Warren Gatland says Rugby World Cup quarter-final places will be up for grabs when Wales face Uruguay in their final Pool D match on Sunday.

Gatland has made 13 changes for the encounter at Kumamoto Stadium, where the Six Nations champions should seal a victory that would ensure they finish top and face France in the last eight a week on Sunday.

Dan Biggar will not feature in a team captained by Justin Tipuric as the fly-half is undergoing the return-to-play head injury assessment, while Jonathan Davies (knee) and George North (ankle) will also play no part.

Gatland is optimistic the trio will be fit to return in the last eight, but with Josh Adam and Hadleigh Parkes the only players who faced Fiji to retain their spots, Gatland says opportunity knocks this weekend. 

The Wales head coach said: "Dan is symptom-free. He is being closely monitored by the medical team. He was symptom-free the next day, which was great.

"The medics have spoken to a number of people, doing consultations. He said he feels really good in himself, and he has come through symptom-free. He is just going through the HIA protocols at the moment.

"Jonathan took a knock on the knee. He's being monitored as well. The knee was pretty good the next day. It had a bit of swelling and he's been icing it regularly.

"He gets a little bit more time, and hopefully that keeps improving over the next few days.

"It's a bit of a juggling act with the four-day turnaround. The message to the players against Uruguay is that the door is not shut.

"There are opportunities for players to go out there and impress and stake a claim for a quarter-final spot."

Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses has changed his entire back row, while Juan Manuel Gaminara returns to captain the side and Agustin Ormaechea starts at scrum-half.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wales - Josh Adams

Adams scored a hat-trick in the 29-17 defeat of Fiji on Wednesday and Uruguay could find it difficult contain the wing, who also crossed in an emphatic victory over Georgia.

Uruguay - Juan Manuel Gaminara

Gaminara and Andres Vilaseca will make a Uruguay-record eighth World Cup appearance. Bottom side Uruguay will need flanker Gaminara to lead by example in the heat of battle with a strong Welsh pack.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be just the second meeting between Wales and Uruguay, their previous clash coming at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with Wales winning 54-9 in Cardiff. 

- Wales have won all three of their games so far at this Rugby World Cup. Not since 1987 have they won all their matches in the pool stage of the tournament.

- Uruguay have lost all eight World Cup matches against tier one opposition, those defeats coming by an average margin of 54 points.

- Uruguay need two tries and 10 points to beat their previous best World Cup totals. 

Uruguay head coach Oscar Tabarez said it is premature to think Luis Suarez's time with the national team is over.

Suarez – who has earned 111 Uruguay caps – will miss international friendlies against South American rivals Peru on October 11 and 15 to undergo medical treatment in Barcelona.

The 32-year-old forward was named in the preliminary squad but withdrew ahead of the games in Montevideo and Lima, instead remaining in Barcelona with the LaLiga champions.

Asked about Suarez, who has scored four goals in his past three games for Barca, and his future, Tabarez told reporters: "Every player wears out during his career. In the 60's I read an article about Pele, I don't need to introduce him, written by doctors saying that Pele had the body of someone 20 years older than him.

"So, how long has Suarez been on the national team? He's here from 2007. How many games he played? How many goals he scored? How many times did he play injured? How many times he had surprising recoveries? For how quick they were or how they scaped normal things like the necessary recovery time and he overcame that, so I think it's rushed and it's not knowing the player [Suarez] saying he's over. Not at all. Time will tell who's right. We have a lot of confidence on him being fit.

"It's very hard to guess the future of a player. I didn't guess what Luis Suarez has achieved in football. In 2006, when he first came here to train I saw things on him that weren't normal, but there was no way I could imagine, from there, all the career he had. I don't take credit on that either. The credit is his. He did all that. He had ups and downs, he made mistakes, but every time he came, he brought something new.

"He was the top scorer in Groningen, he went to Ajax, he became Ajax's captain with just 21 years old, then moving to Liverpool, all the goals he scored, he keeps breaking records... With a huge wear out that has given him some problems but he always keeps his head up. That's the kind of player that sets an era in a national team, and in a given time those players were youngsters. So you have to pay attention to them sometime and if you see something, you help them out.

