Alireza Jahanbakhsh's last-minute penalty gave Iran a 2-1 win over Japan, and a semi-final against Asian Cup holders and hosts Qatar will be their reward.

Jahanbakhsh kept his cool in the 96th minute to keep three-time Asian Cup winners Iran on course for a first title since 1976.

Iran came from behind after Hidemasa Morita put pre-tournament favourites Japan ahead in the first half of an entertaining quarter-final at Education City Stadium.

But Mohammad Mohebi levelled the score in the 55th minute to pave the way for Jahanbakhsh's late heroics.

Iran's win was made even more impressive considering they were without star striker Mehdi Taremi, who was suspended.

Qatar, meanwhile, are in with a chance of retaining the title after they defeated Uzbekistan on penalties following a 1-1 draw at Al Bayt Stadium.

Utkir Yusupov's own goal put Qatar ahead midway through the first half, but Uzbekistan rallied after the break – Odiljon Hamrobekov's effort enough to send the tie to extra time and eventually penalties.

Almoez Ali and Almahdi Ali both failed to convert for Qatar in the shoot-out, but Jaloliddin Masharipov's miss set the stage for Pedro Miguel to be Qatar's hero.

Iran will take on Qatar on Wednesday, a day after South Korea go up against Jordan.

Japan maintained their pursuit of a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title on Wednesday by advancing to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win against Bahrain.

The pre-tournament favourites have bounced back from a surprise 2-1 loss against Iraq in the group stage and will play Iran in the next round.

Goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda secured Japan's place in the last eight, while Zion Suzuki's own goal was the only consolation for Bahrain.

Japan went ahead in the 31st minute when Seiya Maikuma's long-range shot came back off the post and Doan converted on the rebound.

Kubo doubled the lead four minutes into the second half when he spun and finished from close range.

The Japan goalkeeper then tried to catch the ball, but collided with Ayase, who was attempting to head clear off the goal-line and the ball was fumbled into the net.

Ayase restored Japan's two-goal advantage eight minutes later when firing low at the near post to beat Bahrain keeper Ebrahim Lutfalla.

Three-time champions Iran later needed a penalty shoot-out to beat Syria, one of the tournament's surprise packages.

Down to 10-men after Mehdi Taremi was sent off in time added on, Iran eventually won 5-3 on spot-kicks at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium. The game ended 1-1 after extra time.

Taremi fired Iran ahead with a penalty in the 34th after he had been fouled by Aiham Ousou.

Syria then equalised from the spot through Omar Khrbin in the 64th minute after Pablo Sabbag was brought down by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Syria were playing in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time and were given an advantage when Taremi was sent off in the first minute of stoppage time for a second bookable offence.

In the shoot-out, Beiranvand's save from Fahd Youssef proved the decisive moment as Iran converted all of their spot kicks. It is the eighth time in a row that Iran have advanced to the quarter-finals.

Japan got their Asian Cup campaign back on track by advancing to the knockout stage with a 3-1 win against Indonesia on Wednesday.

The pre-tournament favourites surprisingly lost to Iraq in their second Group D match last week to leave their hopes of winning a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title in jeopardy.

But any concerns over facing an early exit were swept away at Al Thumama Stadium after two goals from Ayase Ueda put the four-time champions on course for victory.

Justin Hubner scored a late own goal and Sandy Walsh pulled one back for Indonesia in added time.

It took Ueda just six minutes to settle any nerves Japan's players and fans might have been feeling going into their final group game.

The Feyenoord striker had won the spot kick after being fouled by Jordi Amat and fired his shot into the corner beyond Indonesia goalkeeper Ernando Ari Sutaryadi to open the scoring.

He doubled Japan's lead in the 52nd minute and when Hubner diverted another effort from Ueda into his own goal in the 88th the win looked beyond doubt.

Walsh scored a consolation in added time and Indonesia, on three points, will have to wait to see if they advance as one of the best third-placed teams.

