Scotland burst Japan’s bubble at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday, while Australia began their campaign with a hard-fought win over Fiji and a workmanlike France made it two wins out of two by seeing off Romania.
Japan had leapfrogged Scotland in the world rankings on the back of Saturday last week’s stunning slaying of twice winners South Africa, but, with just a four-day turnaround from their opening game, ran out of gas in Gloucester as the Scots won 45-10 in Pool B.
Australia overcame Fiji 28-13 in Pool A, but could not claim a fourth-try bonus point as England had done against the Pacific Islanders in the tournament opener. France saw off Romania 38-11 in Pool D at London’s Olympic stadium.
A reminder that the dark arts are still practiced on the pitch came when Argentine lock Mariano Galarza was given a nine-week ban after being found guilty of eye gouging during his team’s defeat against New Zealand.
Japan could not sustain their high-energy game that they used to such great effect against South Africa as a vibrant second-half display from Scotland produced five tries, including two for center Mark Bennett.
“There was no lack of focus, we just didn’t execute well,” Japan coach Eddie Jones said.
Refusing to acknowledge fatigue may have played a part against a fresh Scotland team, he added: “We are a fit team and I thought we did well and kept on running. We just weren’t good enough.”
Australia have had to watch while their rivals for Pool A supremacy, England and Wales, flexed their muscles and the Wallabies were somewhat rusty after their long wait in Cardiff.
No. 8 David Pocock claimed two first-half tries from rolling mauls to lay the platform for thetwo-time world champions and a try by prop Sekope Kepu soon after the break set them on course for a comfortable, if not overly convincing, win.
“I know the boys have been waiting to play for a long time and the level of physicality and work was really positive for us,” coach Michael Cheika said.
Winger Sofiane Guitoune scored two of much-changed France’s five tries against Romania, but it was more workmanlike than convincing from Philippe Saint-Andre’s men, who were given a halftime rocket by the less than impressed coach.
Pumas forward Galarza is to miss the rest of the tournament after he was found guilty of making “contact with the eye or eye area” of All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick during their Pool C defeat at Wembley on Sunday.
Galarza denied the act of foul play, but his absence leaves the Pumas with only three recognized locks, one of whom is injured, as they prepare to tackle Georgia today.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has come in for huge criticism since the Japan defeat, but he came out fighting on Wednesday.
“I’ve been knocked down a few times in my life, but mostly come back, so I still believe we can do it,” Meyer told reporters after making eight changes for their second Pool B game against Samoa at Villa Park tomorrow.
The casualties included veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis, fullback Zane Kirchner, center Jesse Kriel and the halfback pairing of Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie.
Holders and tournament favorites New Zealand were to field a second-string side against Namibia, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, in the sole match yesterday.
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