"What Luis Suarez has given to Uruguayan football is huge. Never mind the chance that he can give something little from now on. I hope he can still give us something. I'm not 100 per cent sure, he can have some problem. But we can't worry just for one injury or missing one game."

Suarez – Uruguay's all-time leading scorer with 58 goals since debuting in 2007 – has netted six goals for Barca across all competitions this term.

Michael Cheika was unwilling to discuss high tackling by Australia after their 45-10 victory over Uruguay in Oita on Saturday.

A routine Pool D success for the Wallabies came despite first-half yellow cards for Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, while Michael Hooper and Kurtley Beale were also penalised by referee Mathieu Raynal.

Tackling issues have been prevalent during Australia's campaign, with Reece Hodge handed a three-game ban for his challenge on Fiji's Peceli Yato in their opening match.

The Wallabies wing stated he had "no knowledge" of the new tackling framework after he was cited for the hit, which World Rugby said "was of some general concern" when dishing out the suspension.

Cheika was angered by the decision and that criticism and was unwilling to tread similar ground after Australia's meeting with Uruguay led to questions on tackling resurfacing.

"I think maybe we can talk about something else to be honest," said Cheika, who discussed the fact Australia conceded 12 penalties to Uruguay's five.

"We're just giving away too many penalties, full stop, no matter what it's for, you can't be winning the game by 45 and still lose the penalty count.

"One was for kicking the ball out of a ruck. That's a penalty and we know that. We have to tidy that up.

"But I'm not going to talk about tackles. I'm going to steer clear of that."

Dane Haylett-Petty and Tevita Kuridrani touched down either side of a try from 19-year-old debutant Jordan Petaia in the first half.

Haylett-Petty and Kuridrani went over again in the second period, with Will Genia and James Slipper also getting on the board in a bonus-point triumph.

Jordan Petaia enjoyed a memorable debut as Australia bounced back from their loss to Wales with a 45-10 victory over Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The Wallabies could not afford a slip-up after going down to Wales in last week's Pool D blockbuster, and Australia returned to winning ways thanks to a bonus-point triumph.

Australia teenager Petaia capped his long-awaited international bow with a try as the Wallabies crossed seven times to one against a spirited Uruguay team in Oita.

The Wallabies – who made 12 changes for the match before James O'Connor was replaced by Samu Kerevi on the bench prior to kick-off – started fast, despite some desperate Uruguay defending.

Australia made the breakthrough in the sixth minute, with Kurtley Beale feeding Dane Haylett-Petty for an easy five-pointer in open space as Christian Lealiifano added the extras.

The Wallabies did not have it all their own way in the first half following two yellow cards, however, Australia appeared to play better with a man less on the field.

After Felipe Berchesi's penalty conversion and Adam Coleman's high tackle, Petaia burst through for a memorable try in the 24th minute – Beale's quick hands allowing the teenager to cross, with Lealiifano making no mistake in splitting the uprights.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto also found himself in the sin bin approaching the half-hour mark but Tevita Kuridrani sprinted clear to put Australia 19-3 ahead after Petaia fended off two players before teeing up his team-mate.

It could have been 19-10 at half-time but Tomas Inciarte's try was chalked off by TMO for offside after Uruguay had celebrated and lined up for the conversion.

Kuridrani scored his second try of the match to claim the bonus point, streaking clear after collecting the ball in the middle of the field six minutes into the second half.

Will Genia came off the bench to make it 31-3 to Australia eight minutes later, with Lealiifano adding the two points, before James Slipper barged his way over to end his wait for a Test try and Haylett-Petty claimed a double 12 minutes from time.

Uruguay's hard-fought display was rewarded with a with a try at the death – Manuel Diana capping a relentless spell of pressure and 18 phases.

