Leigh Halfpenny to miss Springboks clash

Wales will be without the reliable Leigh Halfpenny when they face South Africa on Saturday, with the full-back ruled out with concussion.

Halfpenny, 29, suffered concussion in their Test against Australia on November 10, with this the second successive match he has missed.

Confirming the setback, Wales assistant coach Rob Howley revealed it was common sense to leave the Scarlets full-back out this weekend.

"Leigh is out. He did some training on Saturday morning and was feeling a little bit light headed," Howley said when speaking to the media.

However, Wales are set to be bolstered by the return of wing George North as they look to end the year with another victory in Cardiff. Wales are currently enjoying a run of 10 wins in a row which has given the team immense confidence, but Howley is wary of the Springboks.

"South Africa will be highly motivated. There's a landscape when we play South Africa. The contact area is pretty crucial," he warned.

"When we play South Africa, there always seems to be a lot of aerial kicking. We always enjoy playing South Africa.

"It will be one of our toughest games this autumn but we have certainly got a lot of self-belief and confidence. The players don't want that streak to end."

Stomach bug hits Wallabies camp

Australia are sweating over the fitness of Israel Folau and Bernard Foley ahead of taking on England, with both players struggling with an illness.

The duo, along with several other playing and staff members in the Wallabies camp, have been hit by a stomach bug ahead of Saturday's fixture.

However, second-row Izack Rodda has played down the fears in the group, insisting the issue is being contained before the November Test finale.

"It's not too serious at this stage. We've had two or three players shown signs, and a couple of staff, so we've put them in their own room to try and contain it around the group. It has not affected any preparation at this stage," Rodda told Sky Sports about their predicament.

It has already been reported that back-row David Pocock was an injury concern, but Rodda added that he is confident his team-mate will play.

"I'm pretty confident. He sat down today to rest, but I reckon the coaches will give him every opportunity to play, and I have complete confidence that he'll be fine," he said.

"He's massive. On the ball and around the park he's an outstanding player. It would be a big loss, but we have players that would step in and do a good job."

Chris Ashton likely to miss Wallabies Test

England wing Chris Ashton is set to miss Saturday's final November international against Australia after he sat out training on Tuesday with a calf injury.

Ashton, who made his first international appearance in four years at the beginning of the month, sustained the injury in the 35-15 victory over Japan at Twickenham on Saturday.

It is bad news for England with Ashton in good form, having scored a try against the All Blacks on his return to the starting line-up earlier this month.

The other wing options available to head coach Eddie Jones are Joe Cokanasiga, Jonny May and Jack Nowell, with the latter two likely to earn starts.

Bulls confirm shortlist for Super Rugby coach

The Bulls have confirmed they have made a decision on a shortlist of three candidates for the position of Super Rugby coach.

This follows weeks of consultation led by a recommendation panel that acted in an advisory role to the board. The board was ultimately responsible for narrowing down the shortlist after a thorough and well researched process, and will also be responsible for the final appointment.

The shortlist comprises of head coach of the Southern Kings, Deon Davids, 2018 Super Rugby forwards coach and Currie Cup head coach Pote Human and former Bulls captain and Springbok lock Victor Matfield.

The final round of interviews will be held in the next few weeks, with details regarding the appointment being made shortly thereafter. The Bulls will make no further comments until that point.

Eddie Jones having none of David Pocock injury

Eddie Jones says England will prepare for a Wallabies side with David Pocock in it, even though the number eight didn't train on Monday.

Pocock came off in the second-half of Australia's win over Italy nursing the same sore neck picked up in the second Bledisloe Cup loss to the All Blacks - an injury that has been an ongoing saga.

But Jones believes the Wallabies may be over-hyping the injury in a deliberate ploy to keep England guessing ahead of the sides' Cook Cup encounter at Twickenham on Saturday.

“I hear this every time we play Australia, ‘Pocock's not going to be fit’,” Jones told the Sydney Morning Herald. “When I heard it, I thought, ‘here we go again’. You know those merry-go-rounds at the Royal Easter Show? It's a bit like that. We're not even thinking about it.”

The Wallabies have complained that 30-year-old Pocock, the world's premier exponent at the breakdown, has been the target of neck rolls ever since the June Ireland series and want more protection for their precious poacher.

The sides meet at Twickenham on Saturday with both looking to end the year on a high.

