Rugby World Cup: George tells England to relish Fiji clash
We are just one day away from the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and it is firmly north vs south hemisphere, with four teams from each in the final eight all playing against each other. Today is also the day that England boss Steve Borthwick names his side to face Fiji, as some controversial decisions are expected.
The head coach had a big decision to make over breaking up the midfield, which would mean dropping either captain Owen Farrell or one of the World Cup’s top performers in George Ford. Various reports have suggested that it is Ford who is likely to miss out, despite his dazzling displays in the skipper’s absence.
The team news comes at a time when Farrell was also reportedly involved in a bust-up with team-mate Henry Arundell, who scored five tries on his tournament debut but has since rarely featured. Details have since emerged that the young winger was upset with Farrell’s demands in training which led to the dispute.
Another divisive decision is set to be made at full-back, with Marcus Smith set to replace Freddie Stewart to add another playmaker to the team. However, Stewart has played 29 out of the last 30 Tests and many will see this change as a huge gamble against Fiji.
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Dupont talks up return
France captain Antoine Dupont has discussed his return from a facial fracture injury this weekend, having been named in the team to face South Africa.
The fly-half’s tournament was in question after being taken to the hospital in France’s win over Namibia, but has now talked through returning to the World Cup.
“I feel very good on both counts (physically and mentally),” he said. “At the time, I didn’t know how serious my injury was. I thought the competition was over.
“I had to wait for the tests, the appointment with the surgeon and the operation. My recovery went well. I was able to return gradually, and I had several weeks to do all that.
“Today, I’m at the top of my game, physically and technically.
“It was a very gradual (return). I started running at low intensity. I started with contact in the middle of last week, and I’m finding my feet again.
“At the beginning of the week, I was able to get back into it fully. I found myself back in collective situations, in-game situations. That boosted my confidence. I didn’t feel any pain. That reassured me. It was important to go through all the stages.”
England call ‘madness’
Sir Clive Woodward has labelled the decision to leave Henry Arundell out of the England squad to face Fiji as “an absolute madness”.
The young winger scored five tries on his World Cup debut but has been out of the team after a reported bust-up with captain Owen Farrell.
However, Woodward still believes that Arundell should have featured more heavily. “I still don’t understand why Henry Arundell can’t get a game,” he said.
“To me, it’s absolute madness. What a waste it is to have a player of Arundell’s undoubted quality carrying the water. I would have him at full back alongside a couple of the flyers who did not even make the trip.”
Ireland accused of ‘spying’
Ireland coach Mike Catt was asked about the prospect of his team sending a spy to keep an eye on the New Zealand team before their quarter-final.
A photographer affiliated with the Irish camp had been in attendance at New Zealand’s training session, but they were permitted to do so.
Catt was perplexed and officials from the World Cup were forced to step in and clarify the situation.
Jones set for Japan ‘interview’
Australia boss Eddie Jones is set to hold an in-person interview for the Japan job in early November.
That’s according to ABC News, who claim that despite Jones’ strong stance that he is committed to the Wallabies after their disastrous World Cup campaign.
The report states that Jones will be one of three candidates to meet with a selection panel, after a round of video interviews conducted on the eve of the tournament in France.
England team announcement
England boss Steve Borthwick has named his side to face Fiji in the World Cup quarter-finals, dropping George Ford in favour of captain Owen Farrell.
Marcus Smith also gets just his second start at full-back, with Freddie Steward on the bench despite being a mainstay in the team under Borthwick previously
England XV to face Fiji: 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Ollie Chessum, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Ben Earl, 9. Alex Mitchell, 10. Owen Farrell, 11. Elliot Daly, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 13. Joe Marchant, 14. Jonny May, 15. Marcus Smith.
France team to face South Africa
France have named their team for the quarter-final with South Africa and have been handed a major boost as captain Antoine Dupont returns to start.
Dupont’s availability for the tournament had been in doubt after suffering a facial fracture in the win over Namibia.
He is the only change to the starting XV that defeated Italy 60-7 in France’s last game.
Wales TV chief leaves
Welsh broadcaster S4C have confirmed that their chief content officer Llinos Griffin-Williams has left her position after she “behaved inappropriately” at the World Cup.
The company had been investigating complaints of “bullying” before reported heated exchanges with production staff in two bars in Nantes, where Wales faced Georgia.
A S4C statement in part read: “S4C News understands that Ms Griffin-Williams’ departure followed reports that she made inappropriate comments to members of independent production company Whisper while in Nantes, or Naoned.
“Whisper is producing S4C’s programs from this year’s Rugby World Cup.
“According to information that has been shared with S4C News, Ms Griffin-Williams was in Nantes in her role as the channel’s Chief Content Officer for Wales’ last group game against Georgia.
“After the game, in two locations in the city, it is understood that an argument took place between her and the members of the company.”
Fiji fire threat to England
Fiji coach Graham Dewes has claimed that his side are hopeful of putting England to “sleep” in Sunday’s quarter-final.
The Fijians defeated England at Twickenham in August, as they will be hoping for a repeat to secure a historic tournament finish – though they are not lacking in confidence.
“On our day we can match anyone,” Dewes said. “Sometimes when we play tier-two nations, we drop our standards. We don’t plan to do it but things happen on the day. When we play the tier-one nations, if we get it right we put them to sleep.”
Eddie Jones denies Japan links
Eddie Jones has returned to Australia following the team’s disappointing World Cup and once again denied reports suggesting he could quit for the Japan job.
Reports out of Japan are expecting him to take over, but he was questioned by Channel Seven and dismissed those suggestions.
“Ah, no comment mate,” Jones said when asked about the swirling rumours. “Meeting with Rugby [Australia]. I will speak to the media on [Tuesday] but I am committed to Australia.
“I’ve had no discussions with them [Japan], mate. Ah well, as I said mate, I’m committed to Australia.”
South Africa team to face France
South Africa have named their team to face France on Sunday, as Jacques Nienaber has overlooked centre Lukhanyo Am.
Instead, Jesse Kriel starts at outside centre alongside inside centre Damian de Allende as Nienaber has gone for experience in their quarter-final.
Full XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
New Zealand axe star
New Zealand have reportedly dropped winger Mark Telea for their quarter-final showdown with Ireland after a breach of team protocol.
Ian Foster confirmed his squad and with Telea not featuring, the head coach confirmed that he “still loves him”.
“He breached the protocol, nothing major, but enough to keep him out of selection for this week,” said Foster.
“I still love him, he trained well, it happens. Look, it is what it is. For us it’s pretty clean-cut, I don’t really want to talk about it any more. We’ve dealt with it as a team and moved on.
“We believe in what we stand for and that speaks volumes for the team that we make that sort of decision in this sort of week.”
England bust-up details
Earlier this week it was claimed that Owen Farrell and Henry Arundell had a bust-up on the training ground, which led to the young winger not being named in the final pool stage game.
Now, it has emerged that Arundell did not take too kindly to his skipper’s demands during practice.
Farrell was said to have sent balls up into the air and told the 20-year-old to “chase those f***ing kicks” and the incident was said to have left emotions running high between the pair.
England team announcement
England boss Steve Borthwick is expected to name his team to face Fiji today at 4.00pm.
He is likely to break up the partnership between Owen Farrell and George Ford, with the latter to drop to the bench.
Freddie Stewart is also reportedly set to drop out of the starting XV for Marcus Smith, as Borthwick adds another playmaker to his backline.
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