 

A star is born

Petaia's debut was worth the wait. The Reds sensation – the youngest player to represent Australia at a World Cup – scored his first international try with his second touch of the match. Petaia also had a try assist in an impressive first half.

Slipper ends drought

Earning his 94th cap, Slipper had plenty to celebrate. The 30-year-old, who debuted in 2010, finally scored a try for the Wallabies as he was mobbed by his team-mates and given and a standing ovation by Australia's coaching staff.

What's next?

Australia will wrap up their group-stage campaign with a clash against Georgia in Fukuroi on October 11 before Uruguay meet Wales in Kumamoto two days later.

Luis Suarez will miss Uruguay's upcoming friendlies against Peru, instead staying in Barcelona to undergo medical treatment.

The 32-year-old was named in the preliminary squad but will miss the two matches later this month.

Suarez has scored five goals in seven games to begin the season for Barcelona, including netting a brace in Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League victory over Inter.

Barcelona and Uruguay announced on Thursday that the forward would remain in Spain instead of travelling for the friendlies in Montevideo and Lima.

"The first-team player Luis Suarez will stay in Barcelona during the selection stop, making medical treatment by mutual agreement between the medical services of the club and those of the Uruguay team as part of his personalised work plan," a Barcelona statement read.

Despite criticism, Suarez has made a fine start to the season with the Spanish giants, who are fourth in the LaLiga table and host Sevilla on Sunday.

Uruguay also ruled out Giorgian De Arrascaeta after the midfielder suffered a knee injury in Flamengo's Copa Libertadores draw with Gremio.

After Uruguay host Peru on October 11, the teams meet again three days later.

James Slipper says Australia are treating the coming days as "Grand Final week" as they prepare to do battle with Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup.

A rousing fightback was unable to prevent the Wallabies from suffering a 29-25 defeat to Wales last Sunday.

Australia are now third with two Pool D matches to play and prop Slipper knows they have to come out firing from the start when they take on Uruguay at Oita Stadium on Saturday.

"It's obviously disappointing with the result we had [against Wales], but essentially now it's Grand Final week for us," said Slipper.

"Both teams have to win. We're preparing like that every game. So, for us, it's just about getting back into work, training hard, making sure we come out and win the game."

Jordan Petaia will make history by becoming the youngest Australia player to feature in a World Cup match at the age of 19 after Michael Cheika opted to make 12 changes to his starting line-up.

Matt Toomua also comes into the side for his 50th Test cap after impressing off the bench against the Six Nations champions and the centre is backing teenage wing Petaia to show what the hype is about.

"More so than any other young player, he is just as competent on both sides of the ball: attack and defence. It's not often you say that about young guys. They might have a wicked sidestep or something but Jordy likes getting in the rough and tumble stuff, which is brilliant," said Toomua.

Esteban Meneses has made nine alterations to the Uruguay line-up following a heavy loss to Georgia, with centre Andres Vilaseca named captain as Juan Manuel Gaminara drops to the bench.

Facundo Gattas was given a three-match ban for a dangerous tackle in the 33-7 defeat to Georgia and will learn whether he has been successful with an appeal on Friday.
 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia - Christian Lealiifano

Lealiifano replaces Bernard Foley at fly-half, having been surprisingly dropped for the Wales game. The playmaker can seize his chance to show he should keep the number 10 jersey by getting the Wallabies ticking.

Uruguay - Rodrigo Silva

Silva switches from the left wing to full-back and Uruguay will need him to make that a seamless transition as Australia look to pile on the pressure from the start.
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Australia and Uruguay's only previous Test meeting came at the last World Cup, with the Wallabies dishing out a 65-3 drubbing. 
- Uruguay's 30-27 victory over Fiji in their opening match of the competition was the first time they had defeated a team from Oceania at a World Cup.
- The Wallabies have trailed at half-time in each of their first two pool matches. Prior to this tournament, they had been behind at the break in only one World Cup pool game - against South Africa in 1995.
- Toomua's 61 metres gained, five defenders beaten and two offloads against Wales were more than he had achieved in any of his previous seven World Cup matches.

