World Cup snippets: All the drama‚ skill and tension
France’s centre Wesley Fofana is out of the tournament, while Bok tighthead Trevor Nyakane might suffer the same fate
The first weekend of the Rugby World Cup has delivered drama‚ skill and tension. Here are a few of the stories from the past 48 hours.
• Fofana out of World Cup — France’s drama-filled 23-21 win over Argentina in their opening pool C encounter was offset with the news that centre Wesley Fofana is out of the tournament. The 31-year-old did not play in the match because of a thigh injury and after desperate attempts to be fit‚ the injury was not responding as hoped.
Pierre Louis Barassi will replace the 48 Test veteran‚ who was set to retire from Test rugby after the tournament.
• Nyakane in tears after hobbling off against All Blacks — Bok tighthead Trevor Nyakane’s RWC may be over if his body language is anything to go by after he hobbled off against the All Blacks. Nyakane suffered a calf muscle injury against Japan two weeks ago and despite being cleared to play against New Zealand in Yokohama‚ only lasted 19 minutes before being assisted from the field.
He was in tears on the sideline and coach Rassie Erasmus admitted the injury looks “fairly serious”.
• Cheika moans about officials (shock‚ horror) — It just would not be a Test involving Australia if coach Michael Cheika did not have something to whinge about despite his side’s 39-21 win over Fiji in Sapporo. The Wallaby coach moaned that officials were unfairly targeting main breakdown weapon David Pocock.
“I heard his [Pocock’s] name mentioned between them on the commentary at last half-a-dozen times in their own chat‚ when he hadn’t even been involved in a ruck. I’m not sure what the focus is on him‚” he said.
Cheika sidestepped the issue of a blatant shoulder charge by Reece Hodge on Fiji flank Peceli Yoto.
• Weather still an issue — Heat and humidity have been issues for teams in the week leading up to the start of the World Cup in Japan‚ but on the weekend the threat of a typhoon also created problems.
Two fan parks in Kumamoto and Fukuoka had to be closed on Saturday as typhoon Tapah approached the west of the country and headed for the northern island of Hokkaido.
The typhoon could bring high winds and heavy rain to the southern island of Kyushu on Sunday evening and on Monday, World Rugby said. “While no match disruption is anticipated at this stage‚ we have advised teams of potential disruption to training and team movements as a precautionary measure.”
• Surprising support for the Boks — In the days leading up to the clash against New Zealand‚ two of the world’s most prominent sportsmen came out in support of the Springboks.
Tennis star Novak Djokovic posted a video of himself offering his support to the Boks followed by NFL legend Tom Brady doing to same. Brady’s final punt of “Go Bokke” sounded more like he was saying the name of prop Lizo “Gqoboka”, but it was appreciated.
• US trash talk — US hooker James Hilterbrand is nothing if not confident before his side’s opener against England.
The fiery frontranker said: “Those guys don’t deserve to be on the field with us. That’s the way that we have to think about it. We’re not some subservient rugby nation that doesn’t deserve to be on the pitch and can’t win.”
Hilterbrand was not done‚ warning those listening that the US were now a properly professional unit.
“To go from what was a high school rugby paddock to the Olympic training centre in Colorado Springs is indicative of the level of professionalism that’s come to the game‚” he said. “US Rugby is no longer a sleeping giant; it’s woken up and it’s happening. I think it’s just going through breakfast at the moment.”
• Matsushima becomes first player of African descent to score at World Cup 2019 — Japan wing Kotaro Matsushima joined fellow African Lappies Labuschagne as try scorers for Japan in the opening match of the tournament against Russia.
Matsushima has a Zimbabwean mother and Japanese father and was enrolled at the Sharks Academy for a short stint. Labuschagne hails from Bloemfontein and played for the Cheetahs for four seasons before moving to Japan.
Matsushima scored a hat-trick against the Russians.