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Great Britain

Rugby World Cup round-up: Ireland sweat on Rob Kearney fitness, England injury update and tattoos

Ireland sweat on Kearney fitness

Rob Kearney will be put through his paces at training on Wednesday in an effort to prove he is fit enough to feature in selection for Ireland’s opening match of the Rugby World Cup against Scotland.

The veteran full-back suffered a tight calf muscle that leaves a question mark over his fitness for the Pool A clash on Saturday, and with Robbie Henshaw already ruled out with a hamstring injury, head coach Joe Schmidt can ill-afford to lose another back.

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"Rob Kearney has a bit of tightness in his calf, and that will be managed across Tuesday," said an Irish Rugby Football Union [IRFU] spokesman. "We hope he'll be out running on Wednesday so we will be able to update after that.”

There was a more positive update on wing Keith Earls and fly-half Joey Carbery though, with the pair returning to full training on Monday and in contention for selection.

Ulster back Will Addison is on stand-by back in Ireland, should either of Henshaw or Kearney need replacing, but Schmidt has decided so far against bringing in a replacement in the hope that they shake off their knocks.

England injuries

Mark Wilson and Joe Cokanasiga continue to be monitored ahead of England’s opening World Cup match against Tonga. Both players are suffering with niggling injuries to their knee and have not yet completed a full training session as they are managed back to full fitness.

England attack coach Scott Wisemantel confirmed that they remain in contention for selection in Sunday’s match, with the only players ruled out at this stage being Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell – who will also miss next Thursday’s clash with the USA.

“The two guys who won't be considered are Mako and Jack, but everyone else is either return to play or fully training, so they all have a chance,” Wisemantel said.

He also confirmed that there are no concerns over Anthony Watson, despite the wing receiving minor treatment on his ankle during Tuesday’s gym session.

“They all like to get a little bit of treatment, those outside backs. A bit of love!” joked Wisemantel. “He's fine.”

All Blacks put faith in Tuipulotu

Experienced New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock has backed teammate Patrick Tuipulotu to shine if he is selected to replace Brodie Retallick in the All Blacks’ starting line-up against South Africa on Saturday.

Retallick is set to miss the entire pool stage after dislocating his shoulder during the Rugby Championship in the 16-16 draw against the Springboks last July, though head coach Steve Hansen deemed him valuable enough to keep in the 31-man squad in the hope that he will be fit for the knockout stages.

Sam Whitelock (right) has backed teammate Patrick Tuipolotu to shine at the World Cup (AP)

In Retallick’s absence, 26-year-old Tuipolotu could be selected alongside Whitelock in the second-row, although Scott Barrett’s ban for his red card against Australia last month has now expired to leave him available for selection.

"He's definitely taken a step to where he potentially can go as a player and that's very, very exciting for him individually but also for us a team," Whitelock said. "It's awesome to see growth in a player. He's probably lost a little bit of weight too, which has meant he's a little bit more mobile but he's still keeping that great strength he does have.”

Moments silence before England vs Tonga

Sunday’s match between England and Tonga in Sapporo (11:15am BST, 7:15pm local) will see a moment’s silence take place to remember the late Tongan prime minister Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

A World Rugby statement read: “The global rugby family will pay its respects for the passing of Tonga Prime Minister and former Tongan Rugby Football Union president Hon. Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva with a moment's silence ahead of Tonga's opening Rugby World Cup 2019 match against England on 22 September.

The moment's silence will be observed after the anthems immediately prior to the Sipi Tau being performed by the Tonga team.

Tattoos in Japan

World Rugby are confident there will not be any issues for players with tattoos at the Rugby World Cup, despite body art still frowned upon in Japan.

England players at their Phoenix Seagaia Resort are unable to use the traditional Onsen baths if they have tattoos, while hotel guests are also banned from using the gym if they have them visible – though England have their own temporary gym located in the hotel’s car park.

Joe Marler is one of a number of England players with tattoos (Getty)

Addressing the issue across Japan during the six-week tournament, Rugby World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin said: “There’s huge goodwill and understanding with the teams about respecting their hosts, understanding that they are in Japan where tattoos carry a particular cultural significance. Many of the teams are very understanding of that, and will be covering with various items of clothing.

"We’ve seen fantastic goodwill from players towards their hosts and from hosts towards the players and we don't see it as an issue at all.”

In Japan, tattoos are seen as a sign of being involved in organised crime or being a member of the ‘Yakuza’, though that perception is starting to ease in public across the nation.

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