Georgia coach Milton Haig believes he did not put too much pressure on his side by claiming their Rugby World Cup clash with Uruguay was a must-win.

Uruguay were flying high after stunning Fiji, but Georgia came out on top 33-7 in Pool D, claiming their first win of the tournament.

Haig had stated his belief that Georgia, who were defeated by Wales in their opening match, had to triumph against the South Americans if they stood any chance of progressing from a pool which also includes Australia.

The coach, who will leave his post at the end of Georgia's World Cup campaign, acknowledged his comments may have backfired, but was delighted with the reaction of his players.

"It was just stating facts really, we were at a tipping point," Haig told a news conference.

"Obviously if you lose this match everything we'd worked at for so long would have gone down the tubes. Obviously that put pressure on the players, I'm pretty sure it did but that was the reaction I wanted.

"When you're under pressure you either use it as motivation or use it as a hindrance so I wanted to see how the boys would respond and I think they responded pretty well today.

"We're still a work in progress, no doubt about that but after my eight years, I finish at the end of this World Cup, as long as I know I can walk away knowing I've given my all and made my players better then I'll be happy."

Georgia's players were left frustrated after full-time, however, when a Russian song was played in celebration of their victory, with captain Jabba Bregvadze telling reporters: "I want to take this moment to ask the person who played the Russian music, next time don't make the mistake again, please."

Haig added: "They were playing a song after the match that was a Russian song, sung by a Georgian singer but it is a Russian song.

"Again, we want to make it clear that Russia is not Georgia, Georgia is not Russia. We have a different language, different culture, different everything, so World Rugby, please make sure you get these sort of things ironed out for us."

Georgia celebrated their first win at this year's Rugby World Cup with a dominant 33-7 bonus-point victory over Uruguay on Sunday.

Uruguay were flying high after stunning Fiji, but the South Americans wilted in the stifling Kumagaya humidity as Georgia scored five tries to one in the Pool D clash.

Tedo Abzhandadze added four conversions for Georgia in a one-sided contest.

Georgia made 12 changes to their starting XV after being routed by Wales in game one, but it did not hamper the team's rhythm as they outclassed Uruguay, especially in the pack.

Alexander Todua struck first for Georgia in the eighth minute. Two cut-out passes created space for Todua, who eased into the corner after Uruguay's scrum fell apart.

And although Abzhandadze was unable to add the extras, Georgia's energy and strength continued to prove too much for Uruguay, who struggled in the sweltering conditions.

Georgia's power and muscle saw them score their second try on the half hour mark, this time courtesy of Otari Giorgadze. Another dominant scrum paved the way for the flanker to smash his way over the line and Abzhandadze converted for a 12-0 lead.

For all of Georgia's dominance, Uruguay managed to keep themselves in the game with a try against the run of play three minutes later. Quick hands unravelled Georgia, who were helpless as Andres Vilaseca ran through, with Felipe Berchesi adding the extras.

Georgia reasserted their authority two minutes into the second half, restoring their 12-point lead courtesy of Levan Chilachava after strong work again near the try line, with Abzhandadze converting.

Georgia's relentless pressure yielded another five-pointer in the 51st minute – Jaba Bregvadze securing the bonus point, with Abzhandadze's conversion proving successful – and Giorgi Kveseladze got in on the action six minutes later.

 

Georgia giants dominate Uruguay

The imposing Georgians were simply too big and strong for Uruguay. Georgia's pack weighed a combined total of 917kg, almost 100kg heavier than their opponents and it showed as they beat Los Teros for the fourth consecutive time.

Uruguay hit with reality check

The talk of the tournament four days earlier after claiming their first World Cup win in 16 years, it was a game to forget for Uruguay. In what turned out to be a match between men and boys, Uruguay barely had time in possession as they chased shadows and succumbed to Georgia's power. Their woes were compounded by a late red card to Facundo Gattas for a shoulder charge.

What's next?

