Japan's players will be inspired by the memory of Seiji Hirao when they face South Africa in an eagerly awaited Rugby World Cup quarter-final at the weekend.

Former Japan captain and head coach Hirao – nicknamed "Mr Rugby" in his homeland – died three years ago this Sunday aged 53 after a battle with cancer.

Full-back Ryohei Yamanaka played under Hirao, who represented the Brave Blossoms at the 1987, 1991 and 1995 World Cup, at Kobe Steelers.

"[The quarter-final] is the date he passed away, so there'll be a game on an important day for me as well," he said.

Japan's scrum coach Shin Hasegawa was handed his international breakthough by Hirao during his playing days.

"I'm a bit emotional talking about Hirao," he added. "He was the one who picked me for the national team, he was the one who played me. We have a game on a special day. I hope we can pay him back.

"The best memory is receiving a letter in my room a day before our opening match in the 2003 World Cup. It wasn't that long but had things that encouraged me and made me feel, 'I need to fight for this man'. 

"I remember heading into the game with a good motivation. I asked him one time why I was chosen and he said, 'For the scrum, of course', so I really focused on it. He really kept his eyes on me and was a great coach."

Japan stunned the Springboks with a 34-32 victory at the 2015 World Cup and hooker Atsushi Sakate explained they are leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of a repeat – combining brain and brawn.

"Our psychologist, Dave [David Galbraith] makes quizzes and writes them on the whiteboard," he explained.

"It is part of the training focusing on how to use your brain under pressure and in tough situations.

"It was started at our training camp in Abashiri. You have to make decisions during the toughest time during the match. You use your brain.

"That is why it was put up when we had tough weightlifting training."

Jonny May reflected on how a decision to snub a team night out in favour of dinner with his parents paid huge dividends as he prepares to celebrate winning a 50th England cap.

The Leicester Tigers flyer made his international debut over six years ago during a tour of Argentina, when the majority of the team was on British and Irish Lions duty.

May was overlooked for the first Test in favour of David Strettle and Christian Wade and had initially missed out on selection for the second game before the latter was drafted to Australia with the Lions.

It is here where fate was on the side of May, who had shunned a drinking session with the players not in the matchday squad the night before the game in favour of a more serene evening.

"Funnily enough Christian Wade got called up for the Lions on the morning of the game," said May. 

"And basically because my mum and dad were out and I went out for dinner with them and all the other non-23 players went out on the p***, so I got the 'go on you can play' pretty much! It's funny how it works out.

"I didn't feel ashamed but I didn't feel great because my parents were out there and it looked like I wasn't going to get a game. 

"What was probably quite a challenging couple of weeks finished on a really good note as my parents got to watch me play and I got my first cap. It all worked out in the end."

It took May until his eighth cap to score a first England try but his strike rate is now an impressive 25 in 49 Tests.

The 29-year-old has established himself as one of the best wingers in world rugby and could make his landmark England appearance in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia in Oita on Saturday.

Any personal achievements are on the back burner for May, though, whose sole focus is on helping the team defeat the Wallabies.

"If you take a step back, you'd say it's an awesome achievement, something I'm very proud of and hopefully I've made my family proud," he added. 

"But it's no time to take a step back. It's a huge team game at the weekend.

"It really has been a challenge. You have to fight to be a part of the squad, let alone to start. My mindset has changed so much on that, especially with Eddie [Jones] coming in. 

"It's a squad performance. We're competing to be the best we can be, we're not competing with each other.

"I have changed a lot, not just as a rugby player but as a person. I have matured. I have become more focused, maybe a little bit more introverted as the years have gone on.

"I'm not necessarily at a stage now where I'm working harder but I'm working smarter, just to keep developing and improving."

Warren Gatland is an "incredible person" and Wales will do all they can to ensure the Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France is not his last match in charge, says assistant and skills specialist Neil Jenkins.

The popular New Zealander is to leave his role as head coach after the tournament in Japan following a hugely successful 12-year stint.

Gatland will hope to stay in Japan for a while longer yet, with Wales looking to better the semi-final and quarter-final appearances they achieved in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

Jenkins has paid tribute to Gatland's qualities not only as a coach but away from the training field as well.

"His record speaks for itself as in the results, the success, the togetherness of the team and the squad and the staff," Jenkins said.

"Gats is not just an incredible rugby coach, he is an incredible person as well. He brings so much to this environment, it's unbelievable, really.

"It would be incredibly sad to see him go, obviously. It would be nice if we could give ourselves another fortnight in Japan for him and for everyone involved.

"Gats is the same, no matter who we are playing, week to week. It is probably us he has to calm down and the rest of the coaches.

