RWC 2019: Wales' 2011 World Cup heartache is "great fuel" for France game, says Stephen Jones

Press Association Sport 13:35 15/10/2019
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Stephen Jones in action against France during the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Stephen Jones says that Wales’ 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat against France will produce “great fuel” for Sunday’s showdown 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.

This time around, Wales and France meet at the quarter-final stage, with Japan or South Africa awaiting the winners.

“It’s great fuel to drive you forward to achieve your goals, and that’s what that is,” 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.

Jones has replaced Rob Howley as assistant coach in Japan.

Jones has replaced Rob Howley as assistant coach in Japan.

“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 head coach Warren Gatland is set 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.

Jones added: “We are in a great position. The boys integrated back into training today. The medical team have done a fantastic job on our players.

“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.

“It’s special, isn’t it? We are very excited. It’s the business end and we are all chomping at the bit for the game on Sunday.

“They (France) are a very physical outfit, wonderful athletes, but we are really concentrating on ourselves and getting our own house in order.”

When Wales last met France – in the Six Nations eight months ago – Gatland’s men fought back from a 16-0 interval deficit to win and set the ball rolling towards an eventual Grand Slam.

“We will look back on that match,” Jones said. “It is important we learn lessons from that match.

“The positives are that we stayed in the fight and got back and won that game, but yes, we’ve definitely taken some lessons on board from that first-half.”

If Wales lose on Sunday, it will be Gatland’s final match at the helm following a success-laden reign that began with the 2008 Six Nations title.

He steps down after the tournament and will be succeeded by his fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac.

Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies said: “We all knew it was going to be his last tournament in charge of us, and we do speak about it every now and then.

“Especially this week now, it could be our last game, but hopefully it won’t be.

“Alun Wyn (Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones) is a great captain and he speaks very well, and I am sure he will mention the fact it could be Gats’ last game.

“Hopefully, not. As players we will have that in the back of our mind, and hopefully it will give us a couple of extra per cent to come away with a good victory.”

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RWC 2019: Ireland won't blink in battle of mind games with All Blacks, says Simon Easterby

Press Association Sport 13:28 15/10/2019
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Forwards coach Simon Easterby says Ireland will be able to adapt to whatever the All Blacks throw at them.

Ireland insist they will not blink in the battle of the analysis mind games ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with New Zealand.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen lit the fuse on a potentially explosive week on Monday by vowing to lay false traps for Ireland’s master tactician head coach Joe Schmidt.

Schmidt is famed for developing one-off strike moves to outwit opponents, with Jacob Stockdale scoring the decisive try from one such ruse in Ireland’s maiden Dublin win over New Zealand in November.

That 16-9 triumph has in part drawn the All Blacks to push into a more expansive attacking style, and the two sides’ Tokyo clash on Saturday will doubtless prove an intriguing last-eight battle.

But even if All Blacks boss Hansen does set a few surprise moves for his Kiwi compatriot Schmidt, forwards coach Simon Easterby believes Ireland will be able to adapt on the run.

“I think there’s no game where you don’t try to manipulate the opposition, whether that’s setting in a different way in certain situations in the game on attack or defence,” said Easterby.

“I’ve no doubt they’ll have something we haven’t seen before and we’ll have something they haven’t seen before.

“So it’s part and parcel of the game these days, every side is analysed, there’s a lot of work goes on in the background to try and figure out how teams play the game, how they attack, how they defend.

“But ultimately it’s about going out and trying to be physical and trying to impose your game on the opposition, whether that’s in attack or defence. And we’ll be no different from them in that respect.”

New Zealand reacted to that November loss to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium by drawing up blueprints for a backline reshuffle.

Head coach Hansen has paired Richie Mo’unga at fly-half with Beauden Barrett at full-back, a twin playmaking combination that has already helped the All Blacks see off South Africa 23-13 in the pool stages.

New Zealand are bidding for an unprecedented third successive World Cup triumph, with the All Blacks firm favourites to prevail in Tokyo on Saturday.

When quizzed on the All Blacks’ dual playmaking options, Easterby insisted Ireland cannot afford to be fixated with one aspect of their supreme all-court approach.

“I guess every team gets to a point where they must keep evolving and try to stay ahead of their opposition, and we’re no different either,” said Easterby.

“They have so many threats across the park and can play in a number of different styles according to their personnel.

“You cannot switch off for a moment against them, and that’s part of the challenge.”

Welsh referee Nigel Owens will take charge of the encounter.

“I think it’s a good appointment, I think we’re familiar with him, so are the All Blacks,” said Easterby.

“He does a lot of Rugby Championship games, he gets a lot of coverage there.

“So I think he’s good, a good appointment, and both camps will be pretty happy to see Nigel out in the middle.

“He’s got a good way about him, he’ll allow the game to flow but will also be across all the set-piece work and I think he’ll be a good man to have in the middle.”

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RWC 2019: England rate Billy Vunipola as "very likely" to be available for Australia game

Press Association Sport 11:39 15/10/2019
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England rate Billy Vunipola as “very likely” to be available for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia at Oita Stadium.

In a major lift to Eddie Jones’ men, the powerful Saracens number eight is on course to recover from the ankle injury that forced him off at half-time against Argentina 10 days ago.

Jones names his team to face the Wallabies on Thursday and Vunipola, the only player to have started all 12 of England’s Tests this year, will be an automatic selection if fit.

“Billy is progressing really well,” defence coach John Mitchell said.

“He has trained again today and we are very confident in his progression each day. He’s very likely (to be available).

“Billy is a very important player to us and a very likeable player as well. He fits well within the team.

“He loves the ball in his hand. He is very good at regaining and retaining momentum. He likes carrying the ball which is where he has his greatest influence.”

While the update over Vunipola has been positive, it appears increasingly unlikely that wing Jack Nowell will play any part in the quarter-final.

Having recovered from ankle surgery and being forced to have his appendix removed, Nowell’s comeback against the Pumas came at the cost of a hamstring injury that has prevented him from taking a full part in training.

“Jack wasn’t at training today. He is on another prescription of training and is also progressing,” Mitchell said.

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