Joe Schmidt admitted Ireland had "been a little bit flat" throughout 2019 after their Rugby World Cup hopes were emphatically ended by ruthless New Zealand on Saturday.

The All Blacks were at their clinical best in a one-sided quarter-final in Tokyo, scoring seven tries to ease to a 46-14 triumph and set up a last-four clash with England next weekend.

Ireland were architects of their own downfall, though, particularly during a first half when they made a number of errors while allowing their opponents to open up a 22-0 lead by the interval.

After celebrating Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations in 2018, as well as a first win over New Zealand on home soil, Ireland have failed to hit the same heights this year, with their World Cup exit a disappointing end to Schmidt's reign.

"It wasn't just the 22 points [in the first half], it was all the ball we gave them," Schmidt said in his post-match interview.

"I think we missed touch with penalties for us to get good field position three times, and that just meant we were chasing our tail. They had so much ball in our half, in our 22, that it was very, very tough going.

"We had a few chances in that first half, I think one of the tries – the third one the All Blacks scored -  we had a really good gap on the inside and just didn't quite play, didn't quite have the feel.

"We have been a little bit flat all season, which is disappointing. We were great last year and just maybe come off the top of that and haven't been where we've wanted to be all year."

As well as their head coach, Ireland also said their farewells to skipper Rory Best, who suffered a heavy defeat in his final international outing.

The hooker thanked the departing Schmidt for taking his game to a new level during an emotional interview before going on a lap of honour with his children after concluding media duties.

"The crowd have been fantastic, as has the support I have received from home, from the fans, whether we're at home or away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and, in particular, Joe," Best said.

"He brought Irish rugby and probably my game in particular to a new level. A lot of credit must go to him."

An emotional Rory Best doffed his cap to New Zealand after the two-time defending champions ended the Ireland captain's career with a crushing 46-14 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat.

The All Blacks were in a class of their own at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday, Aaron Smith claiming a quickfire first-half double and Beauden Barrett also crossing to put the holders 22-0 up at the break.

Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett touched down in the second half, with Ireland having to wait until 11 minutes from time for Robbie Henshaw to go under the posts and get them on the board before they were awarded a late penalty try.

New Zealand will face England in a blockbuster semi-final next week and Best was full of praise for Steve Hansen's men after they sent him into retirement on the back of a hammering.

The hooker said: "The All Blacks were fantastic tonight. We felt we prepared well, we felt we had a game plan, we felt we have enough in our armoury to beat them, but they came out of the blocks hard at us, put us on the back foot and like good sides do, they never let us off that again.

"I think they were just really, really clinical. They didn't let us get on the front foot and this is a front-foot, momentum game, especially in knockout rugby.

"The boys who are here will have to look back at this and see how they can get better, but right now you have to give enormous credit to the All Blacks - they were fantastic tonight."

Best was given a huge ovation when he was interviewed on the pitch after the match and the 37-year-old expressed his gratitude to head coach Joe Schmidt at the end of his reign.

"I've loved every minute of it," said Best. "The support that I've got from fans when we are at home and away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and public and in particular Joe, who is moving on.

"I think he brought Irish rugby and probably my game to a different level and a lot of credit and a lot of thanks must go to him."

Such was the scale of Japan's Rugby World Cup victory over South Africa four years ago, they made a movie - 'The Brighton Miracle' - to commemorate one of the great sporting upsets.

There will surely be a sequel on the way after this year's Brave Blossoms reached the quarter-finals for the first time by beating Scotland, and box-office sales could soar through the roof if history repeats itself on Sunday when they face the Springboks again.

South Africa will start the last-eight contest as overwhelming favourites to gain revenge, with their star-studded cast including Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Japan also have no shortage of talent to play leading roles and will be backed by a raucous crowd when they attempt to break new ground once again on home soil.

As the Boks plot to spoil the party for their hosts, we reflect on how Japan pulled off a monumental shock at the last World Cup in England, as well as looking at the prospects of lightning striking twice.