Georgia will turn their attention to Thursday's clash against Fiji in Higashiosaka, while Uruguay take on the might of Australia two days later in Oita.

Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses declared his side "shocked the world" in beating Fiji and his aim is to do the same again against Georgia on Sunday.

Los Teros claimed their first Rugby World Cup win in 16 years as a trio of first-half tries set up a stunning 30-27 victory.

But Uruguay are not done yet and Meneses has identified their second clash with Georgia as another game in which they can pick up a result.

The coach had said they worked for four years towards the Fiji result but insists this second match was also always in their thinking.

"The game against Georgia is part of this shock to the world that we set out to achieve," he told El Observador.

"The Fiji game, which really was a shock and a huge joy, is something that we will use as encouragement and inspiration.

"Against Georgia, we will arrive with the same preparation of these past four years that supports us for these hard 80 minutes."

Despite their strong start, Uruguay would have to produce a far greater upset to reach the knock-out stages, with Australia and Wales also in Pool D.

Meneses is instead focused on beating Georgia to secure a third-placed finish, which would ensure they return to the world stage in four years' time.

"We have 80 minutes left [to qualify]," he added. "It is a final that sends us directly to the World Cup.

"We stand with this level of preparation and conviction for these remaining 80 minutes."

Uruguay have made just two changes from their opening win, but Georgia have taken an alternative approach, switching 12 men following their big defeat to Wales.

Jaba Bregvadze has been brought in to captain Georgia in a game they too will expect to win.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Georgia - Jaba Bregvadze

Bregvadze was sent to the sin bin as a replacement against Wales, but he gets his chance to start here. A popular Sunwolves star, the veteran hooker should have no difficulty adapting to the conditions and has a key role as skipper.

Uruguay - Felipe Berchesi

While three first-half tries put Uruguay in contention against Fiji, it was the boot of Berchesi, supplying 15 points, that really made the difference when it mattered most. He will likely need to deliver again if they are to add a second win.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Georgia and Uruguay have faced each other on five previous occasions in Test rugby. Uruguay won their first two meetings, but Georgia's Lelos have won the past three.
- Uruguay won their only prior Rugby World Cup clash with Georgia, 24-12 in Sydney in 2003.
- The South American side will be aiming to win two matches in a World Cup campaign for the first time. Before beating Fiji, they had only won against Spain in 1999 and Georgia in 2003.
- Georgia have won each of their past four matches against non-tier one opposition at the World Cup since that defeat to Uruguay 16 years ago.
- Berchesi's 15 points against Fiji was the highest tally scored by a Uruguay player in a World Cup match. He became the first Teros player to post double figures.

Uruguay's shock 30-27 win over Fiji at the Rugby World Cup was a triumph four years in the making, according to head coach Esteban Meneses.

First-half tries from Santiago Arata, Manuel Diana and Juan Manuel Cat set up a stunning victory in Kamaishi, with Felipe Berchesi's unerring boot adding 15 points.

It meant a first World Cup win in 16 years for the South American side and Meneses was in no doubt over the gravity of his team's accomplishment.

"Yes, without a doubt, we shocked the world," he told reporters.

"To me that is [the result of] what we started four years ago, to win a World Cup game against a rival of the first level."

Georgia are up next for Uruguay and Meneses wants to see his men build on the Fiji victory and give further evidence of the steady improvement he has looked to foster away from the public gaze.

"Uruguay needs matches like this one against Fiji and the next one with Georgia. We need those matches to progress," he said.

"To me, shocking the world is to be able to translate the job we have been doing the last four years against rivals of this dimension."

Meneses added: "It means [this victory against Fiji] is the confirmation of a job that we have been doing since four years ago.

"This process is the continuation of the previous one, when Uruguay participated in the World Cup in 2015.

"We have been working seriously and accomplishing goals. Today it was a big step for us. We got this result as consequence of our game."

Emotional Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara was brimming with pride after his side stunned Fiji at the Rugby World Cup.