While Japan safely secured their progress, it was Iraq who advanced as group winners after substitute Aymen Hussein scored from the penalty spot in the 12th minute of stoppage time to beat 10-man Vietnam 3-2 in a thrilling clash.

Having already missed one penalty after coming on as a half-time substitute at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Hussein converted from the spot deep into stoppage time to maintain Iraq’s perfect record in Group D.

Hussein is the tournament's leading scorer with five goals and that record might have been even better had he not struck the post with his earlier penalty against Vietnam.

He still managed to have a key impact on the match with two goals as the 2007 champions came from behind to make it three wins out of three.

Vietnam had taken the lead through Bui Hoang Viet Anh in the 42nd minute, but Khuat Van Khang was sent off in first-half stoppage time for a second yellow card.

It took only two minutes of the second half for Rebin Solaka to even the score for Iraq and Hussein headed his team in front 17 minutes from time.

Hussein failed to score from the spot when firing against the post and that miss looked to be costly when substitute Nguyen Quang Hai levelled the game in the 91st minute.

That was until Hussein was given the chance to make amends for his earlier penalty, and he made no mistake from the spot on this occasion.

Aymen Hussein scored both goals as Iraq shocked tournament favourites Japan 2-1 to claim a place in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup on Friday.

Hussein struck twice in the first half at Education City Stadium, with a 93rd-minute header from Wataru Endo proving to be too little, too late for Japan.

The famous win lifts Iraq, the 2007 champions, to the top of Group D with six points from two games and guarantees them a spot in the round of 16. 

Four-time winners Japan, Asia's highest-ranked team at 17, are second with three points.

Iraq took the lead after just six minutes when Japan goalkeeper Zion Suzuki palmed Ali Jasim's cross from the left straight to Hussein, who headed it home.

Japan streamed forward in search of an equaliser but Iraq defended in numbers before doubling their lead in first-half added time as Hussein headed in Aymed Yahya's cross. The goal was given following a VAR review to check if the ball had rolled out of play in the build-up.

It looked like Japan had been awarded a penalty 10 minutes into the second half as Takuma Asano was judged to have been fouled by Rebin Sulaka. However, referee Khalid Al-Turais overturned his original decision after viewing the pitchside monitor.

Liverpool midfielder Endo eventually got Japan within a goal in added time after goalkeeper Jalal Hachim failed to collect the ball but it was not enough to prevent his country's first group-stage loss at the Asian Cup since 1988.

Vietnam play Indonesia in the other Group D game on Friday, before Hong Kong meet Iran in Group C.

Palestine suffered a 4-1 defeat to Iran in their opening game at the Asian Cup on Sunday, with a moment of silence observed before the match to commemorate the victims of the Israel-Hamas war.

As the war reached the 100-day mark, both teams lined up in the centre of the Education City Stadium pitch as an announcement asked for silence "in memory of the lives tragically lost as a result of the ongoing conflict in Palestine".

A hush fell across the stadium in the city of Al-Rayyan before shouts of "free Palestine" were heard from members of the crowd.

Once the game began, three-time champions Iran never looked back after Karim Ansarifard struck within two minutes, with Shoja Khalilzadeh adding a second goal 10 minutes later.

Mehdi Ghayedi made it 3-0 with 38 minutes on the clock, but the loudest cheers came when Palestine's Tamer Seyam pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time.

Sardar Azmoun scored a fourth for Iran 10 minutes after the break as Amir Ghalenoei's team made a winning start to their Group C campaign.

Elsewhere, Takumi Minamino scored twice as Japan came from behind to beat Vietnam 4-2 in Group D.

The tournament favourites trailed 2-1 in the first half despite Monaco attacker Minamino opening the scoring after 11 minutes.

Nguyen Dinh Bac levelled things up at Al Thumama Stadium five minutes later and Vietnam, ranked 94th in the world by FIFA, went ahead through Pham Tuan Hai's goal in the 33rd minute.

