Rugby World Cup Daily: Tears and jubilation! Incredible scenes close out Pool play

These daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the World Cup as well as betting lines, what to watch for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from France.

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THE LEAD: Epic Os Lobos provide the upset the tournament deserved

Bonkers. Just utterly bonkers.

Say what you want about the pool stage of Rugby World Cup 2023, but the tournament’s organisers deserve some measure of praise for scheduling Fiji’s clash with Portugal as the closing fixture of the group stage.

For what rugby fans were served up in Toulouse on Sunday night was drama of the highest order as the quarterfinal fate of the Pacific Islanders and Australia hung in the balance throughout the 80 minutes.

How could this Fiji team, the same one that completely dominated Australia three weeks ago, possibly have even the slightest bit of trouble picking up the solitary bonus point they needed to secure second spot in Pool C and a date with England next weekend?

Right from the outset, however, it was clear that this Fiji was more like the team that stumbled and bumbled its way past Georgia last week, prolonging Australian hopes that a Rugby World Cup miracle might still be possible.

One can only imagine the emotional roller coaster the Wallabies will have ridden then at their Saint-Galmier base, cheering on Os Lobos as they turned an early 3-0 deficit into a 10-3 and then a 17-10 lead; if that wasn’t enough, there was even the interference of a spider cam for the second time in two days.

This game truly did have it all!

But just when it looked like Fiji might be to implode completely, Mesake Doge’s try in the 69th minute steadied their course, before two Frank Lomani penalties killed off any hope the Wallabies had of advancing to the quarterfinals — but it did not kill off Portugal.

With three minutes remaining, wingers Rodrigo Marta and Raffaele Storti combined down the short-side, the former taking a pass back inside from his fellow outside back to run away and score 15 in from the right touchline. When No. 9 Samuel Marques calmly slotted the conversion, Portugal had under a minute of the clock to kill. And kill it they did, sparking joyous scenes from the field, to the coaching box and right across the stands.

After last week’s limp showing against Georgia, this was another giant step backwards for Fiji. A losing bonus point was good enough to see them through to the knockout phase, but they will need to lift considerably if they are to upset England next weekend.

Steve Borthwick’s side have been anything but brilliant themselves so far this tournament, and even before that when they were beaten at Twickenham by the islanders, but they will feel that the Fiji team that played the first 60 minutes in Toulouse will go a long way to beating itself.

Fiji have seven days to rediscover the defence, breakdown dominance and set-piece proficiency that was the hallmark of their win over Australia last month. Find it, and a maiden World Cup semifinal beckons. But another performance like the one they produced in Toulouse will see a golden opportunity squandered.

Portugal, meanwhile, are a team on the up. They have got better with each game in France and are a testament to the need for Tier 2 teams to be given more top-level rugby in between World Cups. The last nation to qualify for the tournament, they belied their 16th ranking by knocking off a team eight places above them.

The onus is on World Rugby to make it, though the planned Nations Championship from 2026 will seemingly be blocking Os Lobos’ progression.

– Sam Bruce


Ireland could dominate the game for ‘five to 10 years’

The plaudits continue to come for Ireland after their superb performance against Scotland in Paris on Saturday, a match they had wrapped up by half-time before going on to win 36-14.

The atmosphere at the Stade de France was just as good, if not better, than Ireland’s performance, with a travelling fanbase reported to be around 50,000 people engulfing the French capital in the build-up to kick-off, and then singing and cheering their lungs out, all capped off with a spine-tingling rendition of The Cranberries’ “Zombie.”

Up against the Irish defence — and what must have felt like a Dublin crowd — Scotland never stood a chance; their opening foray into Ireland’s 22 a sign of things to come in the first half as the green wall in front of them never yielded.

Asked post match where things had gone wrong for his side, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend had nothing but praise for Ireland and their wider pathway system. It is a position Scotland themselves would like to get to, but with a far smaller player base it may never be possible.

All Townsend, who is contracted with the Scottish Rugby Union until April 2026, can do is gaze across the Irish Sea with envy and hope that Scotland can maintain what is a credible recent record and their No. 5 world ranking despite what is a worrying lack of talent coming through the country’s junior and Under 20 teams.

Ireland, Townsend says, have their pathways together from top to bottom, and while the pressure will swell even further next weekend — the Emerald Isle has never been past the quarters of a Rugby World Cup — the Scotland coach doesn’t see them slipping far from their current lofty perch.

“At a young level that is right [there is not much talent coming through]. But I would say this World Cup has shown we have really good depth in the top 30. We’ve got 33 players here and we made 12 changes between our last two games. The players in this group have shown that they are test quality but we need to get more players through.