Santiago Arata, Manuel Diana and Juan Manuel Cat crossed for first-half tries and Felipe Berchesi kicked 15 points in a thrilling 30-27 victory in Kamaishi.

Fiji had won their previous three Tests against Uruguay by an average of 36 points but Gaminara and his team-mates would not be denied.

"I'm really proud of my country, we're not the biggest, we're not the tallest, but we came here to win," he said, while seemingly on the brink of tears.

"We are preparing this for four years, so I'm really proud of my country.

"We never had anything granted, we always have to qualify first and then come to the World Cup. Since we qualified we've been thinking about this game and you saw the passion. I am really proud."

Fiji coach John McKee questioned his side's mental toughness.

"Credit to Uruguay, the way they played this afternoon and the attitude they brought to the game, they got a great result," he said.

"For us, we were off the pace in the game, made critical errors, gifted them tries and we just didn't have the mental toughness to get back into the game.

"At half-time we thought we'd made some errors, they'd scored three tries off our errors basically, but we had been playing well.

"We were focusing on keeping the ball, not turning the ball over. In the first half we turned the ball over on the edges too often, we really believed we could fight our way back into the game.

"We've got to get ourselves off the floor now. We're playing Georgia in eight days' time and it's a massively important game for us."

Georgia are also up next for Uruguay in Pool D on Sunday, with Fiji then taking on the eastern European side on October 3.

Uruguay caused a huge upset by stunning Fiji 30-27 at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday.

The South Americans claimed just their third win in tournament history by shocking Fiji in the Pool D clash in Kamaishi.

Uruguay crossed for three first-half tries as they punished an error-riddled display by Fiji, while they got 15 points from the boot of Felipe Berchesi.

Fiji had won their previous three Tests against Uruguay by an average of 36 points but fell to an unlikely defeat on this occasion.

A much-changed Fiji needed just seven minutes to take the lead, Mesu Dolokoto touching down in the corner after a line-out, brilliant play from Alivereti Veitokani having put his side in a good position.

However, Uruguay hit back through Santiago Arata, who easily stepped through some soft Fijian defending to score under the posts after a German Kessler pass.

Eroni Mawi crashed over to restore Fiji's lead, only for Manuel Diana to respond once more for Uruguay, who led 14-12 after 22 minutes.

Fiji were being punished for their mistakes and another allowed the South Americans to stunningly stretch their lead.

A high kick from Arata was allowed to bounce, Uruguay spreading the ball to the left before Rodrigo Silva threw a pass inside for Juan Manuel Cat to score.

Fiji piled on the pressure to begin the second half and they were rewarded when Api Ratuniyarawa went over.

Both teams encountered goal-kicking woes before Berchesi extended Uruguay's lead to 27-17 with 20 minutes to go.

A dummy from Nikola Matawalu allowed him to dive over from a metre out and bring Fiji back to within five, but a Berchesi penalty pushed Uruguay clear as they held on despite the scrum-half scoring again.

 

Fiji made to pay for mistakes

Fiji were far too loose in the first half and Uruguay made them pay on every occasion, opening up a 24-12 lead at the break. They played with less risk to begin the second half, only for the errors to resume as they got desperate.

Famous win for Uruguay

Ranked 19th in the world, this was Uruguay's first win at the Rugby World Cup since 2003. In 2015, they scored just 30 points and conceded 226, showing just how much progress they have made in four years.

What's next?

Both teams' next games are against Georgia. Uruguay face Georgia on Sunday, while Fiji's next outing is on October 3.

Fiji have made 12 changes to their line-up for Wednesday's Rugby World Cup clash with Uruguay in Kamaishi.

Following a 39-21 defeat to Australia in Sapporo, Fiji head coach John McKee has made wholesale changes to his side, with only captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Leone Nakarawa and Semi Radradra keeping their places.

Eroni Mawi, Manasa Saulo, Tevita Ratuva and Mosese Voka – playing at his first World Cup – move into the XV after starting on the bench against Australia, with Mesulame Dolokoto and Api Ratuniyarawa in line for their first appearances at the 2019 finals.

