Japan's players will be inspired by the memory of Seiji Hirao when they face South Africa in an eagerly awaited Rugby World Cup quarter-final at the weekend.

Former Japan captain and head coach Hirao – nicknamed "Mr Rugby" in his homeland – died three years ago this Sunday aged 53 after a battle with cancer.

Full-back Ryohei Yamanaka played under Hirao, who represented the Brave Blossoms at the 1987, 1991 and 1995 World Cup, at Kobe Steelers.

"[The quarter-final] is the date he passed away, so there'll be a game on an important day for me as well," he said.

Japan's scrum coach Shin Hasegawa was handed his international breakthough by Hirao during his playing days.

"I'm a bit emotional talking about Hirao," he added. "He was the one who picked me for the national team, he was the one who played me. We have a game on a special day. I hope we can pay him back.

"The best memory is receiving a letter in my room a day before our opening match in the 2003 World Cup. It wasn't that long but had things that encouraged me and made me feel, 'I need to fight for this man'. 

"I remember heading into the game with a good motivation. I asked him one time why I was chosen and he said, 'For the scrum, of course', so I really focused on it. He really kept his eyes on me and was a great coach."

Japan stunned the Springboks with a 34-32 victory at the 2015 World Cup and hooker Atsushi Sakate explained they are leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of a repeat – combining brain and brawn.

"Our psychologist, Dave [David Galbraith] makes quizzes and writes them on the whiteboard," he explained.

"It is part of the training focusing on how to use your brain under pressure and in tough situations.

"It was started at our training camp in Abashiri. You have to make decisions during the toughest time during the match. You use your brain.

"That is why it was put up when we had tough weightlifting training."

Jonny May reflected on how a decision to snub a team night out in favour of dinner with his parents paid huge dividends as he prepares to celebrate winning a 50th England cap.

The Leicester Tigers flyer made his international debut over six years ago during a tour of Argentina, when the majority of the team was on British and Irish Lions duty.

May was overlooked for the first Test in favour of David Strettle and Christian Wade and had initially missed out on selection for the second game before the latter was drafted to Australia with the Lions.

It is here where fate was on the side of May, who had shunned a drinking session with the players not in the matchday squad the night before the game in favour of a more serene evening.

"Funnily enough Christian Wade got called up for the Lions on the morning of the game," said May. 

"And basically because my mum and dad were out and I went out for dinner with them and all the other non-23 players went out on the p***, so I got the 'go on you can play' pretty much! It's funny how it works out.

"I didn't feel ashamed but I didn't feel great because my parents were out there and it looked like I wasn't going to get a game. 

"What was probably quite a challenging couple of weeks finished on a really good note as my parents got to watch me play and I got my first cap. It all worked out in the end."

It took May until his eighth cap to score a first England try but his strike rate is now an impressive 25 in 49 Tests.

The 29-year-old has established himself as one of the best wingers in world rugby and could make his landmark England appearance in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia in Oita on Saturday.

Any personal achievements are on the back burner for May, though, whose sole focus is on helping the team defeat the Wallabies.

"If you take a step back, you'd say it's an awesome achievement, something I'm very proud of and hopefully I've made my family proud," he added. 

"But it's no time to take a step back. It's a huge team game at the weekend.

"It really has been a challenge. You have to fight to be a part of the squad, let alone to start. My mindset has changed so much on that, especially with Eddie [Jones] coming in. 

"It's a squad performance. We're competing to be the best we can be, we're not competing with each other.

"I have changed a lot, not just as a rugby player but as a person. I have matured. I have become more focused, maybe a little bit more introverted as the years have gone on.

"I'm not necessarily at a stage now where I'm working harder but I'm working smarter, just to keep developing and improving."

Warren Gatland is an "incredible person" and Wales will do all they can to ensure the Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France is not his last match in charge, says assistant and skills specialist Neil Jenkins.

The popular New Zealander is to leave his role as head coach after the tournament in Japan following a hugely successful 12-year stint.

Gatland will hope to stay in Japan for a while longer yet, with Wales looking to better the semi-final and quarter-final appearances they achieved in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

Jenkins has paid tribute to Gatland's qualities not only as a coach but away from the training field as well.

"His record speaks for itself as in the results, the success, the togetherness of the team and the squad and the staff," Jenkins said.

"Gats is not just an incredible rugby coach, he is an incredible person as well. He brings so much to this environment, it's unbelievable, really.

"It would be incredibly sad to see him go, obviously. It would be nice if we could give ourselves another fortnight in Japan for him and for everyone involved.

"Gats is the same, no matter who we are playing, week to week. It is probably us he has to calm down and the rest of the coaches.

"He is an incredibly smart rugby man and knows the game inside out, and we will be prepared for Sunday.

