Image: Rugby Union – Scotland v Japan – IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool B – Kingsholm, Gloucester, England – 23/9/15Finn Russell celebrates with team mates after scoring the fifth try for ScotlandReuters / Eddie KeoghLivepic
By Justin Palmer
LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland burst Japan’s bubble at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday as Australia began their campaign with a hard-fought win over Fiji while a workmanlike France made it two wins out of two by seeing off Romania.
Japan had leapfrogged Scotland in the world rankings on the back of Saturday’s stunning slaying of twice winners South Africa but, with just a four day turnaround from their opening game, ran out of gas in Gloucester as the Scots won 45-10 in Pool B.
Australia overcame Fiji 28-13 in Pool A but could not claim a fourth-try bonus point as England had done against the Pacific Islanders in the tournament opener. France saw off Romania 38-11 in Pool D at London’s Olympic stadium.
A reminder that the dark arts are still practiced on the pitch came when Argentine lock Mariano Galarza was given a nine-week ban after being found guilty of eye gouging during his team’s defeat against New Zealand.
Japan could not sustain their high-energy game that they used to such great effect against South Africa as a vibrant second-half display from Scotland produced five tries, including two for centre Mark Bennett.
“There was no lack of focus, we just didn’t execute well,” said Japan coach Eddie Jones.
Refusing to acknowledge fatigue may have played a part against a fresh Scotland team, he added: “We are a fit team and I thought we did well and kept on running. We just weren’t good enough.”
Australia have had to watch while their rivals for Pool A supremacy England and Wales flexed their muscles and the Wallabies were somewhat rusty after their long wait in Cardiff.
Number eight David Pocock claimed two first-half tries from rolling mauls to lay the platform for the twice world champions and a try by prop Sekope Kepu soon after the break set them on course for a comfortable if not overly convincing win.
“I know the boys have been waiting to play for a long time and the level of physicality and work was really positive for us,” coach Michael Cheika said.
Winger Sofiane Guitoune scored two of much-changed France’s five tries against Romania but it was more workmanlike than convincing from Philippe Saint-Andre’s men who were given a halftime rocket by the less than impressed coach.
Pumas forward Galarza will miss the rest of the tournament after he was found guilty of making “contact with the eye or eye area” of All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick during their Pool C defeat at Wembley on Sunday.
Galarza denied the act of foul play but his absence leaves the Pumas with only three recognised locks, one of whom is injured, as they prepare to tackle Georgia on Friday.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has come in for huge criticism since the Japan defeat but he came out fighting on Wednesday.
“I’ve been knocked down a few times in my life but mostly come back, so I still believe we can do it,” Meyer told reporters after making eight changes for their second Pool B game against Samoa at Villa Park on Saturday.
The casualties included veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis, fullback Zane Kirchner, centre Jesse Kriel and the halfback pairing of Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie.
Holders and tournament favourites New Zealand will field a second-string side against Namibia, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, in the sole match on Thursday.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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