Viliame Mata and Peceli Yato are out with respective calf and concussion concerns, giving Voka a chance to impress as a flanker, while Vereniki Goneva, Alivereti Veitokani, Henry Seniloli, Josh Matavesi, Jale Vatubua and Filipo Nakosi all come in.

With Wales having dispatched Georgia in Pool D on Monday, the Uruguay showdown could prove key to Fiji's hopes of reigniting their push for the knockout phase, and McKee is not prepared to underestimate a side they beat 68-7 10 months ago.

"We are very wary of the Uruguay team," he said. "This is their first Rugby World Cup 2019 match and we expect a much-improved team from the one we faced in November."

Uruguay coach Esteban Meneses has kept faith with much of the side that secured a spot in Japan against Canada last February, with nine players from that 32-31 play-off second-leg win involved.

Captain Juan Manuel Gaminara is one of eight players who were in the 23 for the 47-15 defeat to Fiji at the World Cup four years ago.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Fiji - Ben Volavola

Fly-half Volavola was successful with four of five attempts with the boot against Australia and scored 23 of their 68 points in the rout of Uruguay last year.

Uruguay - Andres Vilaseca

Vilaseca was the only player at the 2019 Nations Cup to score multiple tries (two) and provide multiple assists (two), while he also managed a tournament-high nine clean breaks.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Fiji have won each of their three previous Test meetings with Uruguay by an average margin of 36 points per game, including the 68-7 triumph when they last clashed in November 2018.
- Fiji have won eight of their last nine Rugby World Cup matches against Tier 2 opposition (L1), scoring an average of 41 points per game in those victories.
- Uruguay have won seven of their 10 Tests since their last meeting with Fiji (L3); however, they will be out to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since February 2017.
- Fiji have scored at least one try in 55 of their last 56 Test matches, including their last 21 in a row, failing only to cross the try line against Georgia in June 2016.
- Despite coming on as a replacement for Fiji in their opening game against Australia, Mosese Voka made 18 tackles – the most ever by a Fiji player in a Rugby World Cup game, surpassing Akapusi Qera's tally of 17 against Canada in 2007.

It may not prove to be the case in the long run, but New Zealand feel a little vulnerable going into the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Having failed to win this year's shortened version of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks are no longer the top-ranked side prior to the tournament in Japan.

Admittedly, they have not suffered a World Cup defeat since 2007, when they were stunned by France in a quarter-final in Cardiff. Their pedigree, plus their strength in depth, means Steve Hansen's side deserve to be considered the favourites.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope for the rest of the rugby heavyweights. The question is: who is best placed to dethrone the champions? 

 

1. SOUTH AFRICA

Could the Springboks be peaking at just the right time? They won the Rugby Championship for the fourth time this year and, after a shocking start against Japan, came as close as any nation to ending New Zealand's march towards a second straight World Cup in 2015. An early crack at the All Blacks in their Pool B opener will give them the chance to land a potentially telling blow. Also, the Boks ruled the world in 1995 and 2007. Now, 12 years on from their previous success, will the trend be repeated? They deserve to be viewed as the main contenders to the defending champions.

2. ENGLAND

It cannot possibly go any worse than four years ago, right? Eddie Jones – who was in charge of the Japan team that upset the Boks in Brighton in 2015 – is at the helm and the schedule has aided their campaign, as they have Tonga and the United States in their opening two fixtures in Pool C, giving them a chance to iron out any issues before they round out the stage by facing Argentina and France. The talismanic Owen Farrell is the key – and not just because of his outstanding kicking off the tee.

3. WALES

Warren Gatland could finish his spell in charge by doing a Six Nations Grand Slam and World Cup double. The Kiwi reached the semi-finals in 2011 and then the quarters four years ago. The reason they are not rated higher, however, is the list of absentees. Flanker Taulupe Faletau and fly-half Gareth Anscombe are missing due to injuries, scrum-half Rhys Webb is unavailable due to selection rules and attack coach Rob Howley has returned home over an alleged betting breach.