 

Hesketh and Goromaru rock Boks

Japan were not given a prayer in the opening Pool B match given Zimbabwe were the only team they had previously beaten in a World Cup match – and that win was way back in 1991.

Yet Eddie Jones' side humiliated a vastly experienced Springboks team with their exciting brand of rugby, coming from behind to secure the most dramatic and unlikely of victories.

Karne Hesketh crossed right at the death and Ayumu Goromaru claimed a 24-point haul to leave the two-time champions not knowing what had hit them following a 34-32 loss.

 

Meyer fronts up to 'Boklash'

Heyneke Meyer came under fire after his side lost the plot and rampant Japan made them pay.

The then-head South Africa coach said: "I have to apologise to the nation. It was just not good enough. It was unacceptable and I take full responsibility.

"Every game is going to be tough but there are no excuses."

 

Jones: I had to look at the scoreboard

Jones, who landed the England job after his success with Japan in 2015, was pinching himself after the underdogs snatched victory with their last throw of the dice. 

The Australian said: "Japan beating South Africa? I had to look at the scoreboard at the end just to see if it was true or not. We kept hanging in there. It looked at one stage when they got seven points ahead that they would run away with it.

"That would have been the normal scenario, like the horror story where the woman goes for a shower after midnight and you know what's going to happen. Normally they would score three or four, it ends up 50-20 and everyone says, 'Well done Japan, you tried hard, you were brave'. But we were more than brave."

 

What happened next?

Jones said the objective for Japan was to go on and reach the quarter-finals after downing the two-time champions, but they fell agonisingly short.

A heavy defeat to Scotland turned out to be crucial as Japan finished third in Pool B after failing to pick up any bonus points.

South Africa, Scotland and the Brave Blossoms all won three and lost one of their four games, but it was Japan who missed out.

 

Hope springs eternal for revenge-seeking Boks

Although Japan are riding on the crest of a wave as they prepare for their first World Cup knockout match, South Africa have looked formidable despite making a losing start against New Zealand.

Potent in attack and solid in defence, the Springboks have turned their fortunes around under Rassie Erasmus and dethroned the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship.

They also hammered Japan 41-7 in a pre-tournament warm-up match and is it hard to envisage them suffering another upset at the hands of their next opponents.

Dan Biggar is confident he is 100 per cent ready to return to action in Wales' Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France, according to Warren Gatland.

Biggar missed Wales' final Pool D match against Uruguay with concussion after suffering head knocks in consecutive matches against Australia and Fiji.

However, the Northampton Saints fly-half has been passed fit to start against France in Oita on Sunday.

It is a decision Gatland insisted has not taken lightly, but the Wales coach affirmed Biggar has no doubts over his fitness.

"We went through, made sure in terms of consulting the right people and making sure that they were aware of everything, getting him scanned, the independent consultant - that was important," said Gatland in a news conference.

"Dan's been fit for three or four days in terms of having passed those [concussion protocols], so we are taking all the proper precautions.

"But he's very confident that he's 100 per cent."

Gatland did, however, concede extra caution will have to be taken with Biggar should he sustain another head injury.

"He's desperate to play," Gatland added.

"We've just got to make sure if it does happen, if he gets a knock in the next few games, the next couple of months, obviously there would probably be a different course of action."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones has also been selected and will join Brian O'Driscoll in third on the all-time list for international Test appearances with his 141st cap.

"It's one chance to stay or you know where you are going," he said of Wales' ambitions for Sunday's clash.

"It's funny because the planning for this has probably been in Warren's head for the last 10 years rather than the last four years, two years, or 18 months.

"He is constantly building and what we have achieved or have not comes down to this moment."

Sevu Reece and George Bridge add a "fearless" edge to New Zealand's squad for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final tie with Ireland, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Reece and Bridge have both impressed so far for the two-time defending champions in Japan and have made the cut for Steve Hansen's XV against Ireland on Saturday as two of the world's best teams face off.

The duo's inclusion sees Rieko Ioane and the experienced Ben Smith miss out on Hansen's 23-man squad, but Foster believes the World Cup debutants can be key.

"There is a little bit of fearlessness about them," Foster told a news conference.