"He's been here for 12 years, and whatever he does, everyone looks up to him and understands why he does it.

"He's a very smart operator, he does things for a reason and there is always a plan behind things."

Jenkins also spoke of the difficulty the coaching team have had in curbing the enthusiasm of fly-half Dan Biggar, who sustained separate injuries in pool-stage matches against Australia and Fiji.

Biggar is expected to face Les Bleus in Oita on Sunday and Jenkins says the number 10 is chomping at the bit for the last-eight clash.

"Curbing him is very difficult," Jenkins added. "He's a competitor, full-stop. He's a winner. He's a very physical rugby player, he gets stuck in.

"He's done everything that's been asked of him constantly and consistently and he's ready to go. He's desperate to play. He's world-class and he'll be ready to go again, there's no doubting that."

Willie le Roux is confident South Africa have enough speed of their own to cope with Japan's "Ferraris".

That was the nickname given to Japan fliers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima by head coach Jamie Joseph, whose side have been the surprise package on home soil at the Rugby World Cup.

Japan's attacking brand of rugby yielded shock wins over Ireland and Scotland, the latter seeing the Brave Blossoms top Pool A to set up a quarter-final with the Springboks, who they upset in the group stages four years ago.

South Africa are no slouches themselves, though, with Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi providing pace and threat out wide.

Le Roux, who brought laughter among the press pack by describing himself as a "bakkie" – a type of pickup truck – is eager to face the challenge.

"We've definitely got a few Ferraris out there as well," Le Roux said. "I don't think I'm one of them – I'm more of a bakkie person – a Toyota bakkie.

"The guys who will play this weekend are fast, and if I get an opportunity to play as well, I will do my best to put them away and put them in space."

The 30-year-old full-back is expecting a daunting challenge against Japan's varied attack.

"For the back three, it is going to be very hard work," he added. 

"They put all those kicks in and have specific guys chasing. They are very fast out wide, chasing those balls.

"The guys playing in the back three will have to be awake and be alive to those kicks."

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." 

Joe Marler said England have no fears as they prepare for Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Marler came out of test retirement at the end of the last season to join up with Eddie Jones' England squad, who are well rested for the clash in Oita having had their final pool game against France abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The 29-year-old Marler was part of the England team that did not reach the last eight in 2015, but believes the 2019 squad are better equipped to embrace the challenges of knockout rugby.  

"I don't think it's pressure. The group has now got a mind-set of 'bring it on – bring on the challenges'," he told reporters.

"We embrace it and look forward to it as opposed to shying away from it.

"I have been involved in teams who have let nerves overcome them, caved in and allowed them to become negative. I don't feel that in this group. The boys embrace the nervousness and use it as a positive energy to drive us on."

Marler had retired from internationals in 2018 due to family reasons but could not resist the opportunity to win a World Cup with England, having been called into the squad for the showpiece tournament in Japan.

"That was part of the reason I came out of retirement. I could see the potential in this group and I wanted a taste of that. That's ultimately what's driving me on for the next couple of weeks," he added.

"It hasn't been easy. I've had to work my buns off to try and get back to an emotional and mental state capable of contributing to the squad the best I can.

"And the physical state too. That has been even harder. You come out of it for a year and you forget how fast they do everything."

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."

Tonga hooker Paula Ngauamo has been given a seven-week ban for kicking an opponent in the face during his country's Rugby World Cup victory over the United States.

The incident was not spotted during Tonga's 31-19 victory on Sunday, but Ngauamo was cited after the game for an act of foul play.

Ngauamo, who argued he had "acted recklessly, not deliberately", did not attend the hearing and was given a hefty ban by the judicial panel having already been suspended twice in the past four years.

With Tonga already eliminated from the World Cup, Ngauamo will miss seven weeks of the new Top 14 season for his club Agen.

Clermont Auvergne returned to winning ways in the Top 14 as Jake McIntyre's fine kicking propelled them to a 32-18 victory at struggling Stade Francais.

The home side took the lead four minutes in, though McIntyre - who tallied 22 points - immediately pulled Clermont level with a penalty, before two more three-pointers in quick succession nosed the visitors further ahead.

Joris Segonds responded with a penalty of his own, though Adrien Lapegue's yellow card swiftly took the wind out of Stade Francais' sails.

European Challenge Cup winners Clermont were reduced to 14 when Sitaleki Timani was sent to the sin bin on the stroke of half-time - Stade Francais taking advantage as Kylan Hamdaoui claimed the game's first try.

But Clermont took control after the restart, Samuel Ezeala and Fritz Lee going over in quick succession, with more accurate kicking from McIntyre ensuring Jonathan Danty's try was no more than a consolation as last season's runners up earned a first win in three matches.

