Day four at the Rugby World Cup: Wales eyeing winning start against Georgia
Wales kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign on Monday bidding to emulate the winning starts made by England and Ireland on Sunday.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what to expect from day four of the tournament.
Wales looking to move on from Howley’s early departure
Warren Gatland’s Wales will be pleased to have an opportunity to make headlines on the field following a far-from-ideal build-up to the World Cup.
Their plans were disrupted by assistant coach Rob Howley being sent home over an alleged breach of World Rugby’s betting regulations, with Stephen Jones replacing him.
Boss Gatland has stressed the need for focus on the task ahead, saying: “It’s been tough, but you have to draw a line in the sand and concentrate on what your job and your role is.”
Wales begin their quest for glory with a clash against Pool D opponents Georgia in Toyota.
The reigning Six Nations champions, occupiers of World Rugby’s number one ranking position last month, began the World Cup ranked fifth, seven places above Georgia, who they beat 13-6 in 2017.
Gatland is stepping down as head coach after this tournament. In the New Zealander’s 12-year reign, Wales have won four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams, and reached the 2011 World Cup semi-finals.
Schmidt sweating on head injuries
Despite opening with a crushing 27-3 bonus-point win over Scotland, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt’s satisfaction was tempered by head injury concerns for Peter O’Mahony and Bundee Aki.
Flanker O’Mahony and centre Aki failed Head Injury Assessments (HIAs) in Yokohama on Sunday and will be subject to further tests in the coming days.
Ireland’s six-day turnaround to face hosts Japan could leave the pair unavailable for selection due to the six-day return-to-play process.
Schmidt, who revealed neither player was showing any concussion symptoms, said: “They failed HIA one, so they’ve got to go through HIA two and three to determine whether or not they have a concussion.
“We’ve just got to accept it’s a six-day turnaround and manage our squad as best we can.”
Jones wants England to sharpen up after seeing off ‘Stoke City’
England got their tournament under way with a bonus-point win but a less-than-sparkling display.
Notable handling errors were made by the 2003 world champions in their 35-3 defeat of Tonga in Sapporo.
Coach Eddie Jones afterwards told ITV his side had not been sharp enough, while also claiming it was “a bit like playing against Stoke City – the ball went out a lot, there was a slow pace to the game”.
He added: “Maybe that was the intention. You just have to battle that, get on with it, and you only have to get four tries in 80 minutes and we got them.”
England’s next match is against the United States on Thursday.
Hogg confident Scotland can bounce back from mauling
Stuart Hogg insists Scotland can still make a success of the World Cup, but admits they will have to learn from their dismal start in Pool A.
Gregor Townsend’s team – thrashed by the world’s number-one ranked side, Ireland – have to wait until next Monday for a chance to make amends when they face Samoa in Kobe.
Full-back Hogg is confident the Scots can recover from their abject opening display and go deep into the competition.
“Absolutely,” said the new Exeter signing when asked if he thought Scotland still had a chance of going far.
“We made a lot of mistakes but we’ll learn from it and move on. There’s a lot of opportunities to make amends.”
A bonus point looked set to elude England until Luke Cowan-Dickie crossed with four minutes remaining in Sapporo.
Ireland have now won nine-successive World Cup pool stage matches. Before the current run, they had never previously won more than four in a row.