The Latest: Panel rejects Matu'u appeal against 3-game ban

The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) -- The Latest on Day 12 at the Rugby World Cup (all times local):

8:30 p.m.

Samoa hooker Motu Matu'u has had his appeal against a three-game suspension rejected.

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Matu'u was yellow-carded during Samoa's opening win over Russia for a high tackle and was cited after the game. He was subsequently banned from Samoa's last two pool games and a quarterfinal.

The disciplinary committee ruled that Matu'u could not have been considered for Samoa's second group game against Scotland because of injury, which is why the ban extended to the quarterfinals if his team qualified for the knockout stage, or to Oct. 27 otherwise.

An appeals panel upheld the disciplinary committee's decision that tackle met the requirements for a red card, and that the suspension beyond the group stage was reasonable given that Matu'u was already deemed unavailable for one of the pool games.

Samoan Rey Lee-Lo was banned for three games after receiving a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the same game. Australia winger Reece Hodge, U.S. flanker John Quill and Uruguay hooker Facundo Gattas also have received three-game suspensions after being cited for high or dangerous tackles.

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7 p.m.

South Africa center Jesse Kriel has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup because of a hamstring injury sustained in the team's opening pool match against the All Blacks.

Kriel has been replaced by 21-year-old utility back Damian Willemse, who has five caps - all from 2018 - and is currently playing his club rugby in England with Saracens.

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus says ''Damian would have been more involved with us this year but for injury, but he is familiar with our systems and should have no problem slotting in.''

The Springboks say Kriel's injury has improved but the recovery ''was insufficient to put him in contention for either of the remaining two pool games'' - against Italy and Canada.

Erasmus says ''I feel for Jesse. He has been in the match-day 23 for almost every match since I took over and is a model professional. He was a key member of the squad.''

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4 p.m.

Head coach John McKee has made 11 changes to his Fiji starting lineup for Thursday's must-win Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Georgia in Osaka.

Only four players remain from the starting XV which lost 30-27 to Uruguay last Wednesday in one of the tournament's biggest upsets. They are prop Manasa Saulo, lock Leone Nakarawa, flanker and captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu and left winger Semi Radradra.

McKee has selected 13 players who started in Fiji's opening loss to Australia. Fiji led the two-time champion by nine points in that game before Australia hit back to dominate the last 20 minutes.

Backrower Peceli Yato, who missed the Uruguay match after showing signs of concussion following a high, heavy tackle in the loss to Australia, has recovered to return to the Fiji team to take on Georgia.

Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu, Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu, Lepani Botia, Semi Radradra, Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani; Peceli Yato, Semi Kunatani, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Manasa Saulo, Samuel Matavesi, Campese Ma'afu. Reserves: Tuvere Vugakoto, Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Viliame Mata, Nikola Matawalu, Jale Vatubua, Josh Matavesi.

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3:30 p.m.

Georgia coach Milton Haig has made sweeping changes for the Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Fiji on Thursday, keeping only four of the 15 who started in the 33-7 win against Uruguay.

Haig reverts largely back to the side which lost their opening game 43-14 to Wales, with 12 players starting from that match.

Georgia becomes the first Tier 2 side in World Cup history to name three different captains, with center Merab Sharikadze taking the armband after hooker Jaba Bregvadze wore it against Uruguay and prop Mikheil Nariashvili did so against Wales.

Nariashvili is in the starting XV for Thursday's match at Hanazono Rugby Stadium while Bregvadze - who scored one try and set another one with a deft kick against Uruguay - is on the bench.

Georgia: Soso Matiashvili, Giorgi Kveseladze, David Kacharava, Merab Sharikadze (captain), Alexander Todua, Lasha Khmaladze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Beka Gorgadze, Mamuka Gorgodze, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Konstantine Mikautadze, Giorgi Nemsadze, Beka Gigashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Mikheil Nariashvili. Reserves: Jaba Bregvadze, Guram Gogichashvili, Levan Chilachava, Otari Giorgadze, Beka Saginadze, Gela Aprasidze, Lasha Malaguradze, Miriani Modebadze.

