Take Six: Wales dig deep, Sexton and Scots ready for do or die

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After yet another thriller against Australia, Warren Gatland’s Wales are now in charge of their own destiny and red-hot favourites to top Pool D.

After yet another thriller against Australia, Warren Gatland’s Wales are now in charge of their own destiny and red-hot favourites to top Pool D.

The Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam champions had to hold on at the death, while the reverberations of that Japan win over Ireland on Saturday are still being felt.

Meanwhile, France called up a new face and Scotland are fighting for their lives, here’s everything you might have missed on Sunday.

Wales raced into an early lead against the Wallabies in an absolute slug-fest in Chofu on Sunday night.

But it was the bench boys who helped them get over the line in the end and repel the inevitable Australian fightback.

Rhys Patchell stepped in for Dan Biggar when the fly-half went off in the first half with an HIA and Wales did not miss a beat.

Owen Watkin’s second-half rip on the seemingly unstoppable Samu Kerevi turned momentum while the likes of Dillon Lewis and Nicky Smith did a fine job of shoring up the scrum.

Injuries wreaked havoc with Wales’ World Cup four years ago, and there has been a concerted effort to build depth this time around – and here it paid off in some style.

Gatland said: “You are looking at some of the players, looking at their body language, when are they starting to hurt a bit? They have given so much physically.

“Some players you want to change quite early. Front rowers, and other players.

“You spend a bit of time making that decision because of their experience.

“You are just trying to get a feel for when is the right time to bring fresh legs on and for them to come on and have an impact.

“There is no magic formula, there is a little bit of luck sometimes as well.

“Patchell controlled the game pretty well, in terms of bossing them about we would like a bit more. But it was a big match for him to come on early and he will have got a lot of confidence from that.”

Johnny Sexton had to watch from the sidelines on Saturday as Ireland came unstuck in Shizuoka.

The defeat was tough to take, but with the fly-half back in contention for Thursday’s clash with Russia, Joe Schmidt’s side are still standing in Pool A.

And Sexton insists his side will come out swinging now to secure a quarter-final spot.

“There’s lots of little things that we don’t normally do that we did yesterday. We’ve got to figure out what happened and I suppose the only blessing in disguise is that, in the last two World Cups that I’ve been involved in, we’ve not cruised through the group but we’ve had everything go our way in the pool stages, and then we’ve had the day that we had yesterday – in a quarter-final.

“We’d be going home today (if Saturday was a knock-out match).

“The great thing now is that we’ve got the rest of the pool to get things together. If we can win the last two games and score a number of tries we can definitely qualify for the quarter-final.

“If that’s in first or second place, that’s out of our control, so we won’t worry about that – that’s done now. So it’s up to us now to put in two big performances and hopefully put ourselves into a quarter-final. We know if we do that, then we’ve got a chance.”

Elsewhere, Ireland also confirmed that Jordi Murphy will replace Jack Conan in the squad after the latter’s foot injury ended his tournament pre-matrurely.

Robbie Henshaw is progressing well and could be in contention for Thursday, but forwards coach Simon Easterby confirmed Chris Farrell will miss out with a head injury, although Rob Kearney and Tadhg Furlong could be fit in time.

It’s hard to know if Japan’s famous win over Ireland helps or harms Scotland’s chances of making the knockout rounds.

But the fact remains the same, they have to win against Samoa on Monday in Kobe – ideally with a  bonus point.

And skipper Stuart McInally insists his side cannot get too caught up in the calculations just yet.

The final clash against Japan in Yokohama next month looms large, but Samoa is the first order of business.

He said: “We watched the Japan game and we have done the numbers. We know what that means for us.

“We just have to go and win the game, first and foremost. In my experience if you start chasing anything else before the game starts, you can get into a bit of trouble.

“If we are in a position to go for the bonus point with 20 minutes to go, then of course we are going to try for it. But we just have to focus on beating Samoa.

“They are a good side, they put a lot of points on Russia (winning 34-9) and didn’t concede a try. We are very aware of their threat. If Japan can beat Ireland, then anybody can beat anybody, can’t they?”

There will also be a family reunion in the clash when Sean Maitland faces his cousin Pele Cowley, the back up scrum-half for Samoa.

“We grew up together so it’s pretty crazy where rugby sort of brings you. He got injured at the last World Cup but a few weeks later we played (them in their final pool game) at Newcastle. That was a cool game to be a part of, and tomorrow night will be similar. It’s special. Hopefully he gets on and I can get a knock on him.”

France have called up Cedate Gomes Sa to replace the injured Demba Bamba.

The Racing 92 prop has not appeared for France in almost a year after making his debut in the 2018 Championship.

And skipper Guilhem Guirado was sad to see young prop Bamba head home. “Demba’s departure is one more wrench after losing Wesley Fofana, too. This kind of situation is always difficult for a squad, especially when you’ve been working together for almost three months. It always hurts even though you know it can happen and things happen fast in a competition like this.”

Yoann Huget added: “He’s an important player in the group. He’s shy but he brings a lot with his attitude, his youth, and his energy.”

Les Bleus are building towards their second game of the tournament on Wednesday against the USA.

And despite the Americans’ heavy defeat to England in their opener, France centre Gael Fickou is expecting a serious battle.

“Our motivation is very strong. We want to win every match. After all, there are as many points at stake as in the match against Argentina. That’s how we have to view it. We need these points to reach the quarter-finals. Each point will be important, every try will be important, every action will be important.

“Of course, playing Argentina or Australia holds a different kind of motivation. But we’re very motivated against the USA, I can assure you. We’re playing in a World Cup – every game is crucial.”

Italy are sitting pretty in Pool B, two from two after bonus point wins over Namibia and Canada.

But the big tests arrive next, first against South Africa and then against New Zealand.

And Tommaso Allan is eagerly anticipating the clash with the Springboks in particular after the fly-half came through the Western Province Academy.

Boks skipper Siya Kolisi and star man Cheslin Kobe were two of his contemporaries and Allan is excited to get reacquainted.

“He (Kolisi) is an inspiration for South Africa. Where he came from and where he is now, he can inspire the whole country,” he said.

“To know you don’t have to come from a rich family to become something is inspiration for South Africa as a whole country and he is a great leader for them.

“Kolbe is an incredible player. I remember him from under-19s. You’d give him the ball and he’d create something. It was that easy and he’s doing the same at the professional level.

“He’s showing you don’t have to be the biggest player to play rugby. You can be a small player but use your skills to overcome bigger opponents.”

Steve Borthwick and England, after two days off in Kobe, were reflecting on Japan’s magnificent victory.

Borthwick was Japan’s forwards coach four years ago when they shocked the world in Brighton.

And four years on, he insists that their victory over Ireland – who began the tournament as the world’s No.1 side – cannot be classed as a surprise anymore.

“It is really important for Japan to effectively back up 2015 and their coaching team has done a great job building that team over the four years. They played really well,” he said.

“Team belief and expectation of winning was something that was built on before 2015 and to go out that way yesterday was great. It is good for the World Cup to see the home team do so well. What 2015 did was lift rugby within Japan and I am sure this game will be another step forward.

“They have very good coaches in Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown and the team played with tenacity and it was very impressive. They have speed and talent we know that. You have seen the results they have had in the last few years and they have jumped up to their highest ranking. We played them in November and we saw how good they are. They are smart and well coached.”