"Some of it is probably because they haven't been at a World Cup before, they probably don't what is at stake, in some sense.

"But they are really sensible young men. They train hard, they play hard. When you haven't got Ben and Rieko in the group, that is a tough decision, because they are two pretty special people in our group.

"We just felt that George and Sevu have done enough. There is a bit of spark there and we will run with that."

Ireland lost to hosts Japan in their second outing but comfortable victories over Scotland, Russia and Samoa saw them progress, as they recovered some form following doubts coming into the tournament.

Foster sees confidence and momentum as the deciding factors in this last-eight tie.

"I am pretty sure they will have some tricks up their sleeve, and we like to think we have got a couple up our sleeve," he added.

"That is the nature of preparing for a big Test match. But to be honest, games like this are often not about a special trick or surprise. It is about your confidence, how you deal with the pressure and how you keep executing your own game.

"It is one thing to know each other's game, it's another to execute it properly and to stop the other person doing it. That is what play-offs are about, it is about having that composure to trust yourself and really back yourself to keep doing what you do well."

Jamie Joseph has made just one change heading into Japan's first appearance in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final, as Ryohei Yamanaka returns to the fold.

Full-back Yamanaka switched with William Tupou throughout the pool stage, with the latter starting against Scotland as the hosts secured their place in a World Cup knockout stage for the first time.

However, Tupou suffered a head injury 51 minutes into the triumph over Gregor Townsend's side and does not feature in the 23 for Sunday's showdown with in-form South Africa.

Yamanaka replaced Tupou against Scotland and the 31-year-old will start in Tokyo, with the only other changes coming among the replacements.

Amanaki Lelei Mafi had not featured since going off against Ireland, but Joseph is able to welcome the number eight back into the squad.

Wimpie van der Walt and Lomano Lemeki have been recalled to the bench, with Uwe Helu and Hendrik Tui missing out.

Jiwon Koo had been a doubt after sustaining a rib injury against Scotland but has been passed fit to start.

Kotaro Matsushima is tied with Wales' Josh Adams at the top of the try scoring charts with five, and starts again at right wing, while the tournament's leading points scorer Yu Tamura - he has 48 - is at fly half.


Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie, Jiwon Koo, Luke Thompson, James Moore, Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno.

Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Wimpie van der Walt, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Lomano Lava Lemeki.

England will consider anything less than winning the Rugby World Cup as a failure, according to former world champion Jason Robinson.

Eddie Jones' side meet Australia in a quarter-final showdown in Oita on Saturday, having finished top of Pool C.

The Wallabies' 33-13 win at Twickenham four years ago dumped England out of their home World Cup in the pool stage, but Jones, who took over from Stuart Lancaster following that tournament, has overseen six straight wins over Australia since.

England looked in impressive form throughout their Pool C campaign, cruising to victories over Tonga, the United States and Argentina before their final match against France was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Beating Australia would see England face Ireland or holders New Zealand for a place in the final, and Robinson – a World Cup winner in 2003 – does not believe Jones' team can be content with anything short of becoming champions.

"Jones has done a great job - he's transformed them in a lot of ways," said Robinson, speaking to Omnisport on behalf of Land Rover, Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.

"England will want to win the World Cup, it's as simple as this.

"Getting beat in a semi or the quarters, it will all be seen as a failure if we don't win the World Cup. England are such in world rugby that second place isn't an achievement.

"Sometimes, in sports like football, you can celebrate getting into a semi-final, but it's England - we're the biggest rugby nation in the world.

"The guys have not turned up to get beaten in a semi or even the final. Success is winning the thing.

"There's no givens. [Jones] has taken the team forward in many different ways over the last four years and should be commended.

"But World Cups are all about winning, you can talk about finals as much as you want but you're either a winner or a loser. The only medals I get out are not the runner up ones."

However, Robinson conceded claiming a second World Cup title would be no mean feat against some of the sport's greatest sides. 

"If you're going to win this tournament, play Australia in the quarters, maybe New Zealand in the semis and potentially Wales or South Africa in a final," he added.

