Take Six: Scots show mettle and captain Louis leads Les Bleus

Scotland downed Samoa on Monday in Kobe in impressive fashion to keep their knockout hopes alive.

Scotland downed Samoa on Monday in Kobe in impressive fashion to keep their knockout hopes alive.

France named a much-changed team to face the USA with Louis Picamoles set to skipper, Ireland and CJ Stander seek a response and so much more.

Here’s everything you missed on a magic Monday at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Scotland had to wait a long time to produce a response.

Nearly ten days after their opening loss to Ireland in Yokohama, they finally got back out on the field on Monday against Samoa.

Anything short of a bonus-point win would have been disastrous, but Jonny Gray was not going to let that happen.

Gray produced a man of the match showing as Samoa were held pointless for the first time in their World Cup history.

And the Scotland lock admitted the side were motivated largely by the nature of the Ireland defeat two weekends ago.

“It’s been a tough week for us. We let a lot of people down last week and I just want to thank the Scottish fans that came out here and for all the people back home watching,” he said.

“I watched Japan-Ireland and it shows how special this tournament is – anyone can beat anyone. But we got the result today and we’ve got a lot of work to do for Russia.

“We had to get a reaction this week. Training’s been tough and rightly so – we had an honest conversation.””That was a tough game, very physical. Samoa made it very hard for us. We’re just delighted with the result, now we’ll move on.”

Louis Picamoles will lead France for the first time as they take on the USA, with Jacques Brunel making 12 changes from the team that beat Argentina.

Les Bleus face a daunting run of three matches in ten days, leaving Brunel with a challenge to keep his players fresh.

On Wednesday in Fukuoka, Picamoles will lead his country for the very first time, after being named in a back row alongside Yacouba Camara and Arthur Iturria.

Iturria switches from the second row, and is one of three players to start a second successive match, along with centre Gaël Fickou and winger Yoann Huget.

Elsewhere Cyril Baille, Camille Chat and Emerick Setiano make up a youthful front row, while Paul Gabrillagues and Bernard le Roux join forces in the second row.

Maxime Machenaud and Camille Lopez will offer a steady half-back pairing with Sofiane Guitoune named alongside Fickou in the centres.

Finally Thomas Ramos and Alivereti Raka join Huget in the back three, with usual captain Guilhem Guirado among the replacements.

And Brunel explained that the decision to hand Picamoles the captaincy was a natural one.

He said: “He was the one who made sense with the most experience in the squad. He offers us assurances in a position he knows well. In the life of the squad, but also in terms of building and thinking about the game plan, since the start of the preparation he has shown a huge investment.

“It’s a side of him that I did not really know. It’s surprising and positive.”

Ireland need to become more consistent if they are to bounce back from their defeat to Japan and reverse their fortunes at the World Cup.

The host nation overcame the 2018 Grand Slam champions in impressive fashion in Shizuoka, overcoming an early 12-3 deficit to run out 19-12 victors.

Ireland have had a couple of days to recover from the loss and turn their attentions to producing a response against Russia on Thursday, with No.8 CJ Stander admitting their lack of consistency is a problem they have to solve.

He said: “We had a look yesterday and a bit today. We started well, went two tries up, we had a few opportunities in the first-half, less the second half when they just took it away from us.

“There’s a few places we can fix up – just look after the ball a bit more and use opportunities. Japan played well, put us under pressure and kept building on that pressure during the game, especially coming into the second half.

“It’s just in a few games that we’ve missed the consistency we want from ourselves. We drive ourselves by high standards in what we do on the pitch, so we just need to be consistent in our process and what we do.

“If we can just build on the moments we have and use opportunities then we can get points on the board. Sometimes if you lose those moments against a team like Japan, then you’re going to get let down.”

Aaron Shingler has spent the majority of his career plying his trade in the back row, but if it means he features in a first-choice Wales 23, the experienced Scarlet is more than happy to fill in at lock.

The experienced Shingler only just made it back in time to crack the squad, having spent last season on the sidelines through injury.

However with Wales hit by a number of absences in the second row, notably Cory Hill, who has been ruled out of the tournament, and Adam Beard, who is recovering from having his appendix removed, Shingler has been called on as emergency lock cover.

And while his favoured position remains in the back row, Shingler is more than happy to do a job a little further forward, as he did in the closing stages to help Wales hold off Australia in a thrilling 29-25 win in Tokyo.

He explained: “It was very unexpected (to be cover second row). I’m very happy though to be involved. Coming over here it is great to be involved in the 23 and I’ll play any position I can.

“I don’t know (whether he will start one of the next two games), we will have to see how people are pulling up after games.

“I’m comfortable in that position. I’m more comfortable playing in the back row, but if I have to play in the second row I’ll be more than happy to do it.

“The boys that started are a bit battered and bruised, but we came on and helped get the result in the end so we are not too bad. There was great excitement in the group after we got the win.”

Wales now have a bit of respite before taking on Fiji in Oita on October 9, with Uruguay their last pool game in Kumamoto four days later.

England have a full 31-man squad to pick from for this Saturday’s clash with Argentina.

That means Jack Nowell and Mako Vunipola are back in contention, as is Henry Slade.

The England centre was a star for the Red Rose during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations but his summer preparations were ruined by a knee injury that he tweaked again coming off the bench against Tonga in their tournament opener.

But the Exeter Chief is back firing fit, and determined to make the most of his chance after spending much of the 2015 World Cup on the sidelines as well.

“I was a little bit worried when I was hurt in that (Tonga) game having just come back from injury but it was only a little knock and I am training this week so we are good.

“It has been frustrating missing the two pool games and also the warm-up matches. I did get to do the pre-season before that and so don’t feel as if I have missed too much fitness wise.

“I have had time while being out to get rid of a couple of other niggles and feel good now. It is now exciting to get back into it with the boys and seeing if I can add to that.”

But with Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph all in contention for midfield spots, Slade is under no illusions about how hard it will be.

He added: “It is mixed all the time and we never really know that starting line-up until later in the week and we get the chance to try out different options.

“Everyone has different attributes and if you don’t get picked at the end of the day then it is not because you are a bad player, the coaches just want to go with a certain thing that week and you just have to take it.”

Italy’s first two World Cup fixtures against Namibia and Canada went to plan with bonus-point wins in each.

But on Friday they face their biggest test yet, against the mighty Springboks in Pool B.

The Azzurri did beat the Boks back in the autumn of 2016, but scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani is only too aware of how tough it will be this time around.

“We now have a chance against South Africa and New Zealand. We have achieved our first objective from the first two matches which was to claim maximum points. Clearly, we will now give our all against South Africa,” he said.

“I would say that it is a chance and I we will do everything we can to hit our target.

“We have had the chance to grow through the tournament. If we had to play our first match against South Africa things may have gone differently.”