Injuries, suspensions weigh on Rugby World Cup last 8

Bok player Pietersen has recovered from a knee injury and will resume service against Wales on Saturday.

FILE: The Springboks' JP Pietersen in action. Picture: Rugby World Cup website.

LONDON - Springbok winger JP Pietersen will return from injury to form an attacking spearhead with Bryan Habana against Wales in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal at Twickenham.

Pietersen, who missed the 64-0 rout of the United States in the Springboks' final pool match a week ago, has recovered from a knee injury and will resume service on the right wing in an otherwise unchanged side.

Habana, who moves to the left wing, will be seeking to overtake Jonah Lomu's record World Cup try tally of 15, having drawn level with the New Zealander with a hat-trick against the United States.

"JP and Bryan have been in superb form and are playing some of the best rugby of their lives," said coach Heyneke Meyer.

"We are expecting an arm wrestle right until the end. We're playing against a well-balanced side that always likes to mix things up when it comes to physicality."

Meyer has also kept some old heads on the bench for later use, believing that the game will be decided in the final 20 minutes, when their experience will count.

New Zealand play France in Cardiff in Saturday's other quarterfinal and Les Bleus must rediscover their joie de vivre if they are to stand a chance of winning against the tournament favourites.

Didier Retiere, a member of the coaching team who helped France to the 2011 final and now technical director at the French Rugby Federation, says they need the same approach that helped them to shrug off a stuttering pool phase four years ago to find a new lease of life in the knockout rounds.

Les Bleus performed disappointingly in losing 24-9 to Ireland in their final pool match on Sunday.

"All the players must question themselves, reflect on the little mistakes that we saw against Ireland, and get back on their feet," Retiere said.

Ireland are juggling injuries and a suspension before their quarter-final against Argentina in Cardiff on Sunday.

Scrum coach Greg Feek said the Irish were "quietly confident" on flyhalf Johnny Sexton's chances of recovering from his groin strain in time to play a part in a match that could see Ireland reaching their first World Cup semi-final.

Sexton limped off in the first half of the victory over France and initially it looked like his injury would be serious enough to force him out of the tournament, following the blow of the loss of lock Paul O'Connell and flanker Peter O'Mahony.

Scans revealed on Monday that the injury was not as bad as first feared and the influential playmaker was back on the training pitch in Cardiff on Wednesday.

Ireland's only other injury concern is outside back Keith Earls.

Another loss is openside flanker Sean O'Brien, who was handed a week's ban on Tuesday after being cited for hitting French lock Pascal Pape. Ireland have 48 hours to appeal.


Talk in the Scotland camp before Sunday's showdown with Australia at Twickenham was on the three-week bans that have ruled out hooker Ross Ford and lock Jonny Gray for the rest of the World Cup.

"When I heard it I was angry for them," flanker Josh Strauss said. "I imagined what it would be like if it was me. But that is good as it motivates me and I want to put in a performance for them and make them proud."

Ford and Gray were handed the bans after being cited over a dangerous tackle when the duo cleared out Jack Lam at a ruck during Scotland's pool victory against Samoa last Saturday.

Former Scotland international Kenny Logan described the bans as a "shameful decision" and a "sick joke".

Scotland have 48 hours to appeal the decision. But Australia coach Michael Cheika said he did not think their absence would make the task any easier for the Wallabies.

"The guys who will replace those two are ready to roll. We understand there will be 23 players in the Scotland jersey trying to smash us. It doesn't matter the names on the jerseys," Cheika said.

Australia centre Matt Giteau, who hurt his ribs in last weekend's victory over Wales, returned to training on Wednesday but David Pocock and Israel Folau are still on the mend.

Folau, who first rolled his ankle against England two weeks ago, has been Australia's most potent attacking weapon for the past two years and would probably be replaced by Kurtley Beale if he was unable to face the Scots.

Giteau, however, looks set to recover in time to take his place in the side at inside centre and win his 100th cap.

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