TOKYO, 18 Oct - It is official: Japan has been struck by a bad case of rugby fever. There wasn’t an empty seat at Friday’s team announcement press conference, where some of the 2,758 Japanese journalists accredited at RWC 2019 assembled to hear Jamie Joseph’s plans for getting the better of South Africa. To put that into context, at RWC 2015 the number of accredited Japanese media personnel was little more than 80.
No one wants to leave the World Cup early, but the welcome the Scottish players received from their families at Edinburgh airport would have helped them get over their defeats by Ireland and Japan.
Others are returning home from a Rugby World Cup for the last time. We said farewell to Argentina’s Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Tongan veterans Siale Piutau and Sione Kalamafoni out in Japan, and now Fiji prop Campese Ma’afu and Canada winger DTH Van de Merwe have decided to hang up their international boots.
Ma’afu, pictured top with his son after his final international appearance, hands on the Flying Fijians’ No.1 jersey after 10 years and 61 caps, including 12 World Cup appearances.
"I hope that I have left a good legacy for the young guns," he said.
"I said to the young players in the airplane on our way back, always chase the dream never chase the money."
“It’s been a highlight of my career as well and I have given my all and I know for a fact that I have left the jersey in a better place to pave the way for the young guns coming through."— Fiji Rugby Union (@fijirugby) October 18, 2019
Click link ⬇️ read more.https://t.co/l8b3SSNAiO
DTH Van de Merwe leaves as the Canucks' top try scorer on 38 and has the most RWC appearances. His three at this World Cup – his fourth – took his tally to 15 matches.
"Having had some time to reflect on this Rugby World Cup and the 13 years I've been lucky enough to be a custodian of that Red Maple Leaf jersey, I've realised that nobody has the divine right to have a fairytale ending," he said.
"I step away with many fond memories on and off the field. Travelling the world, meeting new people, embracing different cultures are just some of the many blessings of playing this beautiful game."
A true legend of the game 🇨🇦🏉— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) October 18, 2019
Extending a massive thank you to the all-time leading Canadian try scorer, @DTHVDM in his retirement from the Canadian national team. From the entire Rugby Canada community, thank you for your years of service & impact left on Canadian rugby🏉🍁 pic.twitter.com/mEAIlLxtL0
As well as these rugby legends, here are 11 other things we’re missing from the pool stages:
All Blacks find their cutting edge
When you have not played for almost two weeks, anything is going to make a change, but it was still a surprise when New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster described the visit of hairdressers to the team camp as "the highlight of the week".
"They line up six or seven chairs in the team room and then they come in. It's quite a show," Foster revealed.
"There have been some mis-cuts I guess - George Bridge for one. He is hoping for some very sunny days to get rid of the white line around the back of his head. Don't look at it, because it will embarrass him."
England scrum Ben Youngs joined in the Anglo-Wallaby mickey-taking started by ex-Leicester team-mate Matt To'omua in the build-up to the quarter-final between the teams in Oita. To'omua gave this run-down on his former team-mates:
- Manu is a terrible snooker player.
- George Ford never pays for a beer
- Ben Youngs isn’t even the best rugby player in his family
- The chicken, Jonny May, is very weird
- Dan Cole doesn’t have a personality
In response, Youngs on Friday told To'omua, who is married to Aussie cricket star Ellyse Perry:
"It’s funny talking about second fiddle. He’s married to Ellyse Perry, so he knows my pain.
"He’s not far wrong with some of it, though.
"Fordy’s never bought a pint because he’s normally sloped off by that point because he’s too drunk."
Something in the Peyper line
Coming up on Saturday, we will take you inside the world of top-level refereeing after we caught up with Jaco Peyper, who will take charge of his 50th test match in Sunday’s first quarter-final, Wales v France in Oita.
In the meantime, the South African whistleblower has revealed that, as well as being given a memento by their own union as well as the two team’s captains after every test match, “sometimes the guys (officials) nick a ball from the game, get it signed”.
No hands in the ruck, please Jaco.
Stat of the day
When Romain Ntamack takes to the field in Oita on Sunday, he will become the third son to have followed in his father's footsteps by playing in the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup.
Ireland's Des Fitzgerald and his son Luke were the first father and son to play in the last eight of the Rugby World Cup, Des in 1987 and 1991 and Luke in 2015. Alan Alaalatoa will join his father Vili as World Cup quarter-finalists when he plays for Australia against England on Saturday - Vili played in the 1991 quarter-final for Western Samoa. Romain's father Emile Ntamack played in the quarter-finals in 1995 and 1999, scoring a try on each occasion.
The Moriartys can be added to this list if back-row Ross comes on for Wales from the bench against France. His father, Paul Moriarty, played in the quarter-final of Rugby World Cup 1987 for Wales against England.