Dupichot and Zebo grab hat-tricks as Racing 92 rout Perpignan

By Sports Desk May 18, 2019

Racing 92 boosted their hopes of qualifying for the European Champions Cup by thrashing bottom side Perpignan 52-14, while Lyon's win over La Rochelle confirmed they will have a home quarter-final in the Top 14 play-offs.

Perpignan were already relegated and they were heavily beaten in their final home fixture as Racing ran in eight tries to move up to fourth in the table on Saturday.

Six of those scores were shared equally between two men – Louis Dupichot and Simon Zebo each grabbing hat-tricks – while Dominic Bird and Finn Russell also touched down.

Jonathan Wisniewski's 19 points with the boot helped Lyon to a 29-19 victory that saw La Rochelle slip out of the top four.

Charlie Ngatai's try saw Lyon move ahead in the 51st minute, with Wisniewski slotting over two conversions, four penalties and a drop goal in a fine individual performance.

Castres also moved above La Rochelle into fifth as Wilfrid Hounkpatin and Loic Jacquet crossed either side of half-time in a 17-10 success over Agen.

Pau ensured their safety with a 22-0 triumph over Grenoble, who will contest a relegation play-off.

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  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Skipper McInally can be catalyst for Scotland - Hastings Rugby World Cup 2019: Skipper McInally can be catalyst for Scotland - Hastings

    Captain Stuart McInally can be a catalyst for Scotland at the Rugby World Cup, according to former captain Gavin Hastings.

    Scotland begin their campaign on Sunday against Ireland in a match between the two teams expected to progress from Group A.

    McInally was named captain by Gregor Townsend as he attempts to guide Scotland to a last-eight tie in which they will likely face either defending world champions New Zealand or South Africa.

    Scotland were narrowly beaten by Australia in the quarter-finals four years ago and Hastings, who led Scotland to the same stage in 1995, highlighted the current skipper as being crucial to their prospects in Japan.

    "He is a good choice as captain, he's an outstanding hooker and he brings so many different qualities to that Scotland team," Hastings told Omnisport of McInally. 

    "He has an explosive element to his game, he is a leader with ball in hand, if he can pop up in other areas of the pitch, he ultimately is a catalyst for a lot of good Scotland can do. He actually delivers slightly more around the field of play because he's a former flanker.

    "He's in amongst it, against the Tadhg Furlongs, the Cian Healys, the Rory Bests. The fact is he needs to lead from the front."

    Hastings believes victory over Ireland is especially important for Scotland, as it could help them avoid a winner-take-all clash with hosts Japan in the final group game.

    "From a Scotland perspective they have got to target everything on that Ireland game, otherwise they put themselves under huge pressure," Hastings added.

    "If they lose, they have then got to go out and beat Russia, Samoa and Japan to qualify for the quarter-finals.

    "You beat Ireland and you put yourself in a very strong position to qualify. We all know how tricky Japan can be, if Japan were going for a quarter-final place with that last game of the pool stages against Scotland then that is going to be a hugely tricky assignment. 

    "Ultimately, everything hinges on that opening game in terms of Scotland's success in this tournament. They must deliver against Ireland and if not they've got to be clinical against Russia, Samoa and Japan.

    "Ireland will be very aware of the fact they need to improve upon their recent performances, but then again so do Scotland. Unless Scotland deliver 100 per cent performance, then they're not going to win that game.

    "If it doesn't click for Scotland, life will be tough. What faces both Ireland and Scotland if they get out of the group is either the winner or loser of Group B, which happens to be South Africa or New Zealand. Once you get in knockout rugby anything can happen.

    "Scotland know the last time they were in a quarter-final they were very, very unlucky not to beat Australia and if they get that chance and they put themselves in that position for a quarter-final, it doesn't matter if it's New Zealand or South Africa, they will give it their best shot."

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Springboks unchanged for All Blacks as Erasmus turns up heat on ref Rugby World Cup 2019: Springboks unchanged for All Blacks as Erasmus turns up heat on ref

    South Africa have named an unchanged side for their mouthwatering Rugby World Cup opener against New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday.

    Coach Rassie Erasmus will stick with the same XV and eight replacements that saw off hosts Japan 41-7 in a warm-up game two weeks ago.