"He is an incredibly smart rugby man and knows the game inside out, and we will be prepared for Sunday.

"He's been here for 12 years, and whatever he does, everyone looks up to him and understands why he does it.

"He's a very smart operator, he does things for a reason and there is always a plan behind things."

Jenkins also spoke of the difficulty the coaching team have had in curbing the enthusiasm of fly-half Dan Biggar, who sustained separate injuries in pool-stage matches against Australia and Fiji.

Biggar is expected to face Les Bleus in Oita on Sunday and Jenkins says the number 10 is chomping at the bit for the last-eight clash.

"Curbing him is very difficult," Jenkins added. "He's a competitor, full-stop. He's a winner. He's a very physical rugby player, he gets stuck in.

"He's done everything that's been asked of him constantly and consistently and he's ready to go. He's desperate to play. He's world-class and he'll be ready to go again, there's no doubting that."

Willie le Roux is confident South Africa have enough speed of their own to cope with Japan's "Ferraris".

That was the nickname given to Japan fliers Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima by head coach Jamie Joseph, whose side have been the surprise package on home soil at the Rugby World Cup.

Japan's attacking brand of rugby yielded shock wins over Ireland and Scotland, the latter seeing the Brave Blossoms top Pool A to set up a quarter-final with the Springboks, who they upset in the group stages four years ago.

South Africa are no slouches themselves, though, with Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi providing pace and threat out wide.

Le Roux, who brought laughter among the press pack by describing himself as a "bakkie" – a type of pickup truck – is eager to face the challenge.

"We've definitely got a few Ferraris out there as well," Le Roux said. "I don't think I'm one of them – I'm more of a bakkie person – a Toyota bakkie.

"The guys who will play this weekend are fast, and if I get an opportunity to play as well, I will do my best to put them away and put them in space."

The 30-year-old full-back is expecting a daunting challenge against Japan's varied attack.

"For the back three, it is going to be very hard work," he added. 

"They put all those kicks in and have specific guys chasing. They are very fast out wide, chasing those balls.

"The guys playing in the back three will have to be awake and be alive to those kicks."

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." 

Joe Marler said England have no fears as they prepare for Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Marler came out of test retirement at the end of the last season to join up with Eddie Jones' England squad, who are well rested for the clash in Oita having had their final pool game against France abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The 29-year-old Marler was part of the England team that did not reach the last eight in 2015, but believes the 2019 squad are better equipped to embrace the challenges of knockout rugby.  

"I don't think it's pressure. The group has now got a mind-set of 'bring it on – bring on the challenges'," he told reporters.

"We embrace it and look forward to it as opposed to shying away from it.

"I have been involved in teams who have let nerves overcome them, caved in and allowed them to become negative. I don't feel that in this group. The boys embrace the nervousness and use it as a positive energy to drive us on."

Marler had retired from internationals in 2018 due to family reasons but could not resist the opportunity to win a World Cup with England, having been called into the squad for the showpiece tournament in Japan.

"That was part of the reason I came out of retirement. I could see the potential in this group and I wanted a taste of that. That's ultimately what's driving me on for the next couple of weeks," he added.

"It hasn't been easy. I've had to work my buns off to try and get back to an emotional and mental state capable of contributing to the squad the best I can.

"And the physical state too. That has been even harder. You come out of it for a year and you forget how fast they do everything."

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."

Tonga hooker Paula Ngauamo has been given a seven-week ban for kicking an opponent in the face during his country's Rugby World Cup victory over the United States.

The incident was not spotted during Tonga's 31-19 victory on Sunday, but Ngauamo was cited after the game for an act of foul play.

Ngauamo, who argued he had "acted recklessly, not deliberately", did not attend the hearing and was given a hefty ban by the judicial panel having already been suspended twice in the past four years.

With Tonga already eliminated from the World Cup, Ngauamo will miss seven weeks of the new Top 14 season for his club Agen.

Gareth Davies admitted Wales' players are desperate to ensure Warren Gatland's run as coach does not end with a Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to France on Sunday.

Gatland has already confirmed he will step down after the tournament in Japan, ending a successful 12-year stint at the helm, during which time he has won four Six Nations titles and led Wales to the World Cup semi-finals in 2011.

Les Bleus stand between Wales and another last-four contest, with scrum-half Davies revealing the team are keen to avoid giving Gatland a flat farewell with a loss to France.

"We all knew it was going to be Gats' last tournament in charge of us and we do speak about it every now and again," he told reporters at a news conference.

"Especially this week now, it could be our last game. Hopefully it won't be.