Ireland release six back to provinces ahead of USA clash

Ireland sextet Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Rob Kearney, James Ryan, Jordan Larmour and Kieran Marmion have all rejoined their provinces ahead of the USA clash.

Flanker Dan Leavy, who missed out on the New Zealand game through injury, has a neck strain and his rehabilitation will be managed at Leinster.

Man-of-the-match Peter O'Mahony suffered a dead leg during the 16-9 victory. His training load will be managed accordingly this week, as the Ireland squad prepare for their final match against the USA on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Devin Toner, who made his 50th start for Ireland on Saturday night, praised the leadership provided by captain Rory Best and his vice-captains, as well as the noise generated by the home fans, in the aftermath of the team's 11th home win in-a-row.

"I think the mentality going into this game was one of the best that we've had," said the giant lock. "I don't think that we were going to lose that game, to be honest with you. What everyone was saying - what Sexto (Jonathan Sexton), Pete (O'Mahony) and Bestie (Rory Best) were driving - I don't think anyone was going to give up anything, to be honest.

"An unbelievable experience. To beat New Zealand for the first time on Irish soil, it's something special. The atmosphere was unbelievable, it was so loud, as loud as I've heard it.

"It wasn't great to call lineouts! It was so loud, but to come out on top in that manner is unbelievable. It doesn't mean more because of the personnel, it means more because it's in Dublin, being able to do it in front of your home crowd."

As ever, head coach Joe Schmidt deflected the plaudits to the players and also members of the backroom team whose hard work and input is rarely highlighted publicly.

"It's a bit special at home and it was a bit special tonight because of what happened in 2013, because of how the crowd were," he said.

"I thought the crowd were unbelievable and if you need a 16th man, there's not many better places to go than the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. I get a bit of reflected pride because I watch them (the players) work, I work with them and it's nice to be close to people who know how to get the best out of themselves.

"And even working with the S&C people, the medical people, the coaching staff, the analysis staff, you know, Merv Murphy and Vinny Hammond, they never get a mention but they do a phenomenal job in pinpointing weaknesses and trying to make sure that we maximise strengths when we go out there.

"It's pretty collective when we put our heads together so, you know, I'd love to say I'm a really important part of it but it is very much a machine and a consensus, very often."

Dane Coles bemoans All Blacks poor execution

Hooker Dane Coles has lamented the All Blacks' poor execution in the 16-9 defeat to Ireland at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday.

Coles said it was good to have a chance to right the wrongs associated with their loss to Ireland and while he didn't know the team yet there was a chance for less experienced players in the touring party to be involved in the Italy Test.

"I think that sort of result [Ireland] is going to leave a wee bit in the gut over the summer for a couple of months but it's about this week and hopefully we can improve from the weekend," he said.

Coles said the All Blacks had some of the best players in the world who played what they saw in front of them but everything they tried against Ireland there was always someone there.

"We didn't break them down. In the past when we build pressure we can make a line break but they were just everywhere. They played their hearts out. You've got to have structure and you've got to have balance and guys react in situations and sometimes that is going out of your structure and playing what's in front of you. I think we're still trying to find that balance," he said.

"There was some space but we didn't see it and didn't make the right calls. It's about working hard to see what's in front of you and calling the right thing," he said.

Having Ireland being called the best team in the world did hurt but that had been something in the All Blacks' control as they hadn't been able to beat them. That was the nature of sport and Ireland had fully deserved their win.

"We just have to move on and use that fuel, and that hurt, and channel it the right way," he said.

The loss had been a reminder about ensuring moments in games, when they arrived, were taken. Ireland took theirs and won the game, he said.

Flanker Ardie Savea said he had been feeling sore after such a physical Test but it was a case of getting over it and getting into work for the next week.

"We've just go to focus on the task at hand on Saturday. You get over it pretty quick," he said.

Savea said the gap had closed between the All Blacks and the other top rugby nations but all they could do was focus on each week and to continue to try and improve.

Looking ahead to Italy, he said the players spent a lot of time looking at their opposition. They did their own analysis as well as looking at them as a team. They looked for opportunities to exploit in their opponents and once having determined a plan they then focused on themselves.

Coles said that because they didn't play Italy too often they would spend more time on the computers researching them so there would be no surprises. And it was also about giving Italy the respect they deserve.

"They pushed Australia hard so we'll spend more time on the computers just seeing the way and some trends, and then parking that up and focusing on us," he said.

