Scotland breezes past Russia 61-0 to set up Japan showdown


SHIZUOKA, Japan — Scotland coach Gregor Townsend trusted his backup players with the responsibility. They repaid him nine times over.

Scotland’s reserves scored nine tries in routing Russia 61-0 at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday, more than enough for the victory and the bonus point the Scots wanted to set up a Sunday showdown with host Japan for a quarterfinal place.

“Stage one of a two-stage week is completed,” Townsend said.

Scotland put away a tired Russia team, with scrumhalf George Horne scoring a hat trick and flyhalf Adam Hastings getting the first two tries and 26 points. It put the Scots in touching distance of Pool A leader Japan and second-placed Ireland ahead of the final group games this weekend.

Scotland will face Japan in what promises to be a humdinger in Yokohama a day after Ireland plays Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday. That’s if Super Typhoon Hagibis heading toward Japan and the Rugby World Cup this weekend doesn’t intervene.

The Pool A standings are Japan (14), Ireland (11), Scotland (10), Samoa (5) and Russia (0).

Russia is done at this Rugby World Cup and is 0-8 at Rugby World Cups, as is captain Vasily Artemyev, who has started every one of those losses. He’s still been an inspiration for Russian rugby and was taken off to an ovation from the crowd in the second half in what’s likely his last World Cup game.

The Scots had no time for sentiment. They were ruthless at Shizuoka Stadium after leading 21-0 at halftime through Hastings’ early double and the first from Horne. Scotland added another six tries in the second 40 and also had two disallowed for forward passes that would have given Horne four and Hastings a hat trick.

“The way we played tonight, with width and speed and energy, was too much for them,” said Scotland flanker John Barclay, one of the try-scorers.

The three first-half tries came in an eight-minute blitz from the 13th to 21st minutes and the result was obvious from then on. Hastings drifted through a gap for the first, and then chased down his own kick ahead for the second. Artemyev’s error let Hastings in for that second when he overran the ball in the try area and then fell as he tried to change direction in reaction to an unexpected bounce.

Horne’s first was a present from opposite number Dmitry Perov. Attempting a long pass on his own try-line, Perov threw the ball straight to Horne.

Horne’s second early in the second half, after wing Darcy Graham broke majestically into open field, sealed the bonus point that Scotland really wanted. The other five tries, from Horne again, hooker George Turner, wing Tommy Seymour, stand-in captain Barclay and replacement Stuart McInally, just hammered it home.

Scotland was despondent after losing 27-3 to Ireland to start its World Cup. The Scots have responded by beating Samoa 34-0 and then drubbing Russia, with 95 points scored and none conceded in their last two games.

The Scots claimed a record for that as the first team to keep their opposition scoreless in successive Rugby World Cup matches. The Scots have shut out opponents five times in World Cup history, also a record.

Russia had the air of a brave heavyweight boxer that had taken some big shots and was hanging on as the final bell approached. The Russians threw everything into their first three games in Japan and had nothing left.

Scotland flyhalf Hastings is the son of Scotland great Gavin Hastings. His uncle, Scott, also played at the Rugby World Cup for Scotland. In the space of a game, Adam surpassed his uncle’s 18 career points at the Rugby World Cup. Adam’s got a long way to go to catch dad, though. Gavin Hastings’ 227 points is second on the tournament’s all-time list.

Hastings started the game as one of 14 changes Townsend made to the starting team from the Samoa win, the most ever by Scotland between World Cup games. Only wing Graham was retained.

The new guys all delivered for Townsend, whose first-choice players are fresh for Japan.

Japan, with three wins from three and playing ferocious rugby in front of home fans, will be a different proposition to the erratic Samoans and exhausted Russians, though.

“Scotland have speed and skill … but Japan are so organized, well-drilled and frantic in defense,” Russia coach Lyn Jones said. “If I had 10 yen to put on it, well I don’t because I’m poor, I don’t know which way I would go.”

World Rugby postponing July test matches

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World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s international governing body issued a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed.

New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

Bill Beaumont re-elected as World Rugby chairman

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Former England captain Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby chairman on Saturday after beating Agustín Pichot, the current vice-chairman.

The sport’s governing body says the 68-year-old Beaumont achieved a first-round majority of 28 votes to 23.

Beaumont says: “I am honored to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation’s chairman once again.”

He begins his four-year term after a council meeting on May 12.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte becomes Beaumont’s new vice-chairman.