Record four-time Asian Cup winners Japan, who have been heavily tipped to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2011, recovered from that setback as former Liverpool forward Minamino equalised in the 45th minute.

Keito Nakamura then made it 3-2 in first-half stoppage time and substitute Ayase Ueda made the points safe five minutes from full-time.

Finally, Hong Kong's Philip Chan Siu Kwan scored the 1,000th goal in the history of the Asian Cup, but his team still fell to a 3-1 defeat against the United Arab Emirates.

Chan briefly levelled the Group C match four minutes into the second half after Sultan Adil had given UAE the lead from the penalty spot 11 minutes before the break. However, it took just three further minutes for UAE to regain their advantage through Zayed Sultan.

Substitute Yahya Al Ghassani then struck deep into stoppage time to clinch victory against the lowest ranked team at the tournament, with Hong Kong sitting 150th in the FIFA World Rankings.

Kevin Sinfield is to step down as England defence coach after the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Sinfield has been Steve Borthwick’s number two since the start of his reign in December 2022 but his time at Twickenham will come to an end after 18 months.

Before he moves on, the Leeds rugby league great will take charge of individual skills and work with the kickers having previously overseen the defence.

“Kevin after the World Cup had a period of reflection, like every member of the management team did,” Borthwick said.

“Kev’s decided that longer-term he’s going to head in a different direction away from the England rugby team.

“He’s going to work with the team through the Six Nations and through the summer tour.

“Ahead of the autumn series Kev will not work with the team then, he will move away from the team and in a different direction.”

When asked to expand on Sinfield’s future plans, Borthwick replied: “Not right now and Kev hasn’t told us. That’s a question you can discuss with Kev in due course.

“I’m just grateful that’s he added so much value over these 12 months and that he’s going to stay with the team for the Six Nations and the summer tour.

“Through this first 12 months, Kev’s role and what he’s added as we’ve reset the team, you can’t overstate the value he’s brought, what he’s done and the relationships he’s built.

“I’ve changed his role to skills and he will be working specifically on catch-pass skills with the kickers and goalkickers, which he does so very well.”

Eddie Jones has been appointed as Japan head coach for the second time.

The former England boss will take up his post on January 1, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced.

Jones stepped down from his role as Australia head coach after a dismal World Cup showing in France.

He was first linked with the Japan job in September, but repeatedly denied those reports.

The 63-year-old coached Japan from 2012 to 2015, famously masterminding a stunning victory over 2015 World Cup opponents South Africa in Brighton.

Leigh Halfpenny expects a “pretty special” Wales send-off on Saturday while hoping to continue playing for another two seasons.

Halfpenny announced his decision to retire from international duty following Wales’ exit from the recent Rugby World Cup and will make his final appearance in the red jersey against the Barbarians in Cardiff.

But the 34-year-old is set to prolong his career, with Japan considered to be the most likely destination ahead of an official announcement next week.

“It’s all done,” Halfpenny said ahead of his Millennium Stadium farewell.

“I’ve got a contract for another season and then we’ll see what happens after that. I’m looking for that to be announced next week.”

Halfpenny won 101 caps for Wales – the Barbarians game, which is being staged to pay tribute to the country’s record cap holder Alun Wyn Jones, is uncapped – and scored 801 points after making his debut at the age of 19 against South Africa in November 2008.

He made four Test appearances for the Lions across the 2013 and 2017 tours, although he was also selected in 2009 before injury cut short his involvement.

Halfpenny was named player of the series in 2013, helping the Lions to a 2-1 series victory in Australia.

He said: “I’m just grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to wear the jersey over the last 15 years.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to put on the Welsh shirt and I’m really excited for Saturday.

“I’ve got a few friends and family coming along, and I’m looking forward to going out one last time.

“To run out alongside guys like Alun and Justin Tipuric, albeit they’ll be on the opposite side, and share the field with those two greats of the game and Welsh legends again will be pretty special.”