Newcastle sign Rodney Ah You from Ulster

Ulster prop Rodney Ah You has added his vast experience to Newcastle Falcons' propping ranks, joining the club with immediate effect.

The former Ireland international who turned 30 last month has 126 Pro 14 appearances to his name, and a further 31 in Europe.

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: "Rodney has been a proven performer at a high level for a number of years now and he will definitely add to what we already have here.

"He fits in with the way we want to play the game, he offers a ball-carrying threat as well as the nuts and bolts of his set-piece game and I'm delighted to be able to bring him over here."

Born in New Zealand, Ah You made his professional breakthrough as a teenager with Canterbury and appeared for New Zealand Under-20s, heading to Irish province Connacht in 2010.

Spending six seasons in Galway and moving provinces to Ulster just over two seasons ago, Ah You has three Ireland caps to his name after playing against Argentina, South Africa and Georgia in 2014.

Having completed his move to Newcastle, he said: "I'm pretty stoked that Dean Richards came after me.

"I've played at Newcastle a couple of times with Connacht, I've been watching them get a couple of really good wins recently in the Heineken Champions Cup and there are a lot of good things going on around the place."

Asked what he hopes to add to the Falcons' squad, Ah You said: "Scrummaging for any prop is the number one thing, and then ball-carrying around the field is something I enjoy.

"I can play on both sides of the front-row if needed. Tighthead is where I have been playing mainly but I can jump over if the coaches need me to, and I just can't wait to get started here."

All Blacks quartet head home

The All Blacks will be without the services of Sam Whitelock, Liam Squire, Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Moody when they face Italy in Rome on Saturday.

The quartet have been declared unavailable for the world champions' last Test of their end-of-year tour and will return to New Zealand.

Squire left the field with a knee injury in the defeat to Ireland on Saturday and although his injury is not deemed serious, he would not have been fit to play against the Azzurri.

Whitelock has been instructed to take a three-month break to recover from minor injuries after experiencing a long and draining season which started with him captaining the Crusaders to a second successive Super Rugby title.

He also captained the All Blacks during their three-Test series win over France in June and went on to make 11 Test appearances this season. Whitelock's break means he will miss the first four rounds of the Crusaders' 2019 Super Rugby campaign.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen believes Whitelock's rest period will do him good in the long run.

"I know someone like Sam Whitelock, he is going to have a really good break and we will see a different player because of that," he told Stuff.

Hansen was initially optimistic that Williams would recover in time for the Test against Italy after he sustained a shoulder injury in the All Blacks' narrow win over England at Twickenham, but the player was ruled unfit and his injury-plagued season is now over.

Moody, like Williams, also missed the Test against Ireland after suffering an eyelid injury in the build-up to the England Test and will also return home.

Meanwhile, Matt Todd will return to the Panasonic Wild Knights club in Japan after joining the tour as back-up to Ardie Savea when Sam Cane was ruled out through injury at the end of the Rugby Championship.

Dave Wessels - 'Quade Cooper suits the way we want to play'

Melbourne Rebels head coach Dave Wessels says new recruit Quade Cooper is the type of player that 'suits the way we want to play'.

Cooper will reunite with Will Genia with the pair having steered the Reds to a maiden Super Rugby title in 2011. And Cooper said he was excited to reunite with his old mate Genia.

"It's exciting and hopefully we can make some new memories," he said.

With Jack Debreczeni having recently left the Rebels for the Chiefs, it has left a hole at fly-half and Wessels said he was hoping if everything went to plan that Cooper could fill that void.

"We feel Quade is the type of player that we feel suits the way we want to play," Wessels said.

"Whether that happens remains to be seen because there's a lot of hard work between where we are now and actually implementing that.

"If Quade's prepared to work hard we are going to get on fine."

After having had a tumultous relationship with ex-Reds boss Brad Thorn, Cooper said he 'had a lot of respect' for Wessels.

"I've got a lot of respect for him, with him taking the time to come up and get to know me as a person and talk to me about football and we were able to work out the future," Cooper said.

"I was grateful that he was able to make his own judgment."

Wessels said it was his responsiblity to bring out the best in Cooper and Genia as a combination.

"It's my job to create the framework and then within that you expect players of world class calibre such as Quade and Will to produce some magic," Wessels said.

"That's probably the difference between the really top teams as those players produce the magic at the right time."

