From the Touchline - Monday, 14 October

The Rugby News Service team take a walk on the blindside to find offbeat news stories, stats and anecdotes from RWC 2019...

TOKYO, 14 Oct - How did the people of Japan react to the biggest result in their country’s rugby history? Like this:

Others took to the famous Shibuya Crossing – deserted just 36 hours earlier as Typhoon Hagibis arrived – to celebrate the 28-21 win over Scotland and qualification for the quarter-finals for the first time:

Shibuya crossing -

Bak to the drawing board

If you think you can put those calculators and slide rules away now that the permutations of Pool A have worked themselves out, think again – there’s one puzzle left to solve.

Can Bak-san, above, still fulfil his promise of ‘wearing’ the shirts of all 20 competing teams? Here on the touchline, we’re not so sure.

The body-painted break-out star of RWC, top, managed to see 20 of the 40 pool-stage matches, although as he wore the colours of Japan for all their games, he has covered only 17 teams.

As we head into the knockout stages, Bak-san still has three teams left – France, New Zealand and South Africa. It’s probably safe to say that he was planning to tick one of these off last Saturday, but the cancellation of the games involving France and the All Blacks left the greasepainted game-goer having to second-guess the quarter-finals.

He can slap on the All Black of New Zealand when they play Ireland in Tokyo on Saturday, but with France and South Africa both playing on Sunday, 940km apart, does he wear blue in Oita or dark green in Tokyo, the latter against his beloved Brave Blossoms?

And what happens if they both lose? One thing’s for sure, the gloss-coated ground-hopper will already be on the case…

Driving maul

The Pool B match between Italy and South Africa was a one-sided affair which the Springboks won 49-3 after the Azzuri were reduced to 14 men early in the second half. The only red that players from either side saw on Sunday was the flash of the Ferraris as they sped down the straight at Suzuka.

Italians Maxime Mbanda, Mattia Bellini, Andrea Lovotti and Guglielmo Palazzani caught up with Springboks Handre Pollard, Lode de Jager, Franco Mostert, Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx at the Japanese Grand Prix

So where are you from?

After Japan’s victory over Scotland, tennis star Naomi Osaka, born in Osaka, presented the Player of the Match award to Brave Blossoms winger Kenki Fukuoka, born in Fukuoka.

Adam Hastings was born in Edinburgh. 

Sister act

As a child, Alana Gattinger had no brothers. Now she has 31 - and they are not the types anybody would want to mess with: the 30-year-old is the Canada team manager.

"They are like my brothers and they pester me like my brothers. They make fun of you and you just take it," said Gattinger, the first female team manager at a Rugby World Cup. "I don't have any brothers and I always wished I did and now I do.”

With her background in softball and basketball, it was a chance internship during a Master's degree in sports management that introduced Gattinger to rugby.

"I wanted to do an internship in Toronto so I could live in my parents' house and Rugby Canada had an opportunity," Gattinger, above, said. "I ended up getting the position and just fell in love with the sport, the people.”

Gattinger, above, spent hours observing training, watching matches and listening to ref mics to understand the sport better and gain the players' trust.

In her role as team manager, Gattinger acts as liaison with tournament officials, coordinates team travel and accommodation, and helps plan out the players' individual schedules.

The most challenging aspect of that job? "Keeping track of 31 rugby players," Gattinger said with a laugh. On the upside, she never has to carry heavy loads. 

"The guys are all very chivalrous. They're very thoughtful. It would be rare for me to walk off the bus carrying a bag. They would stop me and take the bag from me," she said. "They're very good to me like that."

So farewell then...

And as Rugby World Cup is reduced from 20 teams to eight, a final word from the Japan Rugby Football Union:

To which the only reply can be "No - thank you".

Stat of the day

At the end of the pool stage, some unlikely teams top the rankings. Uruguay lead the tackles chart with a breathless 664, while England have made the fewest on 297. Samoa's TJ Ioane has made more than 10 per cent of his team's tackles (67 out of 578), while unsurprisingly Fiji winger Semi Radradra made more runs than anyone, his 62 edging him ahead of Japanese pair Kazuki Himeno and Kotaro Matsushima.

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