Take Six: Italy beaten as England and France get ready

Italy were beaten by South Africa in the only game on Friday in Japan, while England and France geared up for big matches this weekend.

Italy were beaten by South Africa in the only game on Friday in Japan, while England and France geared up for big matches this weekend.

Elsewhere Ken Owens and Wales are preparing for a dangerous Fiji team, while WP Nel is coping with long-distance fatherhood.

Italy fought hard for 50 minutes against South Africa, but when Andrea Lovotti was sent off for a tip tackle early in the second half, it ended their hopes of an upset victory.

From there, the Azzurri conceded a further five tries to go down 49-3 in Shizuoka to the Springboks, all but ending their hopes of reaching a maiden World Cup quarter-final.

It was a frustrating one for Conor O’Shea, who lost both his tighthead props through injury in the first 20 minutes of the game.

While Italy trailed 17-3 at the break, they looked to be mounting a comeback when break from Braam Steyn allowed them to get up to the Springbok line. It was then that Lovotti and Nicola Quaglio tipped Duane Vermeulen over, with the former deemed to be the instigator and sent off for his troubles.

O’Shea said: “We didn’t get the chance to show our true worth in the second half. The squad fought hard, but it is hard against a team that are stronger.

“It wasn’t like a friendly and lots of players have learned a lot. They now know the level they must play at and, as I said before, the match was over after that red card.”

Italy will now have to regather themselves before facing New Zealand on Saturday as they look to build towards the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

Eddie Jones admits that England will not know where they truly stand at this World Cup until tomorrow’s clash with Argentina in Tokyo.

The 2019 Guinness Six Nations runners-up have impressed so far with bonus-point successes against Tonga and USA, but now face a sterner challenge against Los Pumas.

Argentina have to win to stay in the hunt for the quarter-finals, and Jones is fully expecting a big physical battle up front as he gets to gauge exactly what his team is capable of.

He said: “The players have worked hard off the field to handle situations but like anything it is a bit like a tea bag – you don’t know how good it is until you put it into water.

“We trained this morning, and everyone is fit, fast and brutal. Ready to go. There is no final message and the players are well prepared and they know what to do and just have to go out and do it.

“To beat Argentina you have to take them on up front – scrum, maul, ruck attack and defence. That is where it will be won. They have been pretty impressive so far and they had a good bonus-point win against Tonga who are not the easiest opponents.”

After England face Argentina they will turn their attentions to France, with top spot in Pool C potentially on the line.

That will be the case if both teams win this weekend, with Les Bleus taking on Tonga in Kumamoto.

Jacques Brunel had named his starting XV for that match on Thursday, but was waiting to name the replacements. He did that on Friday with centre Pierre-Louis Barassi in line for  Test debut after being named on the bench.

The reason for the delay was because France have suffered two further injuries, with hooker Peato Mauvaka and full-back Thomas Ramos ruled out of the tournament.

They will be replaced by Christopher Tolofua and Vincent Rattez respectively, with Brunel admitting it is a blow to lose the pair, with Demba Bamba and Wesley Fofana having also been ruled out earlier in the competition.

He said: “It’s a handicap for us. We hope that in the next game nothing will happen. We’re going to try to get them here as soon as possible. The competition requires us, because the games are so close together, to have our whole squad. We don’t know what could happen.”

WP Nel admits it has been a challenge being separated from his three young children, aged between 2 and 7, during Scotland’s World Cup campaign.

The tighthead prop has started each of Scotland’s games in Japan, playing just under an hour in each as Scotland lost to Ireland then beat Samoa.

Scotland’s next game is against Russia on Wednesday, with Nel explaining that the squad had rallied around each other to help cope with being far from families.

He said: “The mental battle is always there; you miss your family, you want them around you, but as a team we are close together and we are helping each other. We’re bonding around each other and using that to take that into games, to settle the nerves.

“The phone calls home are difficult sometimes. The kids are getting emotional, it’s getting long (time away from them) but it’s our job. Back home, even if you are a weekend away it’s tough for the kids. They don’t like it. It’s fatherhood, you somehow need to get around it. It’s part of the game. That’s why you are playing – for the family and for the team around you.”

With two wins from two, including against Australia, Wales are well-placed in their bid to reach the quarter-finals and hooker Ken Owens is keen to build on that momentum.

After a tight turnaround between the first two games, Wales have enjoyed a little break ahead of their meeting with Fiji in Oita on Wednesday.

And having watched Fiji cut loose in a 45-10 victory over Georgia, Owens knows that Wales cannot allow the likes of Semi Radradra and Peceli Yato too many chances in open space.

He said: “Fiji were very impressive. I thought Georgia did very well the first 30-40 minutes and held them out. But Fiji have got quality players with a lot of X-factor and the biggest message for us is stopping that threat and not getting drawn into playing the Fiji way.

“I think there was a stat at some point where Georgia had offloaded double the amount of times Fiji had so we will have to be smart in the way we play.

“Our gameplan is going to be about stopping their X-factor players on the gain line and stop them offloading.

“We are pretty happy, but we just need to keep that momentum going. It is great being two from two, but it doesn’t mean much if we are two from four by the end of the pool.

“We have got to go on and get a result on Wednesday against Fiji then against Uruguay.”

Ireland bounced back from their loss to Japan with a bonus-point success against Russia, and skipper Rory Best believes confidence has been restored within the squad.

In tricky conditions, Ireland kept the Bears scoreless in a 35-0 success to leave them in control of their quarter-final fate ahead of facing Samoa in their final game.

And for Best, despite that Japan defeat, the team is where it needs to be.

He said: “Ultimately you get to these pool competitions with a knockout stage coming after them and you want to get into the last round with your destiny in your own hands. We’re there.

“We would have expected to be in a better place after three games. We would have expected to have won the three games but that hasn’t happened.

“It was important to get five points [against Russia] and now it’s important that we take a couple of days just to regenerate, to refresh everyone a little bit after what has been a fairly hectic schedule in a five-day turnaround.

“But ultimately where you want to be is knowing that a win – and a bonus-point win – will guarantee you a quarter-final place.

“Whenever you lose a game and you go from being supposedly contenders in the first game to useless in the second game, ultimately it’s always going to affect the confidence a little bit. But I think we bounced back well and I think this group understands what we need to do to play well.”