Danny Care dropped by England for Australia Test

Experienced scrum-half Danny Care is among three players to be ousted from the England squad for the game against Australia on Saturday.

The Harlequins player has consistently been the preferred back-up to Ben Youngs under Eddie Jones but he was poor against Japan at the weekend.

Richard Wigglesworth impressed when coming onto the field, helping the Red Rose overturn a 15-10 half-time deficit versus the Brave Blossoms.

They eventually scored 25 unanswered points to claim a victory but Care, alongside Zach Mercer and Alex Lozowski, have paid the price for their displays in the opening period.

Nathan Hughes has taken Mercer’s place, with the Wasps number eight coming straight into the group following the end of his six-week ban.

The group also includes the uncapped Elliott Stooke while Ted Hill is again included as an apprentice, following his international debut on Saturday.

England will now end their Quilter Internationals against Australia next Saturday, with Jones acknowledging both sides will be hoping to end their year on a high.

“They’ve had a tough year, a bit like us, it’s their last game of the year, as it is ours so we’ll both be looking for a winning performance,” he said.

Rassie Erasmus praises Springboks' maturity

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus praised his side's growing maturity following their hard-fought 26-20 win over Scotland team at Murrayfield on Saturday.

South Africa held a slender half-time lead (20-17) after a thrilling opening half, which saw both sides displaying some good attacking rugby.

Two well-taken penalty goals in the second half, one each by Handré Pollard and Elton Jantjies, eventually clinched the match for the Springboks. Pollard scored 18 points from a try, two conversions and three penalty goals, to help steer the result in the South Africans’ favour.

Pollard was named Man of the Match and in the process moved into third position on the all-time Springbok points’ scoring list with 336 Test points, surpassing top try scorer Bryan Habana’s 335.

Jesse Kriel scored the first try of the match while Scotland also scored twice in the first half, through Peter Horne and Hamish Watson. Greig Laidlaw succeeded with two conversions and two penalty goals.

Erasmus praised the Springboks’ opponents after the match.

“To beat a team that has become a real force in world rugby, a team that is on up, in the middle of a good home run, is satisfying," he said.

“The current world rankings doesn’t indicate how tough it is to come and play here and we could have lost the game in the dying minutes. We’re definitely not the finished product yet, but we are slowly growing into a better team.”

The Springboks won their second Test of the end-of-year tour and will be looking to make it three from four against Wales in Cardiff next week. They beat France in Paris last Saturday, but lost by a single point to England in London a fortnight ago.

Erasmus, though, mentioned the Boks will not get carried away this win over a very dangerous Scotland side.

“We’re learning how to close out games and that’s why we won this game because Scotland were as good as us on the day,” he added.

“The maturity of this team is starting to show because we are now winning games from tight situations. We scored three points when Willie le Roux was off the field with a yellow card and they didn’t score.”

But Erasmus admitted his side did not get the expected dominance in the scrums while Scotland also did well to stop the Boks’ driving maul.

The breakdown was however a key area where the Springboks performed admirably, according to Erasmus.

“We did well at the breakdown, especially our work at the defensive breakdown where we won managed to win vital turnovers at important times,” he said.

Erasmus also lauded 21-year-old Embrose Papier, who made his first start in the number nine jersey for the Springboks and had a good game next to Pollard.

“I really think that in the case of Embrose, we got it right,” said Erasmus.

“We thought this was the right game for him, on this pitch and the way Scotland play suits him well, and he also handled it very well. Credit must also go to (Springbok assistant coaches) Mzwandile Stick and Swys de Bruin for the way they’ve blooded him into Test match rugby.”

The Springboks will conclude their four-week tour of the United Kingdom and France against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

Eddie Jones wary of 'old mate' Michael Cheika

England coach Eddie Jones has labelled Wallabies coach Michael Cheika a 'street fighter' ahead of the sides' meeting at Twickenham on Saturday.

Cheika's side have lost four of their 12 Test matches this year but Jones believes Cheika and the Wallabies are at their most dangerous when their backs are against the wall.

“Cheiks, he’s my old mate, he’s always at his best when they (Australia) are under pressure,” Jones told Fox Sports Australia.

“He loves that, he’s a street-fighter, so it does make them dangerous but at the same time we’ve had a tough year too and we don’t mind a scrap either, so it should be a good scrap.”