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3:15 p.m.

Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton returns as captain for the first time of an Ireland lineup with 11 changes for the match against Russia after the upset loss to Japan.

Sexton had a thigh complaint and was rested from the game against Japan last Saturday. Regular captain Rory Best and props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong have been rested for Thursday's game against Russia in Kobe.

Only flanker Peter O'Mahony, center Garry Ringrose, wing Keith Earls, and fullback Rob Kearney have been retained from the starting XV. Ringrose, a try-scorer against Japan, starts a third straight match while Robbie Henshaw is still recovering from a hamstring tear.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton (captain), Luke McGrath; Jordi Murphy, Peter O'Mahony, Rhys Ruddock, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, CJ Stander Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Jordan Larmour.

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2:45 p.m.

Uruguay hooker Facundo Gattas has been banned for three games after being red carded for a dangerous high tackle late in his team's Rugby World Cup loss to Georgia last Sunday.

Gattas sought to have the red card overturned, but an independent judicial committee upheld the decision of match referee Wayne Barnes.

Gattas went on as a second-half replacement in the 33-7 loss at Kumagaya, and was sent off two minutes from fulltime for the tackle close to his own tryline.

The judicial panel disagreed with Uruguay's argument that it was a passive tackle, finding ''the action was more akin to a dominant tackle with a high degree of danger'' and that ''there was a direct contact of the player's left shoulder to the ball carrier's head.''

Gattas will miss Uruguay's next two pool games and, if Uruguay advances, the quarterfinal. If Uruguay doesn't reach the knockout stage, Gattas will be free to play again from Oct. 21.

World Rugby has launched a crackdown on tackles to cut down on contact with the head or neck of players.

U.S. flanker John Quill got the first red card of the tournament and was banned for the remainder of the pool stage after admitting to a reckless, dangerous tackle in his team's opening loss to England.

Australia winger Reece Hodge and Samoans Rey Lee-Lo and Motu Matu'u were each banned for three games after being found guilty of making dangerous tackles in earlier games.

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2:05 p.m.

Facing France at the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday will have extra importance for veteran United States prop Eric Fry.

The 32-year-old from California has been playing his club rugby in the second-tier Pro D2 league in France with Brittany-based team Vannes since 2016.

''It's a very special game for me. I've been immersed in the culture there,'' he said Tuesday. ''Going back in three or four weeks, I want to look those guys in the eyes and show them I gave everything I got (and) gave France a run for their money.''

Three-time runner-up France won its opening Pool C match, a 23-21 thriller against Argentina, and is seeking to gain momentum. True to form France still made 12 changes for its second group game - including the entire pack - but Fry is not expecting a lesser challenge.

''Regardless of the front row they've put out, they're always going to be testing us in the scrums. Same with the lineout mauls. It's something we're preparing for and we're going to meet it head on,'' he said.

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1:30 p.m.

Flyhalf Dan Biggar is expected to be fit and available for Wales' next Rugby World Cup game against Fiji on Oct. 9.

Wales' skills coach Neil Jenkins says Biggar '' is symptom-free at the minute.''

''He will be fine. As far as I understand, he will be ready to go by the time we play Fiji,'' Jenkins said, ''so that's obviously good news.''

Biggar failed an initial head injury assessment after a try-saving tackle on Semu Kerevi in the 28th-minute of Wales' 29-25 win over Australia on Sunday.

The win put Six Nations champion Wales on top of Pool D, and ended their 28-year World Cup drought against the Australians.

Biggar has been the starting 10 and Jenkins said ''he's a huge part of our team and the way we like to play the game.''

But Rhys Patchell was calm and assured as Biggar's replacement, kicking 14 points and holding his nerve as Australia rallied from a 23-8 deficit to get within one point late in the match.