"Alun Wyn [Jones] is a great captain, he speaks really well, and I'm sure he'll mention the fact that it could be Gats' last game.

"As players, we'll bear that in the back of our minds. Hopefully that will give us a couple of extra percentage to come away with a good victory."

Wales were boosted by Dan Biggar (head), Jonathan Davies (knee) and George North (ankle) all training on Tuesday, the trio having missed the win over Uruguay.

They will go into the France game as favourites having won seven of the eight matches the two have played since 2011, when Les Bleus claimed a narrow 9-8 success in the World Cup semi-finals.

However, having fallen 16-0 behind before rallying to win 24-19 in their last encounter at this year's Six Nations, attack coach Stephen Jones is keen for Wales to avoid another sloppy start.

"It is important we learn the lessons from that match," he said.

"The positives are we stayed in the fight and got back and won that game.

"We've definitely taken some lessons on board from that first half. France have a great pool of players to choose from, they are great athletes, and very unpredictable. They enjoy the broken field.

"If we are loose and turn ball over easily then they will be in their element and very, very dangerous."

Ian Foster played down the relevance of New Zealand's defeat to Ireland last year ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final, vowing: "We don’t get too stuck in the past."

Ireland claimed their first victory over the All Blacks in Chicago three years ago and then defeated the world champions 16-9 in Dublin last November.

The two sides will do battle again in a mouth-watering last-eight contest at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

Attack coach Foster says New Zealand are looking forward to the challenge rather than thinking about where they fell short against Joe Schmidt's side 11 months ago.

Asked about that contest at the Aviva Stadium, Foster quipped: "I can’t remember it."

He added: "No, that's not true. We just got beat by a good Irish team. That was a different time, different place, is it relevant? Perhaps, they would have learned some stuff, we learned some stuff.

"We actually don't get too stuck in the past, it's more about the challenge that’s in front of us.

"This is a World Cup knockout game and it’s actually about what happens this week, not what happened in the last two years. We know everyone comes for us every time we play."

Prop Joe Moody says New Zealand owe Ireland but need no extra motivation to reach the semi-finals as they eye an unprecedented third successive World Cup triumph.

"I suppose a little bit in the back of your mind, it just reminds you, I guess, that we sort of owe them one." Moody said.

"At the same time, it's not something we dwell on, or focus on. It's just that they have got a couple on us in recent history. 

"It wouldn't matter who you are playing this week, it is just that we have to win."

England number eight Billy Vunipola trained on Tuesday and is "very likely" to start Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia, according to assistant coach John Mitchell.

The Saracens man twisted an ankle in the pool-stage win over Argentina and would not have been risked at the weekend had England's clash with France gone ahead, rather than being cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Vunipola has returned to full training, however, and Mitchell is confident he will be fit for the clash with the Wallabies in Oita.

"Billy is progressing really well," he said. "He has trained again today so we are very confident in progression each day.

"He is a very important player to us and a very likeable player as well. He fits well within the team."

Asked to rate Vunipola's chances of playing, he added: "Very likely."

England had another observer at training with Australian rugby league legend Ricky Stuart invited to attend by head coach Eddie Jones.

Stuart's involvement has raised eyebrows in the Australia camp, not least from their coach Michael Cheika, but Mitchell is confident England's players will benefit.

He said: "Ricky and his coaching group have just arrived today. It's great to see them again.

"One of the great things I believe Eddie does in our environment is encourage a learning environment.

"Ricky is not the only coach from rugby league or any other sport that has come in, we have them on a regular basis. We want to see what we are doing can be improved and we like to learn off others and that's the great opportunity we have.

"It's just a watching, learning and sharing process that occurs, to get somebody in we can share and learn off and create a stimulus around. They've just recently played in one of the major rugby league competitions in the world [NRL grand final], you'd be stupid if you weren't able to gain something from that."

Mitchell, who has coached in Australia with the Western Force, is expecting a tough game against Cheika's men.

"They will be clever at the weekend," he said.

"They are always clever and always have the ability to surprise. They love ball in their hands which is something which they thrive on."

World Rugby has issued misconduct charges against the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) following remarks made by chief executive Mark Dodson ahead of the crunch Rugby World Cup clash with Japan.

Dodson revealed the SRU had sought legal advice and were considering taking action if the decisive contest in Yokohama on Sunday was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis, as Scotland needed a win to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

World Rugby rules state that a match cannot be postponed until the following day, but Dodson argued that the "common-sense approach" would be to play the game 24 hours later if it had been cancelled.

Japan knocked Scotland out by winning a thriller 28-21 to finish top of Pool A and reach the last eight for the first time after the game went ahead as scheduled.