Jones too understands what it is to be under pressure, with England having won just two of their seven Tests before somewhat salvaging their year by winning three of their last four.

Jones, Australia’s coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, has won all five of his Tests against his home nation since taking over the England reigns after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But the 58-year-old is refusing to allow that fine recent record over the Wallabies to create any room for complacency.

“All I know is they had a good win (against Italy) and they’ll be ready for the battle.

“I think they understand where we’re strong and we understand where they’re strong.”

Jones made 11 changes to his side for the 35-15 victory over Japan, a move that appeared to have backfired on the England mentor when his side went in to the break trailing at 15-10.

But Jones said a number of players who were new to international rugby had been tested and learnt a lot which was the purpose of the exercise.

“We picked an experimental team, purposefully, to be tested and we got tested,” he explained.

“Then we needed to respond and the response was absolutely fantastic.”

“The worst result for us would have been to go out there and win 70-0, because we’d have learnt nothing; absolutely nothing,” Jones insisted.

Owen Farrell came on in the second half and was instrumental in instigating the comeback, but Jones was not letting England's over-reliance on Farrell worry him.

“Well, if I was Japan and I had Michael Leitch off the field, I’d be a bit worried too,” he said.

“If I was us with Owen Farrell off the field, I’d be a bit worried. If I was Ireland with (Jonathan) Sexton off the field, I’d be a bit worried.

“Do you want me to keep going? He’s an influential player. Of course he’s important to us.”

Wallabies want defence to lay attacking foundation

The Wallabies want to use their improved defence to score points as well as stop them as they prepare to face England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Australia has improved in defence in the past two Tests especially but their attack has left a little to be desired, going tryless against Wales and leaving a host of chances on the table against Italy.

The Wallabies finished with 20 turnovers for the match, many of those simple missed passes and knock-ons.

Turning defensive wins into attacking points is a focus for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, with England presenting a far more complex equation on both sides of the ball than Wales or Italy have.

“In the attacking side of the game we’ve definitely got improvements to make, but we’re still showing enough glimmers that we need to finish,” he told Rugby Australia's official website.

“It’s more about taking the opportunities that we’re creating, because we are creating some opportunities. Maybe just the wrong choice here or there but nothing crazy.

“The core of what we’ve been working on after the start of the season has been trying to get our defence very consistent, and that will be a huge part of the game next week.

“They’ve got points in them if we give them the room to take points, so we’ve got to work really hard, get up there and get physical and get into it.”

If they can do that, Samu Kerevi’s powerful running will be a key part of their success, so good he is at making ground in a tackle.

Kerevi has slipped easily back into Test rugby after a four-month injury layoff and Sunday morning’s win over Italy was another impressive performance from the 25-year-old.

The centre finished with 100 run metres off 14 carries, and a casual nine beaten defenders laid in his wake.

He was guilty of some handling errors in attack, though he was not alone in those mistakes, and more than made up for that with his potency across the board.

Kerevi’s defence has been as solid as any part of his game since his return and it’s off that platform that he, and the rest of the Wallabies, want to be able to mount their attack.

“I always back myself to try and beat that first defender and hopefully if I am, I'm doing the right things for the team,” he said.

“My performance comes on the back of the team's performance and for us it's momentum through defence and I felt like when we defended really well it transitions to attack.

“We've just got the confidence of going up, going up, so for me hopefully we start the game well in defence or in attack next week and England's going to be another challenge.”

Kerevi said patience was paying off for the Wallabies in defence, after their gritty outing against Italy.

“For ourselves, it's just staying in that moment longer in defensive periods,” he added.

“You really believe in the structure of defence. Greysy's (defence coach Nathan Grey) has worked really hard for us, worked hard on the defensive side and it's pretty aggressive so for us it's having that confidence and getting momentum from that.

“We just trust the whole system.”

Steve Hansen to make call on future before Christmas

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has set a Christmas deadline for disclosing his plans after next year's Rugby World Cup.

Hansen's contract runs through until the completion of the global showpiece in Japan.

Hansen told media on Sunday, after the All Blacks' 9-16 loss to Ireland, that he had decided before the team left New Zealand for the northern tour that he would make a decision about his future and said he would do that when returning home after the Italy Test on Sunday and before Christmas.

Before then there was Italy to prepare for and that would be done without key players who were returning home. Flanker Liam Squire, who was injured against Ireland, and second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams, who was injured against England, would be accompanied by lock Sam Whitelock, who has had a heavy workload this year, in order to work on minor injuries he had been carrying.

