Dan Biggar is confident he is 100 per cent ready to return to action in Wales' Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France, according to Warren Gatland.

Biggar missed Wales' final Pool D match against Uruguay with concussion after suffering head knocks in consecutive matches against Australia and Fiji.

However, the Northampton Saints fly-half has been passed fit to start against France in Oita on Sunday.

It is a decision Gatland insisted has not taken lightly, but the Wales coach affirmed Biggar has no doubts over his fitness.

"We went through, made sure in terms of consulting the right people and making sure that they were aware of everything, getting him scanned, the independent consultant - that was important," said Gatland in a news conference.

"Dan's been fit for three or four days in terms of having passed those [concussion protocols], so we are taking all the proper precautions.

"But he's very confident that he's 100 per cent."

Gatland did, however, concede extra caution will have to be taken with Biggar should he sustain another head injury.

"He's desperate to play," Gatland added.

"We've just got to make sure if it does happen, if he gets a knock in the next few games, the next couple of months, obviously there would probably be a different course of action."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones has also been selected and will join Brian O'Driscoll in third on the all-time list for international Test appearances with his 141st cap.

"It's one chance to stay or you know where you are going," he said of Wales' ambitions for Sunday's clash.

"It's funny because the planning for this has probably been in Warren's head for the last 10 years rather than the last four years, two years, or 18 months.

"He is constantly building and what we have achieved or have not comes down to this moment."

Sevu Reece and George Bridge add a "fearless" edge to New Zealand's squad for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final tie with Ireland, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Reece and Bridge have both impressed so far for the two-time defending champions in Japan and have made the cut for Steve Hansen's XV against Ireland on Saturday as two of the world's best teams face off.

The duo's inclusion sees Rieko Ioane and the experienced Ben Smith miss out on Hansen's 23-man squad, but Foster believes the World Cup debutants can be key.

"There is a little bit of fearlessness about them," Foster told a news conference.

"Some of it is probably because they haven't been at a World Cup before, they probably don't what is at stake, in some sense.

"But they are really sensible young men. They train hard, they play hard. When you haven't got Ben and Rieko in the group, that is a tough decision, because they are two pretty special people in our group.

"We just felt that George and Sevu have done enough. There is a bit of spark there and we will run with that."

Ireland lost to hosts Japan in their second outing but comfortable victories over Scotland, Russia and Samoa saw them progress, as they recovered some form following doubts coming into the tournament.

Foster sees confidence and momentum as the deciding factors in this last-eight tie.

"I am pretty sure they will have some tricks up their sleeve, and we like to think we have got a couple up our sleeve," he added.

"That is the nature of preparing for a big Test match. But to be honest, games like this are often not about a special trick or surprise. It is about your confidence, how you deal with the pressure and how you keep executing your own game.

"It is one thing to know each other's game, it's another to execute it properly and to stop the other person doing it. That is what play-offs are about, it is about having that composure to trust yourself and really back yourself to keep doing what you do well."

Jamie Joseph has made just one change heading into Japan's first appearance in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final, as Ryohei Yamanaka returns to the fold.

Full-back Yamanaka switched with William Tupou throughout the pool stage, with the latter starting against Scotland as the hosts secured their place in a World Cup knockout stage for the first time.

However, Tupou suffered a head injury 51 minutes into the triumph over Gregor Townsend's side and does not feature in the 23 for Sunday's showdown with in-form South Africa.

Yamanaka replaced Tupou against Scotland and the 31-year-old will start in Tokyo, with the only other changes coming among the replacements.

Amanaki Lelei Mafi had not featured since going off against Ireland, but Joseph is able to welcome the number eight back into the squad.

Wimpie van der Walt and Lomano Lemeki have been recalled to the bench, with Uwe Helu and Hendrik Tui missing out.

Jiwon Koo had been a doubt after sustaining a rib injury against Scotland but has been passed fit to start.

Kotaro Matsushima is tied with Wales' Josh Adams at the top of the try scoring charts with five, and starts again at right wing, while the tournament's leading points scorer Yu Tamura - he has 48 - is at fly half.


Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka, Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Keita Inagaki, Shota Horie, Jiwon Koo, Luke Thompson, James Moore, Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno.

Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Wimpie van der Walt, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Lomano Lava Lemeki.

England will consider anything less than winning the Rugby World Cup as a failure, according to former world champion Jason Robinson.

Eddie Jones' side meet Australia in a quarter-final showdown in Oita on Saturday, having finished top of Pool C.

The Wallabies' 33-13 win at Twickenham four years ago dumped England out of their home World Cup in the pool stage, but Jones, who took over from Stuart Lancaster following that tournament, has overseen six straight wins over Australia since.

England looked in impressive form throughout their Pool C campaign, cruising to victories over Tonga, the United States and Argentina before their final match against France was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Beating Australia would see England face Ireland or holders New Zealand for a place in the final, and Robinson – a World Cup winner in 2003 – does not believe Jones' team can be content with anything short of becoming champions.