Halfpenny is third on the all-time list of men’s points scorers for Wales, behind Neil Jenkins (1,049) and Stephen Jones (917).

He says he grew up in the Swansea suburb of Gorseinon determined to emulate outside-half Jenkins, hero of the Lions’ 1997 series victory in South Africa.

Halfpenny said: “Jenks was an idol for me, watching him play and kick for Wales. He made me want to be like him kicking for Wales.

“I just went down the field and put the practice in. That was my dream, to play and kick for Wales.

“I’ve got to be honest, I was pretty star-struck when I met up with him at St Helen’s (the home ground of Swansea RFC) at the age of 16, and he’s been incredible for me.

“I’ve learned so much from him; not just goal-kicking but the work you need to put in. He’s supported me throughout and been huge in what I’ve been able to achieve.”

Halfpenny also wants to follow Jenkins into coaching, adding: “It’s something that I would like to do once I hang up the boots.

“I will be having a chat with him and picking up any tips I can. He’s one of the best in the world and to learn from him has been pretty special.”

Eddie Jones said he wanted to continue as head coach of Australia and has not had a job offer from Japan after his resignation was confirmed.

Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh said they had reached a “sensible” agreement with the former England coach as his nine months in the job came to an end.

Speaking to Channel 9 in Australia, Jones said he “never” had a job offer from Japan and criticised media reports of an interview ahead of a World Cup campaign which saw Australia crash out in the group stages.

“I’ve got no job to go to, no job offer,” he said. “My commitment to Australian rugby has been 100%. I did want to go on. Coaching a team is a bit like being in a marriage, you need commitment from both sides.

“I was committed to change the team. Rugby Australia at the moment cannot activate the changes, financial and political, to make real change in Australian rugby.”

He continued: “I don’t like to be in projects where I don’t think they can really get to where they need to get to and I’ve made that decision.

“Rugby Australia probably doesn’t think that and that’s where the unity of our project is not in the place it needs to be.

“Sometimes you go in the bank and blow it up but you don’t come out with the money.”

Former Wallabies flanker Waugh said he “took Eddie on his word” when he denied reports linking him with Japan.

Talking to a press conference in Sydney, Waugh said: “Our focus will be reconnecting with the Australian public rather than where Eddie’s going to be.

“We’ve come to a sensible conclusion, both for Eddie and for Rugby Australia.

“I don’t think it changes the position we’re at now, whether Eddie was to stay or go.

“This is hopefully a low point and a chance to reset. The most important thing is to unite.”

Jones will officially leave his role on November 25 and Waugh said Rugby Australia would take “however long it takes” to ensure they got the “best possible coach”.

He refused to be drawn on the position of chairman Hamish McLennan, who has faced criticism for replacing Dave Rennie with Jones on a five-year deal in January – weeks after he had been dismissed by England.

“Ultimately the board is responsible for this decision,” he said. “It’s speculation where we would have been if we had not made that call and Dave had stayed on.

“The results were not up to expectation. The board has made some bold calls. Hindsight is a wonderful thing… where we ended up was not good enough.”

Rugby Australia earlier confirmed Jones’ resignation as head coach following the Wallabies’ failure to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time.

“Rugby Australia can confirm that it has accepted the resignation of Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones, and he will depart the position on 25 November 2023,” a statement from the governing body read.

“Rugby Australia thanks Eddie for his commitment to the Wallabies in 2023, and wishes him the best in his future endeavours.

“Announcements regarding the future of the Wallabies coaching staff will be made in due course.”

McLennan had already vowed to continue in his role, telling the Sydney Morning Herald in a statement: “I came to rugby to find a way to fix it when it all fell over and despite the sad Eddie situation, this is another hurdle we’ll overcome.

“I want to stay to deliver the 2027 World Cup in Australia. That has always been the big prize for Australian rugby.

“More destabilisation will just make matters worse, just when we’re about to break through. Life is not a continuous line of perfect calls and success.”

