DAVID BARNES in TOKYO
Ireland shuffle their backline
IT appears that full-back Rob Kearney [calf] and Keith Earls [knee] have lost their race against time to be fit for Sunday’s eagerly anticipated World Cup opener against Scotland on Sunday.
Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway have been added to the team in place of the injured duo, while Garry Ringrose gets the No 13 jersey which was left empty when Robbie Henshaw was ruled out with a hamstring problem earlier in the week.
Ireland team: A Conway; J Larmour, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, T Furlong, I Henderson, J Ryan, P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, CJ Stander.
ENGLAND RUGBY, in conjunction with sponsors O2, launched their World Cup promotional video yesterday morning. It elicited a predictably mixed response on social media.
Both positive –
“This is bloody inspiring, love it. Whatever you do the nation is behind you boys, come on you knights -swing low !!” – said Carter
And negative –
“Everyone: it’s important to be sensitive to the Japanese culture which has deep rooted traditions. England … ” – said Cammy Black – Scottish Rugby Podcast
“Beautifully shot but….not at all comfortable with elements of this. Feels like crusaders charging into battle and helping out the hapless locals. Obviously gone for the Seven Samurai feel but doesn’t do it for me” – said Bob Walker
“Whoever we support, wherever we come from, the Rugby World Cup is where people of all faiths, creeds and colours can come together, united in the belief that hashtags like
#weartherose can get right in the f***ing bin.” – said Tom Dare
What is your take?
Over the last four years, every blade of grass has taken us closer to Japan 🇯🇵
Now the team and a nation of fans are ready.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 18, 2019
Howley saga continued
WALES assistant coach Robin McBryde has revealed that Rob Howley broke the news of his betting allegations to his fellow coaches before flying home from the team’s World Cup base in Kitakyushu earlier this week to await the outcome of a Welsh Rugby Union investigation into the situation.
“In fairness, he was keen to explain the situation to all of us, as opposed to having the news second hand and he did that,” said McBryde, who also played alongside Howley for Wales before the pair moved into coaching. “It’s tough, we’ve been together for a long time. It’s unfortunate that he has to go through this. He’s been a great servant as a player and a coach.
“This was our swan-song as a coaching group and it’s unfortunate that we have to go through this. He’s a good man and a good friend. It’s sad to see someone have to go through it.
“Georgia are our next opponents, it’s our opening game of the Rugby World Cup and that has taken precedent over anything else,” added McBryde, before suggesting that the situations has given the Welsh players an extra edge during their build-up to Monday’s match.
“Players are more willing to take a lot more responsibility,” he claimed. “They have a little bit more input than they will have had in the past. Because of that ownership, the intensity at our training yesterday [Wednesday] was the best it’s ever been.”
Howley also spoke to a handful of players before his departure.
All Black put their unblemished record on the line
NEW ZEALAND is the only nation on the planet to have won every single one of the pool matches it has played in. The All Blacks are 28-0 in pool games and 10-0 against tier one sides, but they face the stiffest challenge to that record this Saturday when they take on South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday.
The two nations have a long and dramatic rivalry. New Zealand 58 of the 98 matches the two nations have played against each other since the first locked horns back in 1921, but the last three meetings have thrown up one win each and a draw in Wellington in July, highlighting just how tight this match could be.
It promises to be a tense affair, with the needle already started between the coaches. South African boss Rassie Erasmus suggested earlier the week that referees can be spooked by the All Black aura, and Steven Hansen shot back today.
“It’s pretty obvious what they’re trying to do,” said Hansen. “While I’ve got a lot of respect for South Africa and, particularly for Rassie, I think he’s a great coach, but I don’t agree with what he’s doing, trying to put pressure on the referee externally.
“They’re (referees) under enough pressure already, they don’t need us coaches doing what he’s doing. It doesn’t matter who’s your referee. As a coach you can always find things after the game they didn’t do and you can get emotional and think they are picking on you and not the opposition. At the end of the day, they go out and do the best they can do. It’s a big game – we just need to let the referee get on with it.”
Hansen has selected a side which has never previously started a match together for this weekend’s showdown. It will be Hansen’s 102nd as head coach and in those matches he has used 100 unique starting lineups.
This week’s team includes several near novices at international level, with George Bridge making his third start (sixth cap) on the left wing, Sevu Reece making his fourth appearance on the right wing and Richie Mo’unga his sixth start at stand-off (it will be his 13th cap). Meanwhile the highly experienced Beauden Barrett is shifted to full-back as part of the team’s new dual-playmaker system.