Flanker Matt Todd, who was called up for the tour as back-up for Ardie Savea, will return to Japan. Dalton Papalii is likely to serve as cover for Savea in Rome.

Whitelock is to have three months off and will not play the first four rounds of the Crusaders' Super Rugby campaign.

"I know someone like Sam Whitelock, he is going to have a really good break and we will see a different player because of that," Hansen said.

Reviewing the Ireland Test, Hansen said one of the results of a loss was that players were left uncomfortable and going into a Rugby World Cup year that was better than being too comfortable.

"You tend to find people work a little harder and definitely look in the mirror a lot better. All of us will be doing a bit of that over the summer," he said.

"It's moments like this that you have a bit of adversity, you have got to set your sail to the wind and stand up and be strong with your convictions and about where you are going.

"The critical facts, and the current reality of what is happening, have to be reviewed. Some things you can fix straight away, some things you just have to keep working on," he said.

Hansen has said all season that the All Blacks were working on changing their game.

"We have known for a wee while that there is a little bit in our game that is not quite ticking. But we are confident that we will fix that. It just needs a bit of time," he said.

Meanwhile, Italy will be without key players in Rome against the All Blacks. Their try scorer in their 7-26 loss to the Wallabies at the weekend wing Mattia Bellini has been ruled out due to a shoulder injury while long-serving captain and number eight Sergio Parisse has a calf injury and will also be unavailable.

Late penalty try puts Exeter back to top

A penalty try at the death helped Exeter Chiefs see off Bristol Bears 31-29 in a thrilling Premiership game at Ashton Gate on Sunday.

Referee Greg Macdonald awarded the Chiefs the late seven-pointer, which sealed a crucial win that takes them back above Saracens at the summit.

The visitors' other try scorers were Moray Low, Tom Lawday, Santiago Cordero and Jack Yeandle, with Gareth Steenson kicking two conversions.

Charles Piutau and Luke Morahan crossed for Bristol but it was the boot of Callum Sheedy that provided most of the Bears' points, 19 to be precise.

Bristol, who move up to 10th spot, put in a spirited first-half showing to go into the interval 19-12 up, thanks to a try from Piutau and Sheedy's boot.

Sheedy opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a penalty after a strong carry from Will Hurrell resulted in Exeter Chiefs offending at a ruck.

Four minutes later though the Chiefs were over through prop Low, who finished off superb work from Lawday to cross from close range for 7-3.

The Bears though, through Sheedy, added points on the board again on 15 minutes as this time Don Armand was penalised for hands in the ruck.

Bristol were now growing in confidence and when a high tackle from Mitch Lees on Sheedy resulted in a third three-pointer, they went 9-7 up before the fly-half made it 12-7 on 27 minutes. That fourth penalty goal from wide on the right side arrived after Exeter held on at a ruck.

Exeter though hit back in style on the half-hour mark as a kickable penalty was sent to the corner, Lawday the player finishing off that crossing.

However, it would be the Bears who had the final say of the half as Piutau showed strength and smarts to tap quickly and put his side ahead.

Bristol came out for the second-half with purpose too and quick hands from John Afoa set up Morahan for their second try that made it 26-12.

But that buffer didn't last long as a brilliant response from Exeter that saw them rack up the phases led to Cordero stepping inside for 26-19.

Bristol then came agonisingly close to making it a 10-point lead but Sheedy's long-range penalty hit the bar, which sparked an Exeter onslaught.

It took until the 69th minute for the Chiefs to get reward for their efforts when a penalty went to the corner and a slick move saw Yeandle reach out, with Steenson's missed conversion leaving Exeter 26-24 down.

That became 29-24 on 76 minutes when Sheedy struck after a scrum offence, but then Exeter threw the kitchen sink at Bristol late on, with a driving maul being taken down and referee Macdonald marching under the posts.