“The way Irish rugby is set up they could dominate world rugby for the next five, 10 years. They’re the number one team in the world and they have a pro rugby system that is very strong and they’ve got an age-group system that is very strong.

“We’ve got to do better. This group of players has got to fifth in the world, which is the best we’ve been in terms of the Scotland national team, but we know we have to make sure that that continues not for the next couple of years but for the next 10 years.”

When asked about Townsend’s comments that Ireland could dominate the game for a decade and how the team managed such expectation, Ireland coach Andy Farrell was philosophical.

Farrell knows that a mighty challenge awaits Ireland back at Stade de France next weekend and all his team can do beforehand is find the next stage of micro improvements, both within the playing group and across his coaching staff.

“We don’t learn, we just go from day to day and have a realisation of where we’re at and being honest with our feedback and how we treat each other and how we strive to try and improve each other on a daily basis,” Farrell said.

“And I know that sounds cliched or a little bit boring but it’s [right]. We’ll analyse this game and, yes, it was a good performance, but there was plenty within that that we’ll learn [from] and be honest with, and the lads will be the first people that will come up with what we need to get better at.

“There’s no magic formula, it’s just an appetite to be honest and do the right thing by the group. And what they are getting much better is grabbing hold of what that is and what that looks like and what that feels like, and owning it during the week. And when you’re owning things together as a coaching staff and as a playing group, it becomes pretty powerful.”

Sam Bruce

Pumas singing to the tune of hat trick hero Carreras

Argentina booked their quarterfinal place, and made up for their pool stage exit four years ago, by outlasting Japan in an eight-try thriller in Nantes on Sunday afternoon.

In a game that was very much tit for tat, the Pumas always had their noses slightly in front after the match was locked at 7-7 after the first quarter. While the Brave Blossoms closed to within two points at two separate junctures in the second half, Argentina were always able to find the response to widen the gap once more.

At the centre of their attacking play was winger Mateo Carreras, the pint-sized flyer who cut back in off his flank on a number of occasions and later finished the match with a hat trick of tries. As well as a trio of five-pointers, Carreras made eight runs for 72 metres, with two clean breaks and eight beaten defenders.

“We came here for the quarterfinal,” Carreras, who was man of the match, said. “We spoke before the World Cup that we worked a lot to come here and qualify for the quarterfinal. We are really happy to do that and now we need to keep working and enjoying it.”

Despite their progression to the knockout phase of the tournament, there was some bad news for the Pumas from Sunday’s match, with star flanker Pablo Matera suffering a hamstring injury.

Argentina coach Michael Cheika said post match that he expected Matera’s tournament would now be over, which would be a huge blow to a Pumas team that will need to be very near its best if they are to defeat an in-form Wales next weekend.

Sam Bruce

Can Wales cover the loss of Faletau?

MARSEILLE — As Wales prepare for their World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina in Marseille on Sunday, the build-up will be dominated by minute-by-minute monitoring of Gareth Anscombe and Liam Williams’ fitness, but also the burning question of how exactly do they cover the absence of Taulupe Faletau?

Faletau is irreplaceable, but Wales will have to find a way forward without their No.8 after he broke his arm in their win over Georgia. Jonathan Humphreys, the Wales forwards coach, describes Faletau as a “true world-class player” and a “big loss”. Humphreys has been at the coal face of rugby for the best part of 34 years, both as a formidable hooker and now coach, and doesn’t drop platitudes loosely. So if he describes someone as “world-class”, you listen.

They ended up drafting in Kieran Hardy as Faletau’s replacement, but it’s hardly like-for-like. Hardy will provide extra scrum-half cover as Warren Gatland only picked two in his original squad. That means Faletau’s on-field replacement will come from within their original squad.

“We’ve got a couple of scenarios,” Humphreys said. “Dan Lydiate hasn’t played a whole lot of rugby so he’s an option. Jac [Morgan] and Tommy [Reffell] in the back-row are other options. Then there’s Christ [Tshiunza] who is down as a second-row but also covers six. I think Aaron [Wainwright] has been exceptional and I and he knows there’s more in him. We have quite a few options there.

“Taine [Basham] has been a big player for us off the bench. He’s had some big impacts, so we’re blessed with the options that we have but it still doesn’t detract from fact that Toby has been a massive player for us. Whoever steps in I’m sure will step up to the plate.”

Tom Hamilton

Care’s commitment to England unwavering despite ups and downs

MARSEILLE — When Danny Care made his Test debut back in 2008, two of his England coaches were teammates: Richard Wigglesworth was at scrum-half, Steve Borthwick was captain. It was June 14, 2008 and England lost 37-20 to the All Blacks at Eden Park. Of the two sets of 22 players named that day, Care is the last man standing still playing the sport. It’s a lesson in endurance, but testament to his durability he’s still a game-changer in the Rugby World Cup aged 36.