Jones won just two of nine Tests in charge against Georgia and Portugal in the World Cup where they suffered losses to Fiji and Wales.

Hukum has been retired and will join Darley’s stallion roster at Hokkaido in Japan.

Trained expertly by Owen Burrows, the six-year-old is a full-brother to the brilliant Baaeed, also owned by Shadwell.

The winner of 11 of his 18 races, he won twice at Group One level. Having beaten Pyledriver by over four lengths in the 2022 Coronation Cup, he looked set for a stellar season but unfortunately suffered a career-threatening injury.

Nursed back to health by the Shadwell team and Burrows, he beat last year’s Derby winner Desert Crown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes before claiming victory in a thrilling King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes over Westover.

Burrows said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to train Hukum over the last four seasons.

“I will forever be in his debt as he has brought my career to a whole new level. His enthusiasm for work and racing made my job easy.

“His win in the Coronation Cup by over four lengths and King George win this year showed off all his fine attributes perfectly. Class, guts and will to win. That race will live long in, not just mine, but many racing fans’ memory for years to come.

“A superb looking and athletic individual, a full-brother to Baaeed, whom I’m sure will be very popular with breeders in Japan.”

Stephen Collins, Shadwell’s European Bloodstock Manager, told www.shadwellstud.com: “Shadwell are delighted that Hukum, a full-brother to Baaeed, the highest-rated turf horse in the last decade, will stand at Darley Japan.

“Hukum has all the attributes to be a hugely successful stallion. A top-class racehorse, possessing a wonderful physique, he hails from one of Shadwell’s most successful families tracing back to the highly influential broodmare Height Of Fashion.

“We are thrilled that Japanese breeders will be able to avail of such a wonderful bloodline that his late HH Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and his family have developed and maintained at the highest level over the last 40 years.

“Sheikha Hissa and her family very much look forward to following Hukum’s new career very closely and it wouldn’t surprise me if Shadwell were to support him with some high-quality broodmares going forward as he is held in the highest regard by us all.”

Eddie Jones has committed his future to coaching Australia and again denied speculation linking him with a return to Japan.

Australia crashed out of the Rugby World Cup at the group stage for the first time after defeats to Fiji and Wales, but the former England coach insists he has no plans to move.

“I’m staying mate,” he told reporters in Australia. “I’ve always been committed to Australian rugby, I want to leave it in a better place, and that’s still the job.

“It’s not absolutely my decision. We play in a game where the coach doesn’t decide how long they stay.

“We’ve got a review going forward and we’ll see what happens at the end of the review.”

Jones, who took over from Dave Rennie in January a month after being sacked by England, said he had “no idea” where the story came from about him speaking to Japan about a coaching role.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone, mate,” he said.

Rugby Australia has announced an independent review into the World Cup performance, but Jones believes his decision to select a young team will pay dividends when Australia hosts the next World Cup in 2027.

“I went to the World Cup, came in (with) a short period of time, had to make a decision on the team, made a decision we needed to go with youth,” he said.

“And whilst, the results at the World Cup weren’t the results we wanted, I think I’ve left the Australian team in a great position to go on to 2027.

“We had the courage to go with a younger squad and I think this squad is going to stand Australia in good stead. We have the nucleus of a really good team.”

He continued: “We just weren’t good enough, mate. You’ve just got to watch the quarter-finals on the weekend.

“We’re not at that level and we can’t pretend to be at that level, but can we be at that level by 2027? Yes we can.”

Wales were left to count the cost of their Rugby World Cup victory over Georgia after number eight Taulupe Faletau suffered a broken arm and two other players were also injured.

Faletau, who has won more than 100 caps, will take no further part in the tournament as Wales build towards a quarter-final against probably Argentina or Japan in Marseille next weekend.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said no decision had yet been made on a replacement for Faletau, although flanker Aaron Wainwright is an option to move across the back-row.

Fly-half Gareth Anscombe, meanwhile, withdrew 45 minutes before kick-off in Nantes following a groin problem suffered during the warm-up.

