The following is a roundup of stories from the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
James O’Connor, who was chosen on the bench for Australia’s World Cup opener against Italy after serving a one-game suspension, returned to the starting lineup to face Ireland on Sept. 17 in place of injured winger Digby Ioane.
O’Connor, who converted three of Australia’s four tries and touched down once himself in the 32-6 win over Italy, will take over goal-kicking duties from fly-half Quade Cooper. Adam Ashley-Cooper will move from the right to the left wing of the Wallabies’ backline formation.
“It’s great to be back in the starting team,” O’Connor said at a televised news conference. “It was good to be a part of the win against Italy, when I came on the field I just wanted to get involved as much as possible. It was a good start to a World Cup.”
Drew Mitchell, who’s yet to play a Test in 2011 following ankle surgery, will take O’Connor’s place on the bench.
‘Old Farm Vehicle’
Defending champion South Africa recalled Bakkies Botha, who has recovered from an Achilles injury, in one of four starting changes for the Pool D game against Fiji in two days.
Victor Matfield, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana are all unavailable because of injuries and will be replaced by Botha, Pat Lambie and Odwa Ndungane, while Gurthro Steenkamp was promoted to start at loosehead prop in place of Tendai Mtawarira, who dropped to the bench. Lambie will play at full-back as selectors shifted Frans Steyn to inside center in place of de Villiers.
Botha, who’s played 74 Tests, said he’s made an “amazing recovery” from the injury that forced him out of the Springboks’ 17-16 win over Wales four days ago.
“I still feel a little bit of stiffness, but it’s like that old farm vehicle in the morning: it smokes a bit but when you drive it, after half an hour then it’s hot and it can go,” Botha, 31, said in comments distributed by tournament organizers. “I definitely know I’m ready this weekend.”
Japan coach John Kirwan said playing tournament favorite New Zealand tomorrow will be like a rollercoaster ride for the 13th-ranked Cherry Blossoms. The All Blacks racked up a record 145 points in the teams’ only previous World Cup meeting in 1995.
“If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and seen the big rollercoaster it’s a bit like that,” Kirwan, a former New Zealand winger, said in comments distributed by tournament organizers. “A little bit exciting and a little bit scary at the same time. That’s how we feel about playing the All Blacks.”