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Best Suggests Expanding World Cup Squads

Rory Best has called on World Rugby to consider expanding the current squad size for teams heading into the World Cup

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland captain Rory Best has claimed that having a 31-man squad for the World Cup will limit teams and put pressure on coaches heading into the tournament.

Ireland have named an initial 44-man squad which head coach Joe Schmidt and co must narrow down to just 31 players come September 8th.

Schmidt spoken of his concerns about having such a small squad before and now his captain has had his say.

“We have a six-day turnaround between Scotland and Japan and then five between Japan to Russia. You get an injury that maybe takes you out for two games but not the entire tournament. If you get a couple of those you have to make fairly harsh decisions when it is actually not right as the player could be back for Samoa [Ireland’s fourth pool game],” he said.

Best went on to suggest when speaking with ‘the42‘ that the squads should be increased to 35 players and focused on how injuries can change everything with a smaller squad.

“I’d be more inclined to increase the squad size to 35 players. The problem with 31 is by the time you name three hookers and three nines there are positions you are really short on. There is a back row/second row type player who will have to cover both but at a World Cup you shouldn’t have to have makeshift people in there. It should be: this is our best squad. 35 players would give you that luxury,” he added.

Ireland were unfortunate with injuries during this years Six Nations campaign and are already without Sean O’Brien and Dan Leavy for the tournament in Japan, which Best used as an example of how quickly things can change.

“It’s amazing how you get areas that look really, really strong and you’re going ‘How are you going to leave one of those out? Then you get a couple of injuries. The back row now with Dan [Leavy] and Sean O’Brien, it all of a sudden looks a lot thinner than it maybe it did 12 months. The second row, you were going into the Six Nations saying ‘Oh, which second row are they not going to pick?’ Then going into the Scotland game it was like ‘Well, who do I have left?’,” he continued.

Although Ireland have lost two key men they still have options in the back-row with Josh van der Flier, Jordi Murphy, Tommy O’Donnell, Rhys Ruddock and Peter O’Mahony among those that can be used on the flanks.

However, Best is cautious about the possibility of someone being called up to the squad if there is an injury.

“That’s going to be the scenario and you have just got to hope that there is enough people with experience over the last four years that if you get down to the New Zealand out-half scenario [in 2011 when they lost three out-halves to injury] , that if you’re pulling someone off a boat fishing… at least Stephen Donald had played a bit,” he said.

With that in mind Best has advised players that have not been named in the 44-man squad to stay ready for a call up, especially Ulster teammate Stuart McCloskey.

“Even you take someone like Stuart McCloskey who isn’t in the squad,” Best adds. It’s really important that those guys get their head around the fact that there are five centres in the squad. To get five centres through four games in the summer and whatever games in the World Cup, without getting any injuries, it’s going to be highly unlikely,” he finished.

Ireland are looking to reach at least the semi-final stage for the first time in their history when they head to Japan and they will hope that the squad size and injuries play no part in their performance at the competition.


International

Eddie upbeat for ‘intriguing’ World Cup

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Eddie Jones admits the Wallabies are in the chasing pack but still close enough to catch the favourites and win September’s Rugby World Cup.

Jones, after a 15-minute technical glitch, gave his first wide-ranging interview from England on Thursday after his shock appointment on Monday.

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He said the battle to wear the No.10 jersey in France was wide open, touched on the side’s ill-discipline and current eligibility laws, assessed the health of the code in Australia and had a neat return-of-serve to rugby league powerbroker Peter V’landys in the latest code-war chapter.

But when asked if he genuinely thought the inconsistent world No.6 side could win the World Cup this year, he was serious.

“There’s no long term; the whole thing is to win the World Cup in 2023,” said Jones, who is on a five-year contract.

“We have to concentrate on areas that will make the biggest difference to the performance of the team and we have to get selection right.
“And we’ve got to create an environment where players are going to give that little bit more, because nobody knows how much they can give.”

Jones will have just five Tests to prepare his men before the Cup and he turned to racing parlance to assess the current power rankings.

He says feels there’s still time for the field to settle with the team who improves the most between now and October set for victory.

“At the moment France and Ireland, in a horse race they’re at the front on the top of the rise,” he said.

“But there’s still plenty of work to do.

“Australia and England are nestled behind them and the team that improves the most over the next nine months will win the World Cup.

“This is the most intriguing World Cup we’ve ever seen.

“Throw in the volatility of the refereeing at the moment with red and yellow cards.

“You’ve got all these things happening that give us this massive opportunity.”

He said every player would have a chance to “select themselves” in club rugby and that replacing Rennie before his contract was to expire at the end of this year wasn’t in his control.

“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I can do this better than Dave, or, I’m a better person’, it’s not that at all,” he said.

“It’s the fact that there was an opportunity there that as an Australian when you get a chance to coach your country you want to do it, mate.”

In a boost for James O’Connor’s hopes after he was cut from Rennie’s extended squad, Jones said he’d base selection on Super Rugby Pacific form and keep an eye on his foreign-based playmakers.

But Jones admits time isn’t on his side when it comes to settling on a preferred partnership, with rival five-eighth Quade Cooper’s recovery from an Achilles tear counting against him.

“We are going to have to decide quite quickly who we think are the best nines and tens and 12s, particularly, to try and build up that cohesion,” he said.

Content & Images from – Australia Rugby


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6 Nations

England team to face Scotland in Six Nations opener

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Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing, Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is named at full back.

Owen Farrell captains the side from inside centre and is joined in the midfield by Joe Marchant. Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

The front row is made up of vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler with Jamie George at hooker. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock, while Ben Curry makes his second appearance for England at open-side flanker. Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt complete the back row.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as a substitute, Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021, and if Dan Cole comes off the bench he will earn a 96th Test cap.

Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence make up the remaining replacements.

“There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup,” said Borthwick.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England Match Day Squad

Starting

15. Freddie Steward

14. Max Malins

13. Joe Marchant

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Ollie Chessum

6. Lewis Ludlam

7. Ben Curry

8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements

16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Earl

21. Ben Youngs

22. Ollie Lawrence

23. Anthony Watson


Images & Content from England Rugby
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6 Nations

Scotland name team to face England in 2023 Guinness Six Nations Opener

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Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Tickets for Scotland’s match against Italy at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 18 March are still available HERE

Images & Content – Scotland Rugby


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