And full-back Liam Williams was on crutches after Gatland said he took a blow to his knee, but Wales are hopeful he will be fit for the quarter-final, with Wales ending their Pool C campaign as group winners with four successive victories following a 43-19 triumph.

“Toby (Faletau) has broken his arm so he will be out,” Gatland said.

“We are just going to assess Gareth over the next 72 hours. He has pulled his groin very high up.

“Talking to the medics, he has got a bit of power still in his leg which is a positive. It means he has not pulled it off the bone.

“We will probably know in the next 48-72 hours what we need to do with him. Whether we’ve got (time) for him to recover or replace him directly.

“We have got to look at a replacement for Faletau, whether that is directly as a loose-forward replacement or whether we look at another position.

“We’ve got a few sore players, particularly in the backs, after today’s game.

“If you do see Liam Williams on crutches, it is not that he has done anything significantly bad.

“He got a whack on the knee, and the medics, from a comfort perspective, have put him on crutches to save him walking around a bit.

“He has got a knock and probably won’t take a huge part in training in the early part of next week, but hopefully he will be fit for the quarter-final.”

Courtney Lawes insists England have forged an identity based on self-sacrifice as the personalities of the World Cup heavyweights begin to emerge.

England have crushed Argentina, Japan and Chile to claim a quarter-final place as Pool D winners with a match to spare and their procession through the group phase will be completed against Samoa on Saturday.

Expectation is rising, even allowing for the fact they have been gifted the easiest route into the knockout phase, but the likes of Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand have been making greater waves.

After the All Blacks’ 14-try rout of Italy on Friday, head coach Ian Foster made a pointed reference to the grinding nature of Ireland’s seismic victory over the Springboks.

“If you look at the South Africa-Ireland game, it was a different game of rugby,” Foster said.

“The ball was in play for 27 minutes throughout the whole game. It was a very stop-start game, very physical, very combative.

“You saw a different spectacle from us and at some point the world has got to decide which game it would rather watch.”

Lawes sees room for all playing styles and is satisfied with the traits developed by Steve Borthwick’s side.

“Our way is the England way. Doing it our way is doing it for each other,” the Northampton back row said.

“I like that it’s now really obvious what is every team’s DNA and what they’re trying to do. All the top teams have got really different genetics as a team, if you will – a team strategy.

“It’ll be interesting when they play each other how that is going to play off. I think that’s really good for us as players to see and be a part of.

“We’re a really strong defensive team. That’s our backbone. We’ve conceded one try in three games. We’re an aerial, kicking team and are very good at getting the ball back.

“We’re looking to build an attack off that, and hopefully by the time we get later on in the tournament that is where we want to be, and we will show a bit of a different side to us.

“Especially at the 2019 World Cup and this time, in terms of a team of players, we are so much more selfless.

“We want to play, we want to go out there and put our bodies on the line for each other and that is what really makes a difference when it hits the fan and you are under the cosh.

“You have got to want to get into it for each other or you get found out pretty quickly.

“We know what works, we want everybody to buy in, we do this for each other, not for ourselves.

“We hit a ruck and forego the glory so we can get the ball and someone else can score.

“Those are the things we pride ourselves on as a team and what we want to carry on into the future as well.”

Jonathan Thomas says that Wales have hit “reset” after four days off as they set about trying to make a memorable Rugby World Cup campaign into something unforgettable.

Wales’ World Cup squad returned to the training pitch on Thursday with a public session watched by more than 1,000 people at Stade de Porchefontaine in Versailles.

Players and coaches were given time off to spend with their families after last weekend’s record 40-6 win against Australia that secured quarter-final status for the fourth successive World Cup campaign.

But minds have now switched to next weekend’s final Pool C appointment with Georgia – then a quarter-final against Argentina or Japan.

“Professional sport can be relentless,” Wales assistant coach Thomas said.

“Winning that Australia game was a huge moment for us in terms of qualifying, and having those days off was good to have that feel-good factor heading into time off.