The scorers:

For Bristol:
Tries: Piutau, Morahan
Cons: Sheedy 2
Pens: Sheedy 5

For Exeter:
Tries: Low, Lawday, Cordero, Yeandle, Penalty try
Cons: Steenson 2

Bristol Bears: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Ryan Edwards, 10 Callum Sheedy (cc), 9 Andy Uren, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steve Luatua (cc), 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 John Afoa, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements:
16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 George Smith, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Sam Bedlow

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Tom Lawday, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Don Armand, 5 Mitch Lees, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Moray Low
Replacements:
16 Elvis Taione, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Nic White, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill

Referee: Greg Macdonald
Assistant referees: Jonathan Healy, Steve Lee
TMO: Stuart Terheege

Joe Schmidt cools world number one comments

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt played down talk of his charges now being favourites for the Rugby World Cup after their win over New Zealand.

Following the 16-9 November Test victory in Dublin on Saturday, the Irish can take a great deal of confidence from their hard-fought showing.

But Schmidt has kept a lid on quotes from New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, who responded to claims that Ireland are now favourites.

"As I said earlier in the week this was number one versus number two in the world," said All Blacks boss Hansen after the loss. "So as of now they are the number one team in the world. So if you want to make them World Cup favourites, go ahead. I guess they are favourites."

Schmidt's reply was dismissive of the claims, saying: "I think he probably enjoyed a little bit of banter.

"I've huge respect for Steve, Fozzy, and Scott MacLeod, their coaching staff.

"So for us to be favourites when they have been the world number one team for nine years, and continue to be the world number one team.

"We were at home, and they were coming off a long series of games where they have travelled around the world a number of times.

"I thought the crowd were phenomenal tonight. And that's a lot of things stacked in our favour.

"So we'll take tonight, and leave 11 months' time for 11 months' time."

France beat Argentina to end winless streak

France brought to an end a five-match winless streak with a 28-13 victory over Argentina at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille on Saturday.

Argentina, meanwhile, have suffered their fourth successive defeat and will be desperate to reverse their downward spiral, just as France did here.

However, it was Argentina who got off the best possible start when they seized on a loose ball and quickly went on the attack to Jeronimo De La Fuente, who got the offload away for Ramiro Moyano to cut inside off his wing under the posts. Nicolas Sanchez added the extras for a 7-0 lead with just two minutes gone.

Baptiste Serin cut the deficit to four with a seventh-minute penalty after Argentina were penalised at the scrum. But Sanchez stretched the lead back to seven with a penalty after the French infringed at the breakdown.

In the 27th minute, the hosts eventually scored their first try. It came after good work in the build up by Yoann Huget to wriggle through a gap. The ball was recycled, with good hands freeing Teddy Thomas for the finish in the right-hand corner.

Five minutes later, Serin gave France the lead for the very first time with a well-struck three pointer and they would hold on to that slender 11-10 margin until the sides headed into the interval.

The Pumas wrestled the lead back five minutes into the second-half via a Sanchez penalty after Les Bleus had been penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown.

But soon afterwards, France regained the lead and it was made by Gael Fickou, who scythed his way through the Argentine defensive line before feeding Thomas with the long pass out to the right-hand touchline for an easy finish as the winger grabbed his brace. Serin converted for an 18-13 lead with 49 minutes gone.

No scoring would occur until the 67th minute when Serin gave Les Bleus an eight-point lead with another successful penalty attempt.

France were then handed a gift after Tomas Lezana spilt a ball from a five-metre line-out on the Argentine try-line, only for Les Bleus skipper Guilhem Guirado to gleefully accept the gift and dive over, Serin converting for an unassailable 28-13 lead, which they would hold on to until the final whistle.

The scorers:

For France:
Tries: Thomas 2, Guirado
Cons: Serin 2
Pens: Serin 3

For Argentina:
Try: Moyano
Con: Sanchez
Pens: Sanchez 2

France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Artur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoan Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Benjamin Fall

Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Guido Petti, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Augustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Tomas Lezana, 22 Tomas Cubelli, 23 Matias Moroni

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Warren Gatland hails bench impact

Wales head coach Warren Gatland lauded the impact of his replacements after their comprehensive 74-24 drubbing of Tonga in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wales scored just three tries in the first-half, with the floodgates opening after the interval with the help of some handy contributions from the reserves.

Second-half substitutes Aled Davies, Cory Hill and Rhys Patchell all got themselves on the try column as Wales scored seven in the second-half in total.

“If you look at the game in segments, we started exceptionally well, we got ourselves into a bit of a hole then dug ourselves out of it with an outstanding second-half performance,” Gatland told Reuters.

“I thought the bench was good again. As a collective group, they should be pretty proud of that.