Earlier, Bordeaux-Begles maintained their unbeaten start to the campaign draw with a 17-17 draw at Montpellier.

Martin Devergie's 69th-minute try and a penalty from Anthony Bouthier looked set to claim the points for Montpellier, but second-placed Bordeaux battled back.

Ben Botica's penalty four minutes from time secured a share of the spoils, with Bordeaux heading to league leaders Lyon, who they are two points shy of, next time out.

Warren Gatland realises the importance of Wales following up an impressive victory against Australia by performing well in their remaining Pool D matches.

Wales took control of their Rugby World Cup group by clinging on against the Wallabies and earning a hard-fought 29-25 win.

Gatland's side are expected to challenge for a first title at this tournament, yet the coach is first focused on ensuring they do not "take anyone lightly" prior to the knockout stages.

Wales face Fiji and then Uruguay in a pair of fixtures they will be expected to win.

"It was a tough game [against Australia] and a victory. It's confidence boosting hopefully for the next couple of games," he told a news conference. "We think they're going to be tough.

"Fiji will be hurting and we saw how well they played against Australia in the first half of that first game. We can't take anyone lightly in this group.

"It's important for us that we make sure we prepare in the best way that we possibly can and that we don't take any team or any performance for granted.

"We have to be as clinical as we possibly can be because that's what good teams do. They make sure that they are clinical and they are accurate.

"If we are to be considered a good team, we have got to play well in these next two matches."

Wales were waiting to see how Dan Biggar recovered after a failed head injury assessment, but Gatland was optimistic Liam Williams would be fit after rolling his ankle.

"We'll need to make sure we recover," Gatland said. "We've got nine or 10 days until our next match.

"We'll use that in the best way we possibly can to freshen up the guys and make sure we take a little time. It's nice getting a decent break before our next match against Fiji."

Meanwhile, opposite number Michael Cheika was not receptive to discussing Wales' chances when he was asked for an assessment at his own spiky news conference.

"I don't think that's really for me to talk about, is it? We've played our game against them and move onto the next game," he said.

"They won, now move onto the next game. It's not my place to talk about who's going to win and who's not."

Georgia coach Milton Haig believes he did not put too much pressure on his side by claiming their Rugby World Cup clash with Uruguay was a must-win.

Uruguay were flying high after stunning Fiji, but Georgia came out on top 33-7 in Pool D, claiming their first win of the tournament.

Haig had stated his belief that Georgia, who were defeated by Wales in their opening match, had to triumph against the South Americans if they stood any chance of progressing from a pool which also includes Australia.

The coach, who will leave his post at the end of Georgia's World Cup campaign, acknowledged his comments may have backfired, but was delighted with the reaction of his players.

"It was just stating facts really, we were at a tipping point," Haig told a news conference.

"Obviously if you lose this match everything we'd worked at for so long would have gone down the tubes. Obviously that put pressure on the players, I'm pretty sure it did but that was the reaction I wanted.

"When you're under pressure you either use it as motivation or use it as a hindrance so I wanted to see how the boys would respond and I think they responded pretty well today.

"We're still a work in progress, no doubt about that but after my eight years, I finish at the end of this World Cup, as long as I know I can walk away knowing I've given my all and made my players better then I'll be happy."

Georgia's players were left frustrated after full-time, however, when a Russian song was played in celebration of their victory, with captain Jabba Bregvadze telling reporters: "I want to take this moment to ask the person who played the Russian music, next time don't make the mistake again, please."

Haig added: "They were playing a song after the match that was a Russian song, sung by a Georgian singer but it is a Russian song.

"Again, we want to make it clear that Russia is not Georgia, Georgia is not Russia. We have a different language, different culture, different everything, so World Rugby, please make sure you get these sort of things ironed out for us."

Michael Cheika claimed decisions at the Rugby World Cup are making him "embarrassed" and question his own knowledge of the laws after feeling Australia were let down by officials again.

The Wallabies had seen Reece Hodge suspended for three matches in the build-up to playing Wales, having been cited for a dangerous tackle against Fiji.

That challenge and the subsequent hearing prompted a public debate in which Hodge took issue with those criticising his supposed lack of knowledge of the "high tackle decision making framework".

Australia were then frustrated to see an apparent high tackle from Rhys Patchell on Samu Kerevi that instead saw the Wallabies man penalised for use of the forearm in the carry.

Cheika outlined his issues with the incident in a post-match news conference.

He also claimed "administrators are spooking referees" due to their awarding of suspensions after the fact, while the coach was bemused to hear England's Piers Francis had evaded a ban at his own hearing.

"It was pretty funny because I thought I'd seen that [Patchell] tackle before," Cheika said. "It could have been Reece Hodge...