“Professional sport is about being humble and hitting reset. For me, confidence comes from preparation and the work you do in the week.

“You can’t look back and say we are confident because of that victory. Confidence comes from preparation and the hard work.

“We need to hit reset, as the boys have done today. We’ve got a tough game next week, and we will be completely focused on that.

“The amazing thing I’ve seen with this squad is you have that edge in training, but as soon as they walk off the training field, there’s laughing, joking and they are taking the mick out of each other for what has just happened in the session.

“Getting that balance of a competitive edge and having really close relationships off the field is very difficult to strike.

“That is one of the real highlights of this campaign, going back 14 weeks since we came in for mini-camps. That chemistry is really powerful, and the balance between the edge and the family side of things.”

Thomas, meanwhile, has no doubt that an ability to strike the right balance comes from the top with the example set by head coach Warren Gatland.

“I played under Gats, and I take my hat off to him,” he added.

“He is probably one of the best I have come across in terms of being able to drive the players hard. He is very open and honest with them, with a no-nonsense attitude. The expectations are really clear.

“But he has also got this nurturing, kind side to him which is all about family and if players need to go home or need help.

“It’s quite a remarkable thing to have both abilities in your character. It all starts with him, and everything flows downstream.

“It flows through the coaching staff and the players, and eventually you end up with quite a content playing group. One, because they are fit and they’ve worked hard, but they are also happy because their families are happy.”

Local schoolchildren turned out in their hundreds to watch the Wales squad put through their paces, with players signing autographs and posing for pictures afterwards.

“Our whole experience in Versailles has been awesome,” Thomas said.

“Obviously, it’s a beautiful place, first and foremost, but we are here to train and train hard. The facilities have been great.

“The people have been incredible, really, and none more so than today. We really appreciate it. It has made a massive difference to us, how welcome we’ve been made to feel since being here.”

England qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup after Japan saw off 14-man Samoa 28-22 in Toulouse to keep alive their own hopes of progressing to the knockout stage.

The Brave Blossoms go on to face Argentina in the final round of Pool D matches – and only one of them will join Steve Borthwick’s side, who are confirmed as group winners ahead of their clash with Samoa due to their superior head-to-head record, in the knockout phase.

Japan, who reached the last eight for the first time four years ago as hosts, opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Pieter Labuschagne stretched over in the corner and Rikiya Matsuda converted.

A penalty from D’Angelo Leuila got Samoa, without captain Chris Vui through a late change, on the board, but Matsuda’s kick soon restored Japan’s advantage.

Michael Leitch added another try in the corner before Samoa’s Jonathan Taumateine was sent to the sin bin after a shoulder barge in the build-up.

Japan hooker Shota Horie was then shown a yellow card for making head-on-head contact as he stood up in a challenge with Seilala Lam, which went to the TMO for a bunker review but was not upgraded.

Samoa – whose final pool match with England is in Lille on October 7 – made the most of their man advantage, Lam touching down following a driving maul to go into the break trailing 17-8.

Samoa soon found themselves a man down when Ben Lam was sent to the sin bin after the TMO spotted a high tackle into the side of Labuschagne’s head.

Japan extended their lead as Kazuki Himeno was driven over in the corner, but the usually reliable Matsuda failed to convert.

Things then got worse for Samoa when Lam’s card was upgraded to a red before Matsuda again found his range to push Japan further in front at 25-8.

Kotaro Matsushima sprinted clear for what Japan thought was a bonus-point try, but it was ruled out for the slightest of knock-ons from Dylan Riley in the build-up.

Samoa, though, kept themselves in touch as Duncan Paia’aua went over in the corner, which Leuila converted from a tight angle only for fly-half Matsuda to push Japan clear again with another long-range penalty.

The 14 men battled on and pulled the deficit back again when Christian Leali’ifano dived over and then converted his own try, but Japan held out to set up a potential winner-takes-all showdown with Argentina in Nantes.

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