Scots won’t be World Cup ‘collateral damage’ vows SRU chief

Scotland players celebrate their victory over Samoa, in the Rugby World Cup, at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, in Kobe, Japan. (Reuters)
Updated 11 October 2019

Scots won’t be World Cup ‘collateral damage’ vows SRU chief

  • World Cup organizers have already taken the unprecedented decision to axe Saturday’s matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy with Typhoon Hagibis poised to hit Japan
  • Scotland’s Pool A match against Japan in Yokohama on Sunday is also under threat from the extreme weather, with a decision on whether it goes ahead set to be taken on the morning of the game

TOKYO: Scotland’s rugby chief insisted he won’t allow his side to become “collateral damage” at the Rugby World Cup as he fights off moves to cancel Sunday’s decisive pool clash with Japan over an incoming typhoon.
World Cup organizers have already taken the unprecedented decision to axe Saturday’s matches between England and France and New Zealand and Italy with Typhoon Hagibis poised to hit Japan’s east coast.
Scotland’s Pool A match against Japan in Yokohama on Sunday is also under threat from the extreme weather, with a decision on whether it goes ahead set to be taken on the morning of the game.
Assuming Ireland manage at least a losing bonus in their final pool match against Samoa on Saturday, the Scots will need a victory over Japan to have a chance of reaching the last eight.
But if their game is called off and, under tournament regulations, declared a 0-0 draw, the two points Scotland will then receive won’t stop them being eliminated.
“My view is that we’re not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste,” SRU chief executive Mark Dodson told BBC Radio Four’s Today program on Friday.
“I think there’s alternative (venues) around Japan.”
World Rugby has insisted the only two options are playing the Scotland-Japan match as scheduled, or cancelation.
But Scotland dispute this interpretation of the rulebook, arguing a ‘force majeure’ clause allows for weather-affected pool games to be rescheduled, as can happen in the knockout phase.
Dodson said that while the question of whether the match took place on Sunday was now a “purely meteorological issue,” and public safety was the priority, canceling the fixture would wreck the “sporting integrity” of the tournament.
“World Rugby seem to be determined to stick to its plan that the match is either played on Sunday or indeed it is canceled, and to have it canceled and have our ability to progress from this group put at peril, we believe is absolutely unacceptable,” added Dodson, who warned legal action remained a possibility.
“World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We’ve had legal opinion — from a leading QC (senior lawyer) — that challenges World Rugby’s interpretation.
“We don’t know that (it’s too late) — we have to challenge it. This is about the game and rugby supporters across the world are absolutely astounded at this rigidity from World Rugby.”
“The common-sense approach to this is to play the game 24 hours later in perfect safety where we can make sure that the pool stages are completed,” he added.
Meanwhile, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend dropped captain Stuart McInally to the bench and installed experienced scrum-half Greig Laidlaw as skipper when he named his team on Friday.
Fraser Brown starts at hooker instead of McInally, yet to find his best form in Japan.
Brown, who started at flanker in Wednesday’s 61-0 hammering of Russia, is one of three Dark Blues players who will be kicking off for the second time in four days together with wings Tommy Seymour and Darcy Graham.
Scotland, who started this World Cup with a woeful 27-3 loss to Ireland, are up against a Japan side who’ve won all three of their group games so far.
“The opportunity to face the hosts in such a decisive pool match will be a unique occasion and should be a great spectacle,” said Townsend.
“Games of this magnitude don’t come around very often in a playing career so we will be giving it everything to make sure it is a memorable match,” he added.

Scotland (15-1)
Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Blade Thomson, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury; Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist; Willem Nel, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Pete Horne, Blair Kinghorn


Pakistan set to unleash 16-year-old Naseem Shah on Australia

Updated 20 November 2019

Pakistan set to unleash 16-year-old Naseem Shah on Australia

  • Naseem got plenty of attention in a tour game in Perth last week
  • Five former Pakistan players have made test debuts at a younger age than Naseem

BRISBANE, Australia: Sixteen-year-old Naseem Shah is ready to become the youngest test cricketer ever to play on Australian soil, with Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali confident the young paceman is among a group of bowlers who can help end a long winless streak Down Under.
Naseem, born on Feb. 15, 2003, got plenty of attention in a tour game in Perth last week not only because he tested the resolve of some experienced international batsmen, but also because it came soon after the death of his mother back in Pakistan.
Flight logistics and religious customs meant he couldn’t make it home in time for the funeral, so he stayed in Australia and skipped the first innings of the drawn tour game against Australia A before returning with a fiery eight overs in the second innings that netted 1-21, including the wicket of test opener Marcus Harris. It set him up for a test debut in the two-match test series.
“Obviously, it was a hard time for him but he coped with it and he came out and bowled the very next day, which is very heartening,” Azhar said Wednesday, on the eve of the first test at the Gabba. “We will definitely be looking to play him. He’s bowling really well.”
Azhar has played with Naseem at first-class level and thinks the young speedster has the fitness and the mental attitude to cope in the test arena. And he’s not concerned about the home team’s daunting record at the Gabba, where Australia is unbeaten since 1988.
“Not many players can reach (test) standard so early, but there are exceptions and he’s one of them,” Azhar said. “When I saw him first, I was so surprised. The control he had, the pace he had, and the temperament and the composure when he bowls is so exciting to see.”
Five former Pakistan players have made test debuts at a younger age than Naseem, including fast bowler Aaqib Javed, who was 16 years, 189 days when he played New Zealand in 1989, and Azhar said there’s no reason to hold players back based only on their age.
“The good thing about (Naseem) is he is very fit. I have no doubts about his fitness and his bowling skill,” Azhar said, reflecting his general confidence in a Pakistan team that is in a rebuilding phase and not expected to be overawed by Australia’s record at the Gabba. Pakistan hasn’t won a test series in Australia, and hasn’t won a test match here since 1995.
“We go in here with a lot of confidence. We have the talent to do well here. We’re very confident that if we execute our skills ... (we can) beat Australia. To do that, I think we have to keep believing and also play with no fear.”
Along with veteran paceman Mohammad Abbas, a pair of 19-year-old pacemen are also in selection calculations, with left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi taking 12 wickets in his three tests to date and Muhammad Musa yet to make his debut.
While most of the selection focus has been on the fast bowlers, 33-year-old wrist spinner Yasir Shah is likely to play an influential role in the series. He struggled on his last tour to Australia in 2016, but returns with more than 200 test wickets and as a far better settled bowler.
The Australians will be playing a test series for the first time since retaining the Ashes in England, where opening batsman David Warner averaged just 9.5 in the series. He and Steve Smith were making their test match returns from one-year ban following a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018 and had contrasting series, with Smith topping the scoring and holding many innings together for Australia.
Warner will be combining with a recalled Joe Burns at the top of a reshuffled batting order, and Australia skipper Tim Paine is confident the veteran opener will be back in scoring form.
“Just watching him the last few days, he looks like he’s back to his best, the ball’s making a different sound off his bat again,” he said. “But the most pleasing thing about Davey was during the Ashes when he was in the worst form of his career he didn’t change a bit, and a lot of players would.
Paine said Mitchell Starc was back approaching top form and he expected the left-arm paceman to play a leading role against Pakistan after missing selection for all but one of the Ashes series tests in England.
Starc and fellow pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will join spinner Nathan Lyon in a pace attack containing plenty of success in local conditions.