''I think we must not forget how good Rhys Patchell was when he came on, and how good a player he is as well,'' Jenkins said. ''We are quite lucky to have the strength in depth that we have in our squad.''

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1 p.m.

Tight forwards Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager have forced their way into South Africa's full-strength starting XV for Friday's Rugby World Cup match against Italy at Shizuoka.

They are the only changes to the Springboks' lineup that started in the opening Pool B loss to defending champion New Zealand on Sept. 21.

Frontrowers Mtawarira and Mbonambi and lock De Jager, who all started in South Africa's win over Namibia last Saturday, replace Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert, who have been relegated to the bench.

Two players weren't available for the match-day 23 because of injuries, with Trevor Nyakane returning home because of a calf injury, and Jesse Kriel sidelined with a hamstring strain.

Nyakane is replaced by Vincent Koch, while there is no direct replacement for Kriel.

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus has gone for a forward-oriented bench, with only two backs among the eight players picked as reserves.

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12:50 p.m.

England's players had to unload a lot of baggage and bring in a new coach to get over the bitter disappointment four years ago of becoming the first host of the Rugby World Cup to be eliminated in the group stage.

No. 8 Billy Vunipola said a bit of therapy, with psychologist Corinne Reid, and new coach Eddie Jones had helped them get over the emotional pain and focus on making it right at the 2019 edition in Japan.

''Men don't know how to talk about their feelings. It took us a while but we got there in the end,'' Vunipola said of the sessions with Reid. ''Being brutally honest can hurt a few feelings (but) it was really good (Reid) gave us the platform to do it.''.

Jones was the head coach of Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and guided them to the biggest upset in the tournament's history with a victory over two-time champion South Africa. South Africa recovered to reach the semifinals.

Jones, who was head coach when Australia lost the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in extra-time to England, and was a consultant with South Africa when the Springboks beat England for the title in 2007, is now at the helm of English rugby.

''Eddie has definitely got the baggage out,'' Vunipola said. ''It was something that was very important to us, and it has probably freed us up a lot in terms of our relationships.''

England opened with a 35-3 win over Tonga and a 45-7 win over the United States, and now faces two-time semifinalists Argentina on Saturday in Pool C.

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12:05 p.m.

Tonga assistant coach Dan Cron has four photographs at his home in Wellington, New Zealand - mementoes of the times teams he has coached have faced teams coached by his father, New Zealand scrum coach Mike Cron.

So far it's not a fair fight. The cumulative score is 244-47 in favor of the elder Cron.

Their first meeting was during Dan Cron's time with Tonga in the opening match of Rugby World Cup in 2011 at Eden Park in Auckland. New Zealand won 41-10. Dan was with Samoa in 2017 when they played the All Blacks in a 78-0 loss. A recent All Blacks-Tonga World Cup warm-up match ended 92-7. The fourth - when Mike was with the Panasonic Wild Knights and Dan with Suntory Sungoliath in Japan - was a lot closer.

''We were 30-0 up at halftime, but then they brought on their stars and won 33-30,'' Dan Cron told the tournament website Tuesday. ''I thought I had him that day. I will get him one day.''

New Zealand beat South Africa and plays its second Pool B match against Canada in Oita on Wednesday. In Pool C, Tonga has lost to England and Argentina.

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10:30 a.m.

After playing the same side against Japan and Samoa in five days, has Russia made nine changes to the starting lineup facing Ireland in the Rugby World Cup on Thursday in Kobe.

The only six starters retained on Tuesday for a third straight Pool A match are prop Kirill Gotovtsev, lock Bogdan Fedotko, flanker Tagir Gadzhiev, midfielder Kirill Golosnitskiy, wing German Davydov, and fullback and captain Vasily Artemyev.

Flyhalf Yuri Kushnarev, Russia's all-time record holder for caps and points, missed out on the matchday 23.

Russia lost to Japan 30-10 and four days later lost to Samoa 34-9. Both times Russia faded in the second half.

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