Take Six: Props young and old take centre stage

There was one game on Wednesday, featuring a major upset as Uruguay defeated Fiji, and there was plenty more news to emerge from Japan.

There was one game on Wednesday, featuring a major upset as Uruguay defeated Fiji, and there was plenty more news to emerge from Japan.

England and Italy are preparing for their second matches against north American opposition, USA and Canada respectively. Meanwhile a pair of young props and an experienced full-back all had their say on the first week of action.

England have rung the changes for their clash with the USA on Thursday.

Ten new faces come into the starting XV as they look to make it two from two in Pool C – and for two of them a bit of history is also on the line.

Dan Cole will win his 91st cap in the No.3 jersey, third-equal all time for England with only Dylan Hartley and Jason Leonard ahead of him.

Ben Youngs could join him on that milestone if he comes off the bench also, but the scrum-half only wanted to talk about his Leicester Tigers teammate’s achievement on the eve of the big game in Kobe.

He said: “Coley has worked incredibly hard after he missed out on the South Africa tour. To then go away, reflect on the bits of his game he had to work on – and being at Leicester I have seen how hard he has worked.

“Those areas like ball-carrying don’t come naturally to him and he would be much happier hitting rucks and it shows how much he wanted to be part of the squad and grow. I am delighted for him and for myself it’s really nice and for my family, it’s nice for them. For me, it’s just another game.”

Wales looked very impressive on Monday in their Pool D curtain-raiser, racking up a bonus point before half-time in the victory over Georgia.

Their strike moves off first phase caught the eye, Josh Adams breaking the line seemingly at will, but it was the set-piece and the scrum in particular that also impressed.

Against a traditionally powerful Georgian pack, Wales more than held their own.

And it is here that Warren Gatland’s side will also look to press home their advantage in a six-day turnaround before Australia in Tokyo on Sunday – according to prop Dillon Lewis.

He said: “It has been a long summer building up to it. You can see the boys were raring for that game and it’s nice to finally get the tournament underway.

“It was good to get the six tries. It was a very good team performance. We spoke quite a lot throughout the week about set-piece and what Georgia would bring, especially scrum time. They were praising themselves on their scrum and being one of the best in the world and we put a massive emphasis on that.

“Definitely first half we showed up at scrum time and in the lineout.

“It’s massive to get those wins against southern hemisphere teams and getting that win in the autumn last year (against Australia) is something we will be looking back on and seeing what we did right in certain areas. It will be big going into this game.

“We work very hard. In terms of training it is one of those things, it’s a work hard mentality. Every Monday you come in and you know you are going to get taken to the well but it is one of those things where everybody buys into it.”

Italy will start Thursday’s clash with Canada as the big favourites, keen to make it two bonus-point wins from two to kick off their Pool B campaign.

After that come the serious tests, against first South Africa and then finally against the All Blacks.

Conor O’Shea’s side will need to be at their very best if they are to threaten the big boys in those key clashes.

But Wednesday’s win for Uruguay over Fiji will certainly act as inspiration.

The Uruguayans were clinical with any chances that came their way, kicked their goals and defended bravely to hold off the Pacific Islanders in a 30-27 victory that was founded on pride, according to captain Juan Manuel Gaminara.

“We’re not the biggest, we’re not the tallest, but we came here to win. We’ve been preparing for this for four years so I’m really proud of my country. “Since we qualified (for RWC 2019), we’ve been working on this. We never had anything granted – we always have to qualify first and then come to a World Cup, so since we qualified we’ve been thinking about this game.

“You saw the passion. I don’t know where it comes from. It’s inside. It’s in there. Today, we had to go there to fetch it, and it came.”

In South Africa’s defeat to New Zealand Cheslin Kolbe was the standout performer with his devastating breaks out wide.

Despite being the smallest player on the pitch, he was able to threaten the All Blacks time and again, and Italy full-back Matteo Minozzi was clearly taking notice.

In the same vein as Kolbe, the 5ft 9in Minozzi spent the 2018 Championship defying expectations and leaving tacklers in his wake.

And after a year on the sidelines, he is confident that he can make an impact once again after being named to start at full-back in Italy’s clash with Canada.

He said: “Like we’ve seen in the first matches, those type of players can make a big difference. It is true that I am one of the smallest on the pitch, but it isn’t something I think too much about.

“(Canada wingers DTH van der Merwe and Jeff Hassler) are playing in top leagues and they know how to score tries. They are quick and powerful, and we must make sure we keep maximum attention on them.”

Demba Bamba was the first member of France’s Under-20s world champions to make the step up to the senior set-up, but after Pierre-Louis Barassi’s call-up, there are now three members of that Les Bleuets side in Japan.

Romain Ntamack is the third, while Damian Penaud, Antoine Dupont and Grégory Alldritt are all just 22 in the youngest tier one squad in the tournament.

And Bamba explained that he and his fellow youngsters are treated no differently to any of the veterans.

He said: “If we are here, it’s not by chance. We all have a part to play and we are going to give it our all to go as far as possible and to give a good impression of the France team.

“Age is no object in this group. It’s strange but we don’t notice any difference: the older players are at the same level as everyone else. Today, we all represent France and that’s how we will progress.

“Just now we were laughing with a coach: he told us that when he was in the French team at our age, he took the knocks and for us that was cool. And there is always respect: we do not lack respect for our elders.”

Rob Kearney admits it was tough watching Ireland open their World Cup campaign from the sidelines, having been ruled out of the victory over Scotland.

The experienced full-back pulled up in training with a slight niggle in the build-up to the game, but is set to make his return when Ireland take on hosts Japan on Saturday.

And he is desperate to make his own mark, with teammate Jordan Larmour having impressed in the No.15 jersey against Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations rivals.

He said: “Last week was tough watching on. I was less than five minutes on the (training) field last Sunday week before I picked up a little niggle – it’s just good to be back running.

“It’s always tougher watching on. I’ve gotten particularly good at it over the last number of years. They all have that game under their belt now, you just want to get out and get going.

“It will be a different challenge now this week given the opposition and the stakes are a bit higher, the heat and humidity and all those things.

“When the boys came off the field at the weekend I was just so jealous of them that they’ve got that first one under the belt, so that’s going to be a challenge.”