Take Six: Scotland and Wales name their teams

There was no rugby in Japan on Monday but preparations are building apace ahead of a crucial few days in the race for the quarter-finals.

There was no rugby in Japan on Monday but preparations are building apace ahead of a crucial few days in the race for the quarter-finals.

Scotland and Wales named their teams, while there were injury updates for a pair of back-rowers.

Darcy Graham is the only player to keep his place for Scotland from the side that beat Samoa last time out.

Gregor Townsend has made 14 changes to his team, with Scotland facing the challenge of two matches in four days, starting against Russia on Wednesday before taking on hosts Japan on Sunday.

John Barclay returns to captain the team, joined in the back row by Ryan Wilson and Fraser Brown, who is usually a hooker.

George Horne and Adam Hastings take on the half-back duties, while Graham starts in the back three alongside Blair Kinghorn, in his first World Cup appearance, and Tommy Seymour.

Scotland must win to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals, preferably with a bonus point, and Townsend insists the five points against Russia were the first priority when naming the side.

He said: “First and foremost we’ve picked a team we believe is capable of defeating an increasingly impressive and combative Russia side, who are looking to finish their pool campaign on a high.

“A number of our players are getting their first start or Test in this tournament and have been itching to play their part in this World Cup, by helping the team deliver a winning performance on Wednesday.”

Wales can book their place in the quarter-finals with a win against Fiji on Wednesday, and Warren Gatland has named a strong team for the encounter in Oita.

There are just two changes from the side that saw off Australia in Tokyo, with Ross Moriarty and James Davies named in the back row in place of Justin Tipuric and Aaron Wainwright.

Moriarty will start at No.8, with Josh Navidi shifting to the blindside, while Wainwright is named on the bench.

Elsewhere Dan Biggar has come through to take his place, having gone off in the first half of the win over the Wallabies, while Rhys Carre is set for his World Cup debut after being named on the bench.

Both changes were tactical by Gatland, who is keen to get a closer look at his options in the back row ahead of a potential quarter-final.

He said: “We’re still thinking about the bigger picture in terms of hopefully later in the tournament.

“A couple of players get an opportunity. Ross Moriarty coming back is hungry and James Davies as well at seven.

“We’ve been really happy with Justin Tipuric’s form but it just gives us an opportunity to look at someone else. If for some reason he picks up some sort of injury, it shows us whether James can fit into that spot or someone like Josh Navidi can play at seven as well.”

James Davies’ reaction to Warren Gatland giving him a start against Fiji was to have a joke at his coach’s expense.

Gatland revealed that the younger Davies brother had enjoyed a little jab at the coach for finally giving him an opportunity.

He said: “When I said to James and congratulated him, he said, ‘You’ve finally seen the light have you?’

“I loved that, I thought it was brilliant. What a great response. I love a bit banter like that and I have no problem with comments like that.

“It says to me players believe in their own ability. They’re in the squad and they think they’re good enough to be in the starting side. I thought it was a really good response.”

It will be James Davies’ first appearance of the tournament, with older brother Jonathan having started both wins so far.

The pair’s parents will be in attendance at the game in Oita, as James explained.

He said: “They’d booked a while ago expecting Jon to be picked and they’ve ended up with two for the price of one now that I managed to make the squad.

“It’s a big trip for them and I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to the game.”

England became the first team to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Saturday, but the one cloud from the match was the fitness of Billy Vunipola.

The No.8 had a scan on his left ankle after picking up a knock in the win over Argentina and will now need further assessment to judge his fitness.

Scrum coach Neal Hatley said: “He has had a scan. We will have a clearer picture tomorrow (Tuesday). He is being assessed and that will go on throughout the day and we will see how he pulls up.

“We assessed him after the game, gave him 24 hours to see where that got him so he has another 24 hours and then we will make a firm diagnosis. He is walking around with a smile on his face. We will know a lot more on Tuesday.”

While England seem confident that Vunipola will be good to go on Saturday against France, Hatley insists they have alternative options available if required.

He added: “We plan for all eventualities. We have Ellis Genge, Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Kyle Sinckler, people pick up the slack when Mako (Vunipola) and Billy (Vunipola) don’t play.

“We have played a lot of rugby without them. Billy is an important figure for us, but other people pick up the slack.”

Jordi Murphy’s World Cup experience has been a rollercoaster so far.

Called up in place of the injured Jack Conan, Murphy started the 35-0 win over Russia but was forced off early on with a rib injury.

There was a fear that he might have to follow Conan back home, but the decision has been taken to keep him in Japan to rehab the injury.

The Ulster No.8 is hoping to get back into training on Thursday, with Ireland playing their final game of the pool stages on Saturday against Samoa, knowing a win will take them into the quarter-finals.

Murphy said: “It has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I was prepared to play the Ospreys (for Ulster) and then I got a call from (Ulster coach) Dan McFarland saying I was going to be pulled as a precaution. A couple of hours later I was flying over here.

“It’s been an up and down week or so, but I was delighted to be able to play last week. It was a bit short-lived but the damage isn’t too bad so I’m hopeful I’ll get another opportunity at some stage.

“I didn’t think my World Cup was over, I was just incredibly disappointed. I tried to play on but I knew I wasn’t adding anything to the team and it’s not the kind of place you want to be. You don’t want to feel like you’re not keeping up with everyone else. Unfortunately that was the case at the time.

“I didn’t really know what the final diagnosis was going to be, but it’s been positive so far. I’m just building into this week and hoping I’ll train fully on Thursday.”

Ireland are also waiting on news of whether Saturday’s clash in Fukuoka could be hit by a typhoon.

World Rugby are monitoring typhoon Hagibis with defence coach Andy Farrell saying they had been in touch about potential contingency plans to ensure the game goes ahead.

Italy saw their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time all but ended by South Africa last Friday, but Sebastian Negri insists they will not let that affect them ahead of facing the All Blacks.

The Azzurri would likely need a bonus-point success against the world champions to earn a place in the last eight.

But for Negri, who came off the bench in the defeat to the Springboks, the chance to take on the world’s number one team is something Italy have to seize.

He said: “Any chance to play the best team in the world, you’ve got to look forward to that.

“It’s another tough team, but the message has been the World Cup isn’t over. It’s our next challenge, not our last game. We’re really looking forward to it.

“It has been a tough couple of days. The boys are hurting and there has been a lot of disappointment, but we need to dust ourselves off quickly and move on.

“At the moment there hasn’t been any talk of goal-setting. We’ll relish the opportunity of playing the best team in the world and try and put in a good performance for ourselves and the fans back home.”