    It represents the first time the Springboks have stuck with the same side since the 2015 World Cup semi-final, which New Zealand edged 20-18 at Twickenham, while number eight Duane Vermeulen will win his 50th Test cap.

    The only alteration from the team that played out a 16-16 Rugby Championship draw against the All Blacks in Wellington in July is fit-again captain Siya Kolisi starting at openside flanker in place of Kwagga Smith.

    "We have 31 players in the squad, any of whom I would be happy to select, but this is a line-up that has worked well as a starting combination with real momentum to come from the bench," Erasmus told a news conference.

    "They have emerged together over the past 18 months as our game has developed and matured. We've prepared well and we're looking forward to what will be another extremely close match.

    "I think the thing that makes it special, if you ask anybody right now who is going to win this Test match, you know, I don't think anybody can bet on any of the two teams.

    "I guess if you ask our boys we think we've got a really good chance, I think if you ask Steve [Hansen, New Zealand coach] and their team, they'll think they think they have a really good chance. Hopefully the referee is not too sure."

    Indeed, referee Jerome Garces found himself to be the focus of what appeared to be some pre-match mind games on Erasmus' part.

    "Even referees buy into that respect [for the All Blacks]," he said. "And because you are playing so well, referees almost find it tough to penalise you in 50-50 decisions."

    "I think it was a well-known fact that it was really tough at times when teams were under the pump, some of the 50-50 decisions went their way because they deserved that, being number one for so long."

    After taking on the world champions, South Africa will also face Italy, Namibia and Canada in Pool B.

    South Africa team to play New Zealand: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen

    Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: I've had better birthdays, says Gatland after Howley's Wales exit Rugby World Cup 2019: I've had better birthdays, says Gatland after Howley's Wales exit

    Wales' Rugby World Cup squad have pulled together after the shock of backs coach Rob Howley being sent home from Japan over an alleged breach of betting regulations.

    On Tuesday, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) confirmed Howley had returned to Wales six days before the team's opening World Cup match against Georgia in order to "assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union".

    Head coach Warren Gatland was forced to absorb a potentially damaging blow to his squad on his 56th birthday – something he made light of a Wednesday news conference where he praised the players' togetherness and discussed former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones coming in as Howley's replacement.

    "I've had better birthdays, for sure," Gatland told a news conference at Wales' Kitakyushu base.

    "We were shocked with it but, as I said, the union are dealing with this and my focus now has to be on the next five days, in terms of preparing the squad for their first game against Georgia.

    "I spoke to Stephen Jones the other night about his availability to come in. He was willing to help and do that. The exciting thing about that is he's been in this environment in the past.

    "He'll bring his own personality to the squad and have the opportunity to give his own ideas and input.

    "For us [we have to] make it as seamless as we possibly can. You have to deal with adversity at times. I must say that the players in the past 24 hours have really stepped up.

    "They've been incredibly responsible and resilient and sometimes that brings teams closer together. We've got to draw a line in the sand and really focus on preparing the team for the next five days.

    "We got a shock the other day and it took a bit of time for this to sink in."

    Dan Biggar could feel the effects of Howley's departure more than most, as he heads into the tournament as Wales' first choice at number 10.

    "They [the players] were disappointed," Biggar said. "Especially for people like myself and Jon [centre Jonathan Davies], who have only ever had Rob as coach in the set-up and he has given us every single cap we've had.

    "It's a huge disappointment, really, and shock, I suppose, but we are also adults and realise if things like this happen then we have just got to get on with it.

    "That's what has been great about this squad over the last year or two. Whatever has come our way – we had a couple of distractions in the last Six Nations and we went on to win our final two games and the Grand Slam – we are strong."

    Davies has plenty of experience working alongside Jones for Scarlets and believes he will have a positive impact upon the group.

    "As well what he carried over to the coaching side, [what stood out] with Steve was the energy he always had as a player," Davies said. "On the training field he always had that bounce about him.

    "He always demands high standards and tactically he wants the boys to play what's in front of them and make sure we make the right decisions.

    "There will be a lot of excitement and Steve will give it his best shot, I can guarantee that."

    After facing Georgia on September 23, Wales take on Australia, Fiji and Uruguay in Pool D.

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