"Jones has done a great job - he's transformed them in a lot of ways," said Robinson, speaking to Omnisport on behalf of Land Rover, Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.

"England will want to win the World Cup, it's as simple as this.

"Getting beat in a semi or the quarters, it will all be seen as a failure if we don't win the World Cup. England are such in world rugby that second place isn't an achievement.

"Sometimes, in sports like football, you can celebrate getting into a semi-final, but it's England - we're the biggest rugby nation in the world.

"The guys have not turned up to get beaten in a semi or even the final. Success is winning the thing.

"There's no givens. [Jones] has taken the team forward in many different ways over the last four years and should be commended.

"But World Cups are all about winning, you can talk about finals as much as you want but you're either a winner or a loser. The only medals I get out are not the runner up ones."

However, Robinson conceded claiming a second World Cup title would be no mean feat against some of the sport's greatest sides. 

"If you're going to win this tournament, play Australia in the quarters, maybe New Zealand in the semis and potentially Wales or South Africa in a final," he added.

"There's no easy way to the final, you still have to beat the big teams. If England are to win, they'll have certainly earned it."

 

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James Horwill is backing Australia to end their barren run against England and go on to win the Rugby World Cup.

The Wallabies have lost six consecutive games against England since knocking them out of the previous World Cup at Twickenham four years ago.

Eddie Jones' side are firm favourites to continue that sequence at Oita Stadium on Saturday and set up a semi-final against two-time defending champions New Zealand or Ireland. 

Yet former Australia captain Horwill thinks Michael Cheika's men can defy the odds and lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.

Asked if the Wallabies can go all the way, he told Omnisport: "I don't see why not. They would get New Zealand next assuming they get past Ireland, which most people would expect them to do.

"It would obviously be challenging, but if we were able to perform as we did against New Zealand in Perth [where Australia were 47-26 winners in August] with a very dominant performance, there is no reason why we can't.

"It's just the consistency we need, which has been lacking over the last couple of years."

Horwill stressed the importance of Australia starting the game against England as they finished it in a 29-25 Pool D defeat to Wales last month, when they mounted a spirited fightback but gave themselves too much to do.

"You can see the way we play we are holding the ball and not kicking a lot. I don't see them changing the way they play." the 34-year-old ex-lock said.

"In the Wales game, we turned the ball over too much to start with. When you hold on to the ball, as we saw in that game, you can build pressure with gaining territory.

"That is a big part of the way the Australians have been playing, keep the ball and carry hard. If we can do that, we have some very damaging runners and a potent attack.

"The key is not allowing [England] to get into the position Wales were in to start with. Build the scoreboard, manage the game really well and hopefully not chase the game."

Scottish Rugby has questioned whether misconduct charges brought by World Rugby are "appropriate".

It was confirmed on Tuesday that comments made by chief executive Mark Dodson are to be probed by rugby union's chief governing body.

Dodson had threatened to take legal action if Scotland's crucial Pool A encounter with Japan was cancelled, with the match under threat as a result of Typhoon Hagibis.

The contest went ahead with Scotland losing 28-21 to exit the competition but the row continues to rumble on.

A Scottish Rugby statement issued on Wednesday read: "Scottish Rugby once again expresses its sincere condolences to the people of Japan and all those affected by Typhoon Hagibis which struck last weekend.

"We have been able to convey our best wishes directly to the mayor of Yokohama and the chairman of the Japanese Rugby Union. We stand with the great people of Japan.

"Following receipt of correspondence yesterday from World Rugby, Scottish Rugby confirms that it has received a notice of complaint from Rugby World Cup Ltd. Scottish Rugby is querying whether the matter is an appropriate one for the bringing of misconduct charges.

"If misconduct proceedings are to proceed, Scottish Rugby looks forward to receiving a fair hearing in this matter. No further comment would be appropriate at this time." 

James Horwill thinks the cancellation of England's Rugby World Cup clash with France could work in Australia's favour when the teams meet in a blockbuster quarter-final on Saturday.

England were due to face Les Bleus in their final Pool C match in Yokohama last weekend, but Typhoon Hagibis prevented the fixture from going ahead.

It led to England coach Eddie Jones saying the typhoon gods must be smiling on his team after they were given a weekend off and finished top to set up a showdown with the Wallabies.

Yet former Australia captain Horwill believes England will be wishing they had locked horns for a pool decider with their Six Nations rivals, having won their other three games at a canter.

Horwill told Omnisport: "England are a good side, well drilled and very disciplined with what they do. When they get on the front foot, they are very hard to stop.

"I think they would have liked to have had that game against France because it would have been a strong test and a really challenge.

"They have come through the pool stage being able to deal with the opposition quite comfortably, which is obviously a good thing for them, but they haven't had a big test.

"It depends on how you look at it. From the point of view of someone like Billy Vunipola, with a sore ankle, he's had extra time to rest up and get fit in a week off.

"They would have wanted to play again, but they should feel good going into the game. But if the heat comes sometimes you need to think, 'We've been here before last week and we know how to get through it'.

"Obviously that is not something England have had to deal with."

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