"There's no easy way to the final, you still have to beat the big teams. If England are to win, they'll have certainly earned it."

 

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James Horwill is backing Australia to end their barren run against England and go on to win the Rugby World Cup.

The Wallabies have lost six consecutive games against England since knocking them out of the previous World Cup at Twickenham four years ago.

Eddie Jones' side are firm favourites to continue that sequence at Oita Stadium on Saturday and set up a semi-final against two-time defending champions New Zealand or Ireland. 

Yet former Australia captain Horwill thinks Michael Cheika's men can defy the odds and lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.

Asked if the Wallabies can go all the way, he told Omnisport: "I don't see why not. They would get New Zealand next assuming they get past Ireland, which most people would expect them to do.

"It would obviously be challenging, but if we were able to perform as we did against New Zealand in Perth [where Australia were 47-26 winners in August] with a very dominant performance, there is no reason why we can't.

"It's just the consistency we need, which has been lacking over the last couple of years."

Horwill stressed the importance of Australia starting the game against England as they finished it in a 29-25 Pool D defeat to Wales last month, when they mounted a spirited fightback but gave themselves too much to do.

"You can see the way we play we are holding the ball and not kicking a lot. I don't see them changing the way they play." the 34-year-old ex-lock said.

"In the Wales game, we turned the ball over too much to start with. When you hold on to the ball, as we saw in that game, you can build pressure with gaining territory.

"That is a big part of the way the Australians have been playing, keep the ball and carry hard. If we can do that, we have some very damaging runners and a potent attack.

"The key is not allowing [England] to get into the position Wales were in to start with. Build the scoreboard, manage the game really well and hopefully not chase the game."

Scottish Rugby has questioned whether misconduct charges brought by World Rugby are "appropriate".

It was confirmed on Tuesday that comments made by chief executive Mark Dodson are to be probed by rugby union's chief governing body.

Dodson had threatened to take legal action if Scotland's crucial Pool A encounter with Japan was cancelled, with the match under threat as a result of Typhoon Hagibis.

The contest went ahead with Scotland losing 28-21 to exit the competition but the row continues to rumble on.

A Scottish Rugby statement issued on Wednesday read: "Scottish Rugby once again expresses its sincere condolences to the people of Japan and all those affected by Typhoon Hagibis which struck last weekend.

"We have been able to convey our best wishes directly to the mayor of Yokohama and the chairman of the Japanese Rugby Union. We stand with the great people of Japan.

"Following receipt of correspondence yesterday from World Rugby, Scottish Rugby confirms that it has received a notice of complaint from Rugby World Cup Ltd. Scottish Rugby is querying whether the matter is an appropriate one for the bringing of misconduct charges.

"If misconduct proceedings are to proceed, Scottish Rugby looks forward to receiving a fair hearing in this matter. No further comment would be appropriate at this time." 

James Horwill thinks the cancellation of England's Rugby World Cup clash with France could work in Australia's favour when the teams meet in a blockbuster quarter-final on Saturday.

England were due to face Les Bleus in their final Pool C match in Yokohama last weekend, but Typhoon Hagibis prevented the fixture from going ahead.

It led to England coach Eddie Jones saying the typhoon gods must be smiling on his team after they were given a weekend off and finished top to set up a showdown with the Wallabies.

Yet former Australia captain Horwill believes England will be wishing they had locked horns for a pool decider with their Six Nations rivals, having won their other three games at a canter.

Horwill told Omnisport: "England are a good side, well drilled and very disciplined with what they do. When they get on the front foot, they are very hard to stop.

"I think they would have liked to have had that game against France because it would have been a strong test and a really challenge.

"They have come through the pool stage being able to deal with the opposition quite comfortably, which is obviously a good thing for them, but they haven't had a big test.

"It depends on how you look at it. From the point of view of someone like Billy Vunipola, with a sore ankle, he's had extra time to rest up and get fit in a week off.

"They would have wanted to play again, but they should feel good going into the game. But if the heat comes sometimes you need to think, 'We've been here before last week and we know how to get through it'.

"Obviously that is not something England have had to deal with."

