight.

However, upsetting the locals is the least of Hogg’s concerns.

He said: “We’ve had a terrific time in Japan so far. We’ve had a lot of different experiences. You’ll see by Gordy Reid’s Instagram and Twitter posts that he’s enjoying himself.

“But we came here with a job in hand and that was to win Test matches. We’ve got the chance to play against the host nation and it doesn’t get any bigger than that.

“The focus is on that and making sure we do everything we can to take another step forward.

“Are we the underdogs? We’re not bothered what we’re branded as.

“They are going to come out of the blocks firing. We have to match them and better them. These are the games as an international rugby player you want to be involved in. I just wish it was Sunday evening now.”

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RWC 2019: Coach Shaun Edwards expresses concern over Wales' porous defence

Press Association Sport 10:41 12/10/2019
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Wales head coach Shaun Edwards.

Shaun Edwards accepts that Wales need to tighten up defensively as they build towards the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Six Nations champions have conceded eight tries in three Pool D games, while official statistics revealed a high missed tackle count against Fiji on Wednesday.

“I realised we missed 25 tackles, then I thought to myself, ‘who did we miss those tackles on?’” Wales defence specialist Edwards said.

“Then I looked, and there were 16 missed tackles on both of their wingers (Josua Tuisova and Semi Radradra) who, let’s be honest, are not the easiest human beings to tackle.

“If anyone has an A-Z on how to tackle Josua Tuisova, please send me it. They are incredible athletes. Obviously, there were too many (missed tackles).

“But we only missed nine tackles on the rest of the team. Those two wingers are exceptional.

“Having said that, looking at the rest of the competition, France (Wales’ likely quarter-final opponents) also have incredibly talented individuals, similar athletes, and we do need to improve that situation.”

Wales are back in action on Sunday, tackling Uruguay at Kumamoto Stadium.

A fourth successive win would make it the first time since 1987 for them to go unbeaten through a World Cup pool phase.

And they will be red-hot favourites to post a third bonus point victory from four starts, setting them up for a showdown with Les Bleus.

“They (Uruguay) are a good attacking unit, but we just have to turn up with the right attitude tomorrow and put in a performance that we can be proud of,” Edwards added.”

Edwards will again set the players a target of points conceded – they hit it against Fiji – and he said: “I set realistic targets because you have to realise there has never been as many points scored in rugby union as there is now.

“If teams get near your try-line, it’s pick-and-go after pick-and-go. It is incredibly hard to get the ball.

“It’s important I set realistic targets, which I feel like I do. In the first two games (against Georgia and Australia) we didn’t hit them – we were one score off – but against Fiji we hit it.

“I think when you are playing teams who are in the top 12-ranked teams, it would be very unusual not to concede a try.

“But all I know is that a lot of the rules – and I am not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s probably good for the game – are pro-attack.”

Edwards, meanwhile, delivered a positive update on centre Jonathan Davies, who suffered a knee injury in the Fiji match.

“The medics are working on him,” Edwards added. “We don’t feel like it’s as bad as we first feared.

“There will be more news in a couple of days, but the medics are working hard on him and we are in a positive frame of mind with regards to him being involved further down the line.”

Wales lock Adam Beard will complete his comeback from appendix surgery a month ago when he lines up against Uruguay.

The Ospreys forward had an operation in Cardiff on Wales’ departure day to Japan, and he eventually linked up with the squad 10 days later.

“The road to recovery started when I flew to Japan, and I am fighting fit and ready for Uruguay tomorrow,” Beard said.

“It was obviously a massive drama, but I was lucky enough that I had good people around me who supported me a lot.

“I am buzzing to get back out there with the boys, and we want to finish this group on a high with four wins.”

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RWC 2019: World Rugby say decision on crux Japan v Scotland clash will be taken soon

Press Association Sport 10:34 12/10/2019
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Scotland could face yet another World Cup heartbreak.

World Rugby says it aims to make a decision on whether Scotland’s storm-threatened clash with Japan on Sunday can go ahead as early as possible.

Typhoon Hagibis is due to strike the eastern coast of Japan on Saturday, with the 1400km-wide super cyclone predicted to cause widespread damage.

Reports have suggested an inspection of Yokohama’s International Stadium – where the climax to Pool A is due to be played – will to take place at 6am Japan time on the morning of the game (10pm Saturday BST), with a decision due two hours later.

But the tournament organisers say they will only be able to make that call once it is safe enough for inspections to take place.

A World Rugby spokesman said: “Our primary consideration is the safety of everyone.

“We will undertake detailed venue inspections as soon as practically possible with an announcement following as soon as decisions are made in the morning.

“Our message to fans continues be stay indoors today, stay safe and monitor official Rugby World Cup social and digital channels.”

Hagibis is set to become Japan’s biggest storm in 51 years and is expected to have a major impact on the country’s transport and rail networks.

It could play a part in whether the game is allowed to go ahead, with a closed door match still a possibility.

World Rugby must make a final decision on whether the game goes ahead no later than six hours before the 7.45pm (11.45am BST) kick-off time.

Scotland must beat the Brave Blossoms to qualify for the quarter-finals. If they match is called off, it will be declared a draw and Gregor Townsend’s team will exit the competition.

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