Take Six: Schmidt takes the positives while England prepare for Pumas

Ireland kept their quarter-final destiny in their own hands on Thursday night with a hard-fought bonus-point win over Russia in Kobe.

Ireland kept their quarter-final destiny in their own hands on Thursday night with a hard-fought bonus-point win over Russia in Kobe.

Eddie Jones picked his England team to face Argentina as Jack Nowell and Mako Vunipola returned while Italy prepare for their biggest Test yet.

Ireland’s victory came at a cost with the newly-arrived Jordi Murphy off in the first half with a rib injury.

The bonus point did not arrive until after the hour mark when Andrew Conway went over.

But after wrapping skipper Johnny Sexton in cotton wool at half-time, Schmidt was pleased with his side’s efforts under a hot and humid Kobe roof.

“Yes, we need the win to take confidence,” said Schmidt.

“We need the performance to take confidence, and we need the support we got tonight to take confidence. We had fantastic support. It’s still rippling around the stadium and it really does lift players.

“I like the way we controlled the game in very tough conditions out there. We made it a little bit loose with the ball sometimes and in those greasy conditions and that high humidity … we knew there had already been 65 handling errors in the two games previously – maybe we tried to make 65 ourselves.

“Samoa will be tough. I spent a fair bit of time in Samoa myself and I know how humid it is there so (in) these conditions, (Samoa) are a little bit more acclimatised to them than we are.”

An emotional Eddie Jones paid tribute to his former Randwick mentor Jeff Sayle who died on Monday.

A visibly choked up Jones said: “It’s very sad, a very sad day for rugby because he was a good person. He gave a lot to the game, to a number of players he coached and a number of teams he looked after. Even with England in 2016 he was the most welcome host. I remember going for a few beers with him at the Coojee Bay Hotel. Just a great fella and a real loss to the game.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep those characters in rugby because they’re so important and it defines our game. We’ve seen at this World Cup the great enthusiasm and togetherness of the crowds, opposing teams but with great supports. It’s a sad day for rugby.”

In happier news, Jones also unveiled his 23 to take on Argentina and for the first time this World Cup, Jack Nowell and Mako Vunipola were fit enough to make the bench.

That means the only change to the starting XV from the one that downed Tonga in Sapporo in their opener sees George Kruis come into the second row for Courtney Lawes who moves to the bench.

Italy could be the first team to make the quarter-finals on Friday.

But to do that, they must upset the odds and claim an historic win over the Springboks.

And scrum-half Tito Tebaldi cannot wait for the battle, particularly against opposite man Faf de Klerk.

“It is like preparing for a university or school exam. You can’t prepare in two or three days. You must prepare for years.

“Going on the pitch feeling tense won’t be good for us. We’ll be concentrated, but not tense. We’ve all played rugby for many years and this is the type of match we’ve wanted to play, and we have to give it our all.

“At the moment Faf is in great form. He brings lots of energy and makes a big impact in attack and defence. He is a player will have to keep an eye on. It will be a big challenge for me.”

Wales were given an optional day off on Wednesday, but instead opted for an extra training session as they look to finish off their Pool D campaign in style.

Wins over Fiji and Uruguay will confirm Warren Gatland’s side on top of their Pool and into the quarter-finals.

And hooker Elliott Dee is itching to prove himself, if given the opportunity.

He said: “I’ve had two appearances off the bench. No one wants to sit on the bench for the whole tournament. I’m really keen to get out there and play as much as I can, but the team have been playing well and whatever role I can play, I’m happy with that.

“I don’t think we’d ever get complacent. We’re aware of the threat Fiji bring – they’re big, powerful men who like to throw the ball around. Once we beat Australia, we were heads on straight away to Fiji, another massive test.

“The short turnaround (before Australia) was intense, we trained really hard in the lead-up to the Australia game and it paid off. On the flip side of that, I don’t think you can stay that intense for the whole eight weeks. It’s nice to have down days and a few days when you’re not thinking about your job, when you can switch off. Then when it comes to turning it back on again, it’s easy, you flip a switch and you’re back into it.”

Scotland are preparing to play two games in four days next week, first against Russia and then their crunch Pool A clash with Japan in Yokohama.

The tight turnaround tests a 31-man squad to the limit, and there have been discussion about hooker Fraser Brown potentially stepping in to the back row to help out.

Brown has already done so this tournament when he came off the bench in their opener against Ireland and has even started a summer Test there against Argentina.

But Blair is confident his side can cope.

The assistant coach said: “It’s a challenge. Russia first up is what the focus is on, but at the same time we are aware we’ve got that four-day turnaround (before the game against Japan) straight after.

“How we look after the players, the volume of training we do, the direction in which we take training, what we focus on, is going to be really important.

“It should be seamless for the players. We don’t want to add undue stress on to them in that period when they are going to have to recover quickly.

“Some guys will have to back up because of the numbers in the squad, the make-up of the squad we’ve got. So looking after them, preparing them to be able to perform from a physical point of view is going to be really important.

“These are guys who are able to back up games. It’s not the ideal situation and there are potentially other positions it might have to happen in as well, but we are really confident in the ability of these guys to back up.”

Victory over USA puts France one step closer to the knockout stages in Pool C.

And as a result, Jacques Brunel has pulled the trigger early and named his starting XV to take on Tonga on Sunday.

The short turnaround means he has made 11 changes from the team which played the United States, retaining only Camille Chat, Paul Gabrillagues, Sofiane Gitoune and Alivereti Raka.

Maxime Medard is the only France survivor from the 19-14 defeat by Tonga at Rugby World Cup 2011. Medard played at full-back that day and will play at 15 again on Sunday.

But there is little chance of Brunel, who will announce his bench on Friday, underestimating the Pacific Islanders.

“The next match is against Tonga, not England, and Tonga gave England some difficulty. Tonga showed a lot of quality so we cannot look ahead to England.”