Ian Foster played down the relevance of New Zealand's defeat to Ireland last year ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final, vowing: "We don’t get too stuck in the past."

Ireland claimed their first victory over the All Blacks in Chicago three years ago and then defeated the world champions 16-9 in Dublin last November.

The two sides will do battle again in a mouth-watering last-eight contest at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

Attack coach Foster says New Zealand are looking forward to the challenge rather than thinking about where they fell short against Joe Schmidt's side 11 months ago.

Asked about that contest at the Aviva Stadium, Foster quipped: "I can’t remember it."

He added: "No, that's not true. We just got beat by a good Irish team. That was a different time, different place, is it relevant? Perhaps, they would have learned some stuff, we learned some stuff.

"We actually don't get too stuck in the past, it's more about the challenge that’s in front of us.

"This is a World Cup knockout game and it’s actually about what happens this week, not what happened in the last two years. We know everyone comes for us every time we play."

Prop Joe Moody says New Zealand owe Ireland but need no extra motivation to reach the semi-finals as they eye an unprecedented third successive World Cup triumph.

"I suppose a little bit in the back of your mind, it just reminds you, I guess, that we sort of owe them one." Moody said.

"At the same time, it's not something we dwell on, or focus on. It's just that they have got a couple on us in recent history. 

"It wouldn't matter who you are playing this week, it is just that we have to win."

World Rugby has issued misconduct charges against the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) following remarks made by chief executive Mark Dodson ahead of the crunch Rugby World Cup clash with Japan.

Dodson revealed the SRU had sought legal advice and were considering taking action if the decisive contest in Yokohama on Sunday was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis, as Scotland needed a win to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

World Rugby rules state that a match cannot be postponed until the following day, but Dodson argued that the "common-sense approach" would be to play the game 24 hours later if it had been cancelled.

Japan knocked Scotland out by winning a thriller 28-21 to finish top of Pool A and reach the last eight for the first time after the game went ahead as scheduled.

Scottish Rugby could face further punishment off the field as a result of Dodson's comments. 

A World Rugby statement said: "Rugby World Cup can confirm that it has issued misconduct charges against the Scottish Rugby Union in relation to recent comments made about Typhoon Hagibis and its potential impact on the Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool A match between Japan versus Scotland.

"The case will be decided by an Independent Disputes Committee and Rugby World Cup will not make any further comment on this matter pending the outcome."

Tournament director Alan Gilpin said on Tuesday: "The tournament rules are clear about appropriate behaviour.

"As a result, we have asked an independent disputes committee to look at the behaviour and comments of the Scottish union. Because of that, it would be inappropriate to comment any further."

Michael Cheika believes Australia's poor recent record against England is "irrelevant" and says he has no issue with Eddie Jones ahead of a blockbuster Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.

The Wallabies have lost six consecutive matches against England since knocking them out of the last World Cup.

England are favourites to win the last-eight showdown at Oita Stadium this weekend, but Australia head coach Cheika has backed his players to defy the odds.

"Call me a sucker. I believe in my lads," Cheika said on Monday. "I know there's other people who won't give us much of a chance, but I believe that when you believe in yourself you are much closer to being able to create history."

Asked about England's recent dominance of his side, he added: "I think it's irrelevant, really. There are reasons, I'm not trying to avoid it, but why go back and talk about all those games?

"I talked about those games in those press conferences after those games. Looking backwards is only going to give you a sore neck."

Cheika and Jones have never needed much encouragement to exchange jibes, but the Australia boss denied they have a frosty relationship.

"I don't see him very much. Yeah fine, it's all good," said Cheika.

Cheika also refused to shed any light on his plans after the tournament.

He told an English journalist: "I know you don't know me very well but I'm only thinking about today. I'm genuine.

"Actually, you'd get on pretty well with my missus, she's always asking what's going on tomorrow or next week or the week after. I never tell her because I want to enjoy today."

When the final whistle was blown on an emotional night in Yokohama, it was evident from the joy on the players' faces that magnificent Japan's history-making triumph over Scotland was about more than rugby.

