Rugby World Cup 2019: Watson knee injury adds to Scotland woes

By Sports Desk September 22, 2019

Hamish Watson's involvement at the Rugby World Cup might already be over after he suffered a knee injury in Scotland's 27-3 loss to Ireland.

The flanker was left in pain following a collision with Cian Healy in the first half in Yokohama and faces a nervous wait to discover the results of a scan.

Magnus Bradbury is set to be called into the squad if Edinburgh team-mate Watson is ruled out of the tournament, having travelled to Japan as cover for Jamie Ritchie.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend admitted the signs are not encouraging for the 27-year-old, who had made an impressive 14 tackles before going down.

"Hamish is our only injury concern," Townsend said at his post-match news conference.

"He had a knee injury that we will hopefully be getting more information on tonight with a scan.

"It doesn't look good when a player is stretchered off the field, so hopefully we'll know more later tonight.

"It would be bad luck for any player if he misses the World Cup. We had Sam Skinner miss out on selection ahead of the World Cup. But we have always presumed that there will be people who will miss the World Cup after each game that we play.

"Let's hope that's not the case with Hamish."

Townsend confirmed fellow flanker Ritchie, 23, would be fit for the country's second Pool A game against Samoa.

Scotland will need all the good news they can get after giving up four tries - including two in the opening 15 minutes - against a far superior Ireland.

Townsend said: "It's disappointing. We didn't start with the energy, accuracy and aggression that is required to beat a team like Ireland. They took their chances well when they got into our 22.

"If you give any team in world rugby a 15 to 20-point start it is going to be very difficult to come back.

"We must play much better in our next three games if we are going to get out of our pool and progress into the quarter-finals and I believe we will be."

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    Michael Leitch declared "the end is not here" as Japan plot another sensational defeat of South Africa in their first Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday.

    The hosts reached the last eight for the first time with a 28-21 victory over Scotland in a decisive match in Yokohama last weekend.

    Japan avoided New Zealand by topping Pool A but face a huge test against the Springboks at Tokyo Stadium.

    The Brave Blossoms pulled off one of the great sporting upsets by beating the two-time champions in Brighton at the last World Cup four years ago and captain Leitch says history can repeat itself.

    "We're not satisfied; the end is not here," the number eight said.

    "We'll play in the last eight and have another chance to show our game to our people. Each of us are playing to have more of that opportunity.

    "South Africa looked really scary at the start of the week, but we begin to feel really excited as we understand the game and think about how to break them down. That fear gradually fades and confidence rises."

    Japan were thrashed 41-7 by the Rugby Championship holders in a pre-tournament Test last month and Springboks captain Siya Kolisi says that served as a small measure of revenge. 

    "That was very tough to lose that match in England. That stuck with us until that game when we got here [before this World Cup]," the flanker said. "It's something that we never want to go through again."

    He added: "They are a much better team now, and it was good to play that game before the World Cup, just to get that monkey off our back.

    "Now it's a different game again. We are going to have to be at our best again, because they have really improved as a team - they are much better now than four years ago. So we are looking forward to the challenge."

     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Japan – Michael Leitch

    The inspirational Leitch and his opposite number Kolisi are set for another monumental battle, while also keeping calm heads and ensuring their sides stay disciplined with so much at stake. 

    Leitch will need to lead by example again after an inspired display against Scotland.

    South Africa - Cheslin Kolbe

    Kolbe missed the Springboks' final pool match against Canada as a precautionary measure after taking a blow to his ankle in the victory over Italy.

    The livewire wing claimed a clinical double in the 49-3 drubbing of the Azzurri and also touched down twice in the warm-up rout of Japan, so the hosts must be wary of the threat he poses.

     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Japan's victory over South Africa in England was their first against a tier one nation in the tournament at their 16th attempt.
    - South Africa scored more tries (27) and points (185) than any other side in the pool stage. Japan scored have scored only 13 tries en route to the last eight. 
    - Japan made 559 metres against Scotland, the third time in the tournament they had made 500 plus metres in a match.
    - Springboks wing Kolbe averaged 12.8 metres per carry in the pool stage, the best rate of any player to make at least 10 carries.
    - South Africa won all of their 47 line-outs on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to have a 100 per cent success rate.

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    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.

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    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."

     

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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