"I'm not sure. But when our guy makes that tackle and has the high-tackle framework in his head, he gets suspended. When this guy doesn't think about the high-tackle framework, we get penalised.

"You've seen it. As a former player, I'm embarrassed about that."

He added: "I don't know the rules anymore. Honestly, I don't know the rules anymore.

"They all seem spooked. Everyone seems worried about stuff so much. I'm not sure why they're worried - players aren't worried.

"Then it's affecting everything else on the field as well, decisions on all types of crazy stuff. Then I hear that the English guy got off at the suspension thing. Wow.

"I've not said anything there, have I? It just shows if you're not confused, maybe the floodlights going out at the end was a symbol.

"The administrators are spooking referees. The referees are worried about making the wrong decisions and they're becoming ultra cautious about everything, and it's not inviting to the fans.

"Why should we be having booing out there in a game like that with those types of crowds? There shouldn't be people booing - and they're not booing the players either. That shouldn't be happening."

Asked if rugby was becoming "soft", Cheika replied: "It's a tough one, right? Very tough.

"You've got to take care and look after players but not to an extreme where you're just looking after players for doctors and lawyers. Look after players for players."

Australia captain Michael Hooper conceded the Wallabies left themselves with too much to do against Wales after a poor first half on Sunday.

In what will surely be the key fixture in Pool D at the Rugby World Cup, Wales got the better of a strong-finishing Australia 29-25, having led 23-8 at the break.

Tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Hooper himself set up a tense finish, but the Wallabies could not quite wrestle back control of the match.

Hooper was disappointed but keen to move on quickly, knowing Australia cannot afford to spend too long reflecting on a defeat that likely sends them into the same side of the draw as England and New Zealand.

"It was a close game between two very willing teams and it came down to the wire," he said.

"It was 17-6 [in the second half] - we had the momentum, we just gave away too many in the first half. In particular the back-to-back points really hurt us.

"Congratulations to Wales for holding us out.

"We'll review it now. Recovery is key. We'll review it pretty hard, but in this format of competition, you've got to move on pretty quickly."

Coach Michael Cheika offered a blunt assessment of Australia's defeat, adding: "What went wrong? We just lost by a couple of points - it was a tight contest and that's the way it goes sometimes."

Piers Francis is free to play in England's crunch Rugby World Cup match against Argentina after avoiding a suspension for his high tackle in Thursday's win over the United States.

The centre was cited for a hit on Will Hooley just seven seconds into the Pool C encounter.

Francis admitted committing an act of foul play but denied the incident warranted a red card.

An independent disciplinary committee agreed and decided against imposing a ban despite handing out three-match suspensions to Australia's Reece Hodge and Samoa's Rey Lee-Lo for high tackles earlier in the tournament.

The judgement read: "Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and submissions from his legal counsel, the panel determined that the act ought to have resulted in a yellow card on-field.

"Since the threshold for upholding a citing is 'red card', the committee did not uphold the citing and the player is free to play again immediately."

In its ruling, the committee referred to Hooley's "sudden change of height" and Francis' attempt to avoid head-high contact as mitigating factors.

The decision comes as a boost to Eddie Jones' side ahead of their clash with the Pumas in Tokyo on Saturday.

England are top of Pool C after two matches, having eased to a 45-7 win over USA following a 32-point tournament-opening victory over Tonga.

Warren Gatland was delighted to see Wales edge past Australia in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter he acknowledged they might well have lost previously.

The Six Nations Grand Slam champions raced out to a 23-8 half-time lead before Australia built momentum in the second period and set up a nervy finish with tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper.

But Wales clung on to take a 29-25 victory and seize control of Pool D, potentially avoiding England and New Zealand in the quarter-finals and semis.

Gatland saw this as the type of clash Wales would have come up short in prior to the last 12 months in which they have forged a steely reputation, also beating Australia in a Test last November.

"It was pretty special," he told ITV Sport. "It was a good first half and we hung on in the second half.

"Australia came at us and the boys are pretty sore and battered in the changing rooms. It was a really tough physical game - and those are the ones in the past that we've been losing.

"It was nice to hold on at the end and I thought our bench were fantastic and gave us some real momentum and fresh legs when we needed them."

He added: "We're really pleased to get that win - it takes a little of the pressure off us. Now we're kind of in control of our own destiny in terms of what happens."

Alun Wyn Jones, making a record 130th appearance, praised Wales' character but was slightly concerned by another "tentative" second half.

Wales had similarly built a big lead against Georgia before slowing after the break, their 29-point half-time advantage failing to increase as they won 43-14.

"I'm pretty happy with the character we showed - particularly in the second half," Jones said.

"At times, it did feel a bit like the Georgia game, where we had a great first half and were a bit tentative in the second half. We'll have a look at that, but I'm pleased with the result."

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