Walker returns to Wales' RWC squad in place of injured Williams

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Suitable replacement: Eli Walker.

Wales have called Ospreys wing Eli Walker into their World Cup squad as a replacement for the injured Liam Williams, the Welsh Rugby Union has announced.

Scarlets back Williams suffered a foot injury during Wales’ 15-6 defeat against Australia in last Saturday’s Pool A decider at Twickenham.

Walker will link up with the squad immediately at their Surrey base ahead of this weekend’s quarter-final appointment with two-time world champions South Africa.

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A statement from the WRU on Tuesday morning confirmed: “Ospreys wing Eli Walker has been called into Wales’ Rugby World Cup squad and will link up with the squad immediately.

“The 23-year-old was originally named in the 31-man RWC squad but was released due to injury ahead of the tournament.

“Walker replaces Liam Williams, who was released on Sunday.”

Williams, who was concussed during the 28-25 victory over England a fortnight ago, returned to action for the Wallabies clash only to limp off nursing a foot problem as Wales’ injury count continued to pile up.

The 24-year-old became the sixth member of the squad that started the tournament to be ruled out by injury, following Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos and Cory Allen.

But Wales nevertheless emerged from the tournament’s so-called ‘pool of death’ in second place behind Australia, and they will face the Springboks in Saturday’s opening last-eight encounter.

”We are very sorry for Liam. He has been outstanding in the last couple of years,” Wales assistant coach and skills specialist Neil Jenkins said on Sunday.

”He’s a huge player for us, and he did well again (on Saturday). He will be a huge loss, but we have had quite a few injuries now and we have to get on with it.

”The amount of players we have lost isn’t ideal. We are a pretty small nation anyway, but we still had a pretty potent back line out there on Saturday and I am sure it will be the same again next weekend.

”We have had incredible bad luck, there is no doubt about that.”

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All Blacks hoping for greater Richie McCaw influence

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McCaw (l) plays waterboy.

All Blacks talisman Richie McCaw is foxing and not missing in action at the breakdown, while he makes a lousy waterboy when not playing, according to the All Blacks.

The New Zealand skipper's performance has come under the microscope as they prepared for their quarter-final clash against France with the most-capped player in rugby history barely firing a shot during pool games.

The one time he was clearly visible was when acting as a waterboy in the All Blacks – Tonga match, and fly-half Dan Carter quipped he could not even do that properly.

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But the most telling statistic from the All Blacks clean sweep in pool play was the low number of turnovers won — a total of 27 in four matches.

Eight against the powerful Argentina pack was a fair effort but low numbers against Namibia, Georgia and Tonga begged questions.

Among other quarter-finalists, Wales lead the way with 38 turnovers followed by Ireland (31), Australia (29) and France (28), leaving New Zealand fifth equal with Argentina on a list they usually dominate.

McCaw has a reputation as a tackler and ball winner in the dark arts of the breakdown but in the tournament statistics he has barely registered apart from 12 tackles against Argentina.

Sam Cane, McCaw's understudy in the seven jersey, explained the reason for the skipper's absence on the turnover list was the All Blacks not trying for turnovers in the first place.

Coach Steve Hansen has said throughout the tournament the All Blacks were using the first four matches to rehearse scenarios they will likely face when the tournament is into the knockout phase.

"We can vary how we want to defend," he said.

"You will see in a lot of pool play we're not contesting rucks a lot but were putting teams under pressure through our line speed and physicality that way forcing teams into errors and trying to cut down their time and space.

"We can change that because obviously we've got guys who are good (at the breakdown) as well so it's just depending on the opposition that we're playing as to how often we try and contest the breakdown."

With the four-match rehearsal over, the defending champions have declared themselves ready for the sudden-death matches, starting with France at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

"We've been waiting a long time for and planning a long time for this game after pool play," assistant coach Ian Foster said.

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Ireland preparing for Argentina quarter-final without key men

Nick Purewal 13/10/2015
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O'Connell is a huge loss for Ireland.

Ireland are bracing themselves to face Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final without pivotal pack leaders Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien.

Talismanic captain O'Connell's World Cup and Test career-ending hamstring injury ought to be confirmed by Ireland on Tuesday, with flanker O'Mahony having already flown home to Cork with serious knee ligament trouble.

Leinster's bullish back-rower O'Brien has been cited for his off-the-ball skirmish with lock Pascal Pape in Sunday's 24-9 victory over France in Cardiff, and will appear before a London disciplinary panel on Tuesday lunchtime.

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The 26-year-old could well be handed a ban for his apparent punch on Pape in the first minute of Ireland's biggest victory over France since 1975, where he wound up winning the man of the match award. Flanker O'Brien's citing was confirmed by World Rugby on Monday evening.

Independent judicial officer Terry Willis will hear O'Brien's case, with Ireland boss Joe Schmidt revealing hopes on Sunday that the combative Leinster flanker could avoid sanction.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has branded O'Brien's clash with Pape an "assault", but Schmidt claimed his back-rower had connected with an "open hand".

Ireland's chances of beating the ebullient Pumas would be sorely tested should Schmidt's men be forced to cope without O'Brien, as well as O'Mahony and O'Connell.

Ireland are yet to name a replacement for centre Jared Payne, but started their cavalry call by adding 24-year-old Leinster flanker Rhys Ruddock to their ranks to offset the loss of O'Mahony.

Andrew Trimble is in the frame to slot in for Payne, ruled out last week with a fractured foot, while Dan Tuohy could be lined up to slot in for O'Connell.

O'Connell's Test career appears to be at an end after 108 caps. The 35-year-old was due to retire from the Test arena at the end of the competition, but the severity of his injury will surely accelerate that process.

The Toulon-bound second row beat the Millennium Stadium turf in anguish and anger after suffering his injury, before being carried off on a stretcher at half-time during Sunday's France clash.

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