He’s already lived a couple of England lives. He had a four-year gap between caps in 2018 and 2022. It looked for a while like a win over Japan in the 2018 autumn Tests was going to be his final act in the red rose shirt, meaning his only World Cup match was against Uruguay in 2015, a match played by the time England had already been knocked out of their own tournament. But his form forced Eddie Jones’ hand and he was recalled ahead of the 2022 Australia series and a year on, he was England’s hero as his try and last-gasp tackle on Neria Fomai secured a 18-17 win over Samoa on Saturday in Lille.

“Kev [Sinfield, defence coach] always says defence shows your attitude and how much you care for the team,” Care said. “When you come off the bench you have got to help out where you can.”

Talking about that try-saving tackle in the last play of the match, Care said: “When people make breaks, you have got to do your best to get back and do your best to stop them. It is all a bit of a blur, to be honest. I just remember running back and thinking ‘I’ve got to make this’, especially after I’ve done an Alan Shearer celebration after scoring a try. You can’t not make that tackle but I’m pleased I could just help the team.”

But underneath the immediate relief (and satisfaction) at having helped England through, there was a deep appreciation for what he was achieving in still being such a key protagonist for his country, especially after he had previously had to start admitting to himself that perhaps his Test days were done. “It was one of those moments I didn’t think I would get again,” Care said. “I missed playing for England but scoring a try and making big plays for your country, that is why we are all here. That is what we want to do. From being a little boy, that has been the dream and I’m still here now, trying to do it.”

Tom Hamilton


Argentina edge Japan in Nantes thriller to reach last eight

Wing Mateo Carreras scored three tries as Argentina beat Japan 39-27 on Sunday to reach the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals where they will face Wales.

Full story

Foster puts heat on Ireland to kick off quarterfinal week

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has laid down the gauntlet for Ireland ahead of next weekend’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinal, declaring this is “probably” the country’s moment to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Full story

Seven-try Tonga bow out with World Cup win over Romania

Winger Solomone Kata scored two tries as Tonga gave long-serving coach Toutai Kefu a winning send-off with a seven-try 45-24 victory over Romania in their final World Cup Pool B fixture on Sunday.

Kefu announced this week he will end his seven-year stay at the helm after the tournament and while they were not quite at their best, Tonga had too much power and speed as Afusipa Taumoepeau, George Moala, Sione Vailanu, Pita Ahki and Kyren Taumoefolau also crossed for tries.

Romania, who trailed 21-17 at halftime, have conceded the most points of any team in France with 287 in four games and lacked defensive cohesion throughout, but they found attacking impetus as Cristi Boboc, Florin Surugiu and Marius Simionescu claimed tries.

Both teams will have to qualify for the 2027 World Cup in Australia as Tonga finished fourth in the pool with five points, while Romania end on zero having also registered an unwanted team record with 43 tries conceded, the most they have shipped at a single tournament.




Saturday, Oct. 14

Quarterfinal 1: Wales vs. Argentina – (Stade de Marseille, Marseille; 5p.m. local / 2a.m. AEDT / 4p.m. UK)

Quarterfinal 2: Ireland vs. New Zealand – (Stade de France Saint-Denis; 9p.m. local / 6a.m. AEDT / 8p.m. UK)

Sunday, Oct. 15

Quarterfinal 3: England vs. Fiji – (Stade de Marseille, Marseille; 5 p.m. local / 2a.m. AEDT / 4p.m. UK)

Quarterfinal 4: France vs. South Africa – (Stade de France, Saint-Denis; 9 p.m. local / 6 a.m. AEDT / 8p.m. UK)


Friday, Oct.20

Semifinal 1: Winner quarterfinal 1 vs. Winner quarterfinal 2 – (Stade de France, Saint-Denis; 9p.m. local / 6 a.m. AEDT / 8 p.m. UK)

Saturday, Oct. 21

Semifinal 2: Winner quarterfinal 3 vs. Winner quarterfinal 4 – (Stade de France, Saint-Denis; 9p.m. local / 6 a.m. AEDT / 8p.m. UK)

Third place

Friday, Oct. 27

Runner-up semifinal 1 vs. Runner-up semifinal 2 – (Stade de France, Saint-Denis; 9p.m. local / 6a.m. AEDT / 8p.m. UK)


Saturday, Oct. 28

Winner semifinal 1 vs. Winner semifinal 2 – (Stade de France, Saint-Denis; 9p.m. local / 6 a.m. AEDT/ 8p.m. UK)