Scottish Rugby could face further punishment off the field as a result of Dodson's comments. 

A World Rugby statement said: "Rugby World Cup can confirm that it has issued misconduct charges against the Scottish Rugby Union in relation to recent comments made about Typhoon Hagibis and its potential impact on the Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool A match between Japan versus Scotland.

"The case will be decided by an Independent Disputes Committee and Rugby World Cup will not make any further comment on this matter pending the outcome."

Tournament director Alan Gilpin said on Tuesday: "The tournament rules are clear about appropriate behaviour.

"As a result, we have asked an independent disputes committee to look at the behaviour and comments of the Scottish union. Because of that, it would be inappropriate to comment any further."

Steve Hansen is "quite happy" to see Japan on the opposite side of the draw to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup - but knows Ireland will be a tough test in the quarter-finals.

Tournament hosts Japan qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history, Sunday's hard-fought victory over Scotland also seeing them finish top of Pool A.

The 28-21 result means the Brave Blossoms next face South Africa, who were second in Pool B, rather than New Zealand, with the two-time reigning champions instead going up against Ireland. 

Pleased to avoid one of the in-form teams still left standing, Hansen praised the way Japan's players had lifted their nation after the devastation caused by Typhoon Hagibis.

"Without a doubt they'd have to be considered like they are playing and performing like a Tier One nation," the All Blacks head coach told the media. 

"They're now in the top eight in the world on performance and they're playing quality rugby, so I think Japan should be very, very proud of them.

"What a marvellous thing for the tournament, you know they've given the game a boost I think, they've given Japan Rugby a boost, and they've given the Japan people a boost after what was a pretty horrific weekend.

"People have said, 'Who do you want to play?' Well, they're the on-form team, so I'm quite happy they're on the other side of the draw."

New Zealand hardly have it easy in the last eight, though, as they go up against opponents who topped the world rankings prior to the World Cup.

Ireland have also won two of the three previous meetings between the teams, including a 16-9 triumph in Dublin when they met in November 2018.

"Obviously we're facing Ireland so we know that, that's the best part, we know who we're playing," Hansen said. "They're a quality side, they've been number one this year.

"I think their last three results are loss-win-loss [for New Zealand] - there won't be any complacency in their camp, so it's pretty exciting. We're right where we want to be.

"We enjoy playing them and that doesn't change because they've beaten us a couple of times.

"A lot of people are getting caught up in the past, it's about what's going to happen on Saturday that is going to matter, anything that's happened prior to that is irrelevant."

Bundee Aki will play no further part in Ireland's Rugby World Cup campaign after being hit with a three-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Samoa's Ulupano Seuteni.

Referee Nic Berry showed the powerful centre a red card in the 29th minute of Saturday's 47-5 hammering of Samoa, which secured Ireland's place in the quarter-finals.

Aki sought to have the red card overturned but the referee's decision was upheld by a disciplinary committee meeting on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old's past record saw the original starting point of a six-week suspension reduced to three, but that means Aki will not face New Zealand in the last eight, nor can he play in the semis or final should Ireland get that far.

Cheslin Kolbe and Herschel Jantjies are expected to be fit for South Africa's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Japan on Sunday.

Livewire wing Kolbe missed the 66-7 rout of Canada last Tuesday after taking a knock to his ankle in the victory over Italy, while scrum-half Jantjies has been nursing a strained hamstring.

Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus on Monday revealed both players should feature at Tokyo Stadium.

"Internally our team has already been announced and they will both be in the team," said Erasmus.

"We will have our first full training session in preparation for Japan tomorrow. We expect them to come through the training session so I would say they are 99 per cent ready."

Erasmus was full of praise for the host nation after the Brave Blossoms reached the last eight for the first time by beating Scotland on a weekend that saw the country hit by the devastating Typhoon Hagibis.

"The first thing is that it's really tough not to like Japanese people," he said.

"The way they have embraced all teams – not just South Africa – on and off the field, and adopting you as a city, putting on South African jerseys and making you feel at home is something special which I have never experienced in my life before.

"The way they have handled the typhoon – and I know there have been lots of losses in terms of lives and in different ways – and we send our condolences from South Africa and the Springboks to those people.

"But, again, it shows the strength of Japanese people to still host a game; play a game and beat a team like Scotland.

"However, while saying that, we are playing for our country and we want to try and win the World Cup and for the next week unfortunately Japan is the enemy for one week.

"We love the country, we love the people, but we have to try and beat them, and we have to play really well to beat them because they are ranked six or seven in the world and they deserve it.

"It's going to be a really, really tough match for us this Sunday."

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