“We have spoken in the past about trying to get momentum from the bench and they are really upping it. I thought they made a significant impact.”

Gatland then went on to praise the strength in depth at fly-half, with Dan Biggar, Patchell and Gareth Ansombe all impressive in recent weeks.

Biggar scored a total of 14 points, while Patchell excelled when he came on.

“The pleasing thing is that all our 10s are playing well. We have been pleased with Gareth and Rhys was excellent when he came on,” Gatland said.

“In a number of positions, we have some strength in depth and some real selection headaches.”

Gatland then turned his attention to the focus of the Springboks, whom he thinks will present his side with their biggest challenge of the November internationals thus far.

“They have gone back to traditional South African rugby, physical players, direct, it is going to be a real challenge for us,” New Zealander Gatland said.

"The good thing about where we are is that we are building our self-belief and confidence.

“We have had some good success over South Africa in recent years. It is important for us to hopefully build on that and it will be nice to have a clean sweep in the autumn.”

Springboks extend winning run against Scotland

South Africa continued with their fine recent form when they beat Scotland 26-20 in their November international at Murrayfield on Saturday.

In an entertaining encounter, in which momentum between the teams ebbed and flowed, the Springboks' superior physicality played a big part in this victory especially in the second-half when the match was on a knife edge for long periods.

Both sides scored two tries apiece and Handré Pollard led the way for the visitors with an 18-point haul courtesy of a try, three penalties and two conversions.

The result means the Springboks extend their winning run against Scotland to six matches and they have now won three successive Tests at Murrayfield.

As expected, this was a fast-paced match with both sides giving the ball plenty of air and this tactic reaped reward for the Springboks as early as the sixth minute when Jesse Kriel scored the opening try. This, after Pollard made the initial break and Embrose Papier, RG Snyman, Steven Kitshoff and Sbu Nkosi all handled the ball before the latter was brought to ground close to Scotland's try-line. The ball was recycled quickly and Papier got a pass out to the onrushing Kriel, who dotted down.

Pollard slotted the conversion but despite trailing on the scoreboard, Scotland stayed true to their attacking roots and were rewarded midway through the half when Peter Horne rounded off after Huw Jones and Sean Maitland combined brilliantly in the build-up.

The Boks did not take long to respond though and after Damian de Allende and Siya Kolisi did well to win a turnover at a ruck, the ball was shifted wide to Pollard, who sold Maitland a dummy before crossing for his side's second try.

The Boks pulled further ahead in the 25th minute via a penalty from Pollard, when WP Nel was blown up for illegal scrummaging. But that effort was cancelled out when Greig Laidlaw also added a penalty - after offside play at a kick from Aphiwe Dyantyi - which meant South Africa were leading 17-10 by the half-hour mark.

Five minutes later, the home side drew level with a converted try from Hamish Watson which came when they caught the Boks napping with an innovative move at a lineout in which Watson came through the front of the set-piece, which was on South Africa's five-metre line, before crashing over.

That drew the sides level but just before half-time Pollard succeeded with his second penalty, after another indiscretion at a scrum from Nel, which gave the visitors a narrow 20-17 lead at the break.

The second-half started poorly for South Africa when, six minutes after the restart, Willie le Roux was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on from a Horne pass midway between the Boks' 22 and their 10-metre line. Laidlaw made no mistake from the kicking tee which drew the sides level again.

From the restart, the Boks won a turnover and were soon on the attack inside Scotland's 22.

In the 53rd minute, Stuart McInally slowed the ball down cynically at a ruck close to his try-line and Pollard punished that indiscretion by adding his third penalty which restored the visitors' three-point lead.

Three minutes later, Scotland were blown up for another infringement at the breakdown and Pollard lined up a shot at goal but his effort struck a post.

The next 10 minutes was an attritional affair as both teams tried to gain the ascendancy and Pollard had another opportunity to extend the Boks' lead in the 67th minute off the kicking tee, but he scuffed his kick which was well wide of the target.

The Boks continued to dominate the breakdown and in the 73rd minute they won another penalty in that facet of play. Elton Jantjies took over the goal-kicking duties from Pollard and was on target with his effort which also sealed the win for his team.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Horne, Watson
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Laidlaw 2

For South Africa:
Tries: Kriel, Pollard
Cons: Pollard 2
Pens: Pollard 3, Jantjies
Yellow Card: Le Roux

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Josh Strauss, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)