Typhoon Hagibis left a trail of death and mass destruction with ferocious winds and record-breaking rainfall after hitting landfall south of Tokyo on Saturday.

There was uncertainty over whether the decisive Pool A showdown between the host nation and Scotland would go ahead on Sunday, but the green light was given following a safety inspection on the morning of the game at Yokohama International Stadium.

What followed was 80 minutes of thrilling action as Japan reached the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

Scottish Rugby had talked of taking legal action if the blockbuster contest was cancelled, given they needed a victory to have any chance of being consigned to an early exit.

Instead they may be launching an internal inquest after Gregor Townsend's side went down 28-21 in a pulsating battle.

The stadium was not damaged by the biggest typhoon to hit the Asian nation for decades and a raucous sold-out crowd cheered their team to glorious new ground.

Jamie Joseph's side played with incredible intensity from start to finish, defended stoically and showed their class with ball in hand to set up a meeting with South Africa in Tokyo next Sunday.

The Brave Blossoms waded through knee-high waters to train on the eve of a match that they were not sure would go ahead and although Scotland fought back in the second half, they could not prevent the hosts from advancing.

Japan were relentless after Finn Russell's early try, Kotaro Matsushima whipping their exuberant supporters into frenzy with his fifth try of the tournament.

Keita Inagaki raised the decibels even higher by putting them in front and Scotland looked to be out on their feet after the lethal Kenki Fukuoka - scorer of the only try against Ireland - touched down either side of half-time.

Scotland were struggling to cope with their opponents' expansive style of play; the power, speed and skill of Japan leaving their hopes of qualifying hanging by a thread.

Yet two tries in the space of five minutes from WP Nel and Zander Ferguson threatened to spoil the party, Russell pulling the strings as the tension mounted.

The hosts laid it all on the line as Scotland threw everything at them in an attempt to tear up the script and break Japan hearts.

Joseph's men were not to be denied, though, holding on to make it four wins out of four and secure top spot on a weekend that will be remembered for such contrasting reasons.

Josh Adams scored his fifth try of the Rugby World Cup as Wales beat Uruguay 35-13 at Kumamoto Stadium to set up a quarter-final against France.

Warren Gatland's side made hard work of sealing top spot in Pool D, but scored five tries to ensure they will face Les Bleus at Oita Stadium next Sunday, while Australia will meet England at the same venue 24 hours earlier.

Nicky Smith scored the only five-pointer of the first half and Adams become the outright leading try-scorer in the tournament after the break, with Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies also crossing after Wales were awarded a penalty try. 

Uruguay were magnificent in defence as they bowed out with a spirited performance, German Kessler scoring their only try and Felipe Berchesi notching eight points with the boot.

Hallam Amos had three tries ruled out, but Wales made it four wins out of four to finish three points clear of the Wallabies despite being a long way from their best, Halfpenny converting four times in a man-of-the-match display.

Wales were disjointed in the opening stages but were eventually rewarded for applying huge pressure when prop Smith breached a resolute Uruguay defence, powering over from close range after 16 minutes.

Berchesi reduced the deficit to four points with a fine strike from the tee after Halfpenny converted Smith's score, and Amos was denied Wales' second try due to a forward pass from Hadleigh Parkes.

Handling errors prevented the Six Nations champions from getting into a rhythm and a second Berchesi penalty made it 7-6 at the break.

The clinical in-form Adams gave Wales breathing space when he took an inviting pass from Rhys Patchell to finish in the corner, Halfpenny expertly nailing a difficult conversion.

Amos had another score disallowed, again for a forward pass from Parkes, but referee Angus Gardner awarded Wales a penalty try when Uruguay were unable to legally stop a driving maul after Santiago Civetta was sin-binned.

Kessler had a moment to remember when he dived over with a pick-and-go before Williams picked up a loose ball to grab the bonus-point try, with Halfpenny converting superbly.

Amos was frustrated again when he lost control as he went to touch down, but Davies raced away long after the clock had turned red to go under the posts and Halfpenny converted, leaving the scoreline looking harsh on Uruguay.

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