4. IRELAND

Like several of his counterparts, Joe Schmidt's tenure comes to an end with the World Cup. His final Six Nations did not go quite to plan, but Ireland top the world rankings, defeated New Zealand less than a year ago (in a game where the mighty All Blacks failed to score a try) and have plenty of experience in their squad. Much will depend on the form and fitness of fly-half Johnny Sexton - can he help the team recapture the form they displayed in 2018? While Pool A looks to be plain sailing, they face the prospect of New Zealand or South Africa in the last eight.

5. AUSTRALIA

The beaten finalists from four years ago will be relying on experience to go one better than 2015. Michael Cheika has often seemed on the brink as their head coach, but he raised hopes by beating New Zealand 47-26 in Perth in August. Still, they lost the rematch 36-0 on the road and are minus their leading strike weapon in Israel Folau, who is locked in a legal dispute with the Australia Rugby Union following his sacking for comments on social media. Without him, they will be more workmanlike than eye-catching in attack. 

6. SCOTLAND

Scotland are in a pool that, apart from Ireland, looks softer than some of the alternative options. They will not take hosts Japan for granted in their final round-robin fixture and, if they do progress, will have to cause an upset against either New Zealand or South Africa in the next round. Gregor Townsend has plenty of World Cup experience from his playing days, but this is his first in charge of the national team - expect the Scots to be in some highly entertaining contests but the last four looks a long shot.

7. ARGENTINA

Los Pumas languish outside the top 10 in the rankings but have made the semi-finals at two of the last three World Cups. The reason they are listed so low here, though, is their group. Only two can progress and having been drawn alongside England and France, Argentina face a challenge to make the quarters. Mario Ledesma's squad is dominated by players from Jaguares, who reached the Super Rugby final for the first time this year, but will lean on the Stade Francais' Nicolas Sanchez to provide control.

8. FRANCE

There was a time when France were the team you wanted to avoid in the knockout stages (just ask New Zealand 12 years ago, while they only won the 2011 final 8-7 against Les Bleus). Yet this current bunch are not living up to previous versions, with a distinct lack of flair put down to a domestic game now dominated by big-name overseas recruits occupying key positions. Sure, France have turned it on for the big occasion in the past, but the 2019 squad should concentrate first on making it out of their pool.

AND THE REST...

Japan have improved since 2015. Italy? Not so much. The hosts can justifiably think a quarter-final slot is within reach, but the Azzurri look doomed in Pool B alongside the All Blacks and the Boks. Currently placed inside the world's top 10, Fiji will likely have to beat one of Australia or Wales just to make it out of their group. The other nations will hope for damage limitation against the big boys and aim to take points off each other in their remaining fixtures. 

Gregg Berhalter believes the United States were given the sort of physical test they can expect in World Cup qualifying by Uruguay on Tuesday.

USA failed to qualify from the CONCACAF section for Russia 2018 but are rebuilding under Berhalter ahead of the next cycle.

Days on from a humbling 3-0 defeat to rivals Mexico, USA held Uruguay to a 1-1 draw - equalising through Jordan Morris after Brian Rodriguez's opener - and Berhalter was impressed by his team's spirit.

The coach suggested the Uruguay match in St Louis, where the hosts bossed 60 per cent of possession, would ultimately prove more useful than the clash with Mexico.

"We just played two different teams with two very important challenges," Berhalter told a news conference.

"Against CONCACAF teams, we will play teams that are very compact [like Uruguay]. We have to understand how to break those teams down. Mexico were a totally different challenge.

"Mexico are a high-pressing, active team in front of a loud, boisterous crowd. Mexico presented us with good challenges but also good learning opportunities.

"We talked about how this opponent [Uruguay] were going to be compact and be physical. I think the team did a great job on set-pieces.

"More importantly, it was about the tenacity of our guys and the relentlessness of our guys to hang in there and keep battling. We did a good job, particularly in the first half, of keeping our structure."

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