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Rugby World Cup

How Ireland Can Get At the All Blacks

Ireland are hoping to make it to a first ever Rugby World Cup semi-final but face the biggest rugby nation on the planet in New Zealand and here we take a look at a few ways the men in green can unsettle them



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Ireland take on the mighty All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in Japan tomorrow as they look to reach a first semi-final in their history.

The task couldn’t be harder but this New Zealand side has its weaknesses and here we take a quick look what Ireland need to do to have any chance of winning. 

Firstly, Ireland need a strong start. As we saw in the Six Nations when the Irish hit the back-foot early on they seem to drop off in their performance. Along with the fact that Ireland seem to struggle with the final minutes of games at the tournament so far and need any sort of advantage to hold on to from an early stage. 

Sticking with timing, and Ireland need to be careful in the ten minute spell before half-time and the ten minutes after. The All Blacks seem to be at their best in that 20 minute section and they love to rack up the points, while deflating their opposition around this time. If Ireland can keep the scores to a minimum here they could unnerve their opponents heading into the final 30 minutes of the game. 

Another key is to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Ireland need to take any penalty opportunity and punish the All Blacks with either three-points from the tee or come away with a try from a kick to the corner. 

They must be clinical when they have any chance in the New Zealand 22-metre line if they are to cause an upset. 

As a team they need to defend with a huge amount of intensity, coming up in a line as a whole, not leaving any gaps as the All Blacks have the players to exploit any weakness. However, they need to be careful of the offside line as they must stay on the right side of referee Nigel Owens. 

In terms of players, Ireland may be wise to tactically kick to the back-three, while chasing up every kick from the boot. Although Beauden Barrett is an outstanding player, if Ireland can kick and chase to him, and force him to second-guess himself they could be on to something. 

The key for any victory is to help fly-half Johnny Sexton produce his best. That means allowing him quick-ball from the rucks, being available for quick one-twos and giving him protection from opposition tacklers. If he has a good game, Ireland have a good game, it’s as simple as that. 

Other key men to give the ball to are James Ryan, Tadhg Furlong and CJ Stander, who can all carry well while bringing in defenders and allowing space out wide. In turn that is going to help the likes of Jacob Stockdale, who could have the beating of Sevu Reece on his wing, if he is given the chance to show his talent. 

If Ireland are to progress they will need a full squad effort and with around 60 minutes on the clock the subs could be vital. The All Blacks scrum does not have the resources of the Irish one and if the starting front-row can cause issues for the All Blacks then the replacements could have a field day. 

Meanwhile Tadhg Beirne and Rhys Ruddock bring such intensity to the game especially at the breakdown, which could be an area to target in the closing stages as bodies tire. With that in mind Jordan Larmour could be key if the game is close near the end as he has been in sensational form so far in Japan and against some tiring New Zealand defenders, he could cause mayhem. 

Ireland will also need to stop players such as Ardie Savea and Codie Taylor breaking the line as they have pace and skill to tear open defences. While in terms of the All Blacks bench Ireland will need to watch out for Sonny Bill Williams, who will be fresh on the field near the end and is a game changer with his offloading and handling skills. 

Overall, Ireland need a near perfect performance to advance to new heights. We have seen them carve up two wins in their last three games against New Zealand but this is different. The World Cup is All Blacks territory and they will be up to the task of knocking out a team that threatens their three in a row ambitions. However, a team that were once invincible now show small signs of weakness, the question remains can Ireland exploit the chinks in their armour? 


Gatland Explains England RWC Final Comments

Warren Gatland has come out to explain his comments around England’s Rugby World Cup final as well as looking back on one vital mistake he made in his career



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Former Wales head coach Warren Gatland has given his reason for predicting England’s fall in the Rugby World Cup final while talking to Off the Ball.

The coaching great, who stepped aside from his 12-year stint with Wales following the conclusion of their World Cup campaign was promoting his new book ‘Pride and Passion’ and explained how the emotional toll of England’s semi-final win over New Zealand was hard to follow up. 

“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he said. 

It proved to be the case for England as they failed to find another gear in the final, being dominated by South Africa who ran out 32-12 winners. He drew on past experiences in his career to back up his point, including a discussion about the 2013 British and Irish Lions Tour.

“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me. One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that. They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final. It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week,” he added. 

That Lions tour threw up some major complications for Gatland including a decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the third test, which caused huge backlash and the Kiwi regrets how he went about the decision that week. 

“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media. That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week. So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent,” he finished. 

Gatland’s experience is easy to see and he will take charge of yet another Lions tour in 2021 as he leads his charges to South Africa as he completes the full cycle of tours having also managed them to a series draw with New Zealand in 2017. In the meantime Gatland has taken up a role with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs as he returns to his homeland looking to add further success to his CV.

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Steyn’s Rugby Career Could be Over

Double World Cup winner Frans Steyn could be set to call time on his career early following his latest triumph



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Springboks great Frans Steyn looks likely to at least pull the curtain down on his European career in order to return to his homeland.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who managed to pick up medals from the 2007 edition of the tournament and this year’s one, beating England in both finals, is currently contracted to French Top 14 giants Montpellier. 

However, it is believed that he has held discussions with the club about ending his contract come the end of January instead of when it is supposed to expire in July and speaking to South African news-outlet Volksblad, he seems keen on settling down in his homeland. 

“Rugby has always been an inspiration for the Afrikaners, especially for farmers. If we had a bad week, if we watch good rugby on Saturday, then everything is better again. Only good rain, a good rugby weekend gives us the power to face Mondays again. It is a privilege that many farmers do not have. We know what to do in the future and what we need to have in place. We want to raise our children here and are attached to the rural feel that Bloemfontein offers. We want our children to have a good experience here as my wife and I had when one grew up here,” he said. 

The 32-year-old has a family farm in Bloemfontein and it is understood this is not the first time he has made the suggestion to return to the area, but it now looks more likely than ever that he will get what he likes. 

Steyn is expected to return to the French club next week, where he would play until January before his possible move back to South Africa. 

At this time it is unknown whether the back would continue his rugby career with local professional side the Cheetahs, who play in the PRO14, or whether he will end his career early, having played at the top level for such a long time already.

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Scots End Row with World Rugby

Scotland and World Rugby have been unhappy with one another for the guts of a month, but they have finally sorted their differences out



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World Rugby have confirmed this morning that the Scottish Rugby Union has accepted the punishment received for comments made during the Rugby World Cup in Japan last month.

The punishment of a £70,000 fine and a meaningful apology was handed to the union following comments made by their chief Mark Dodson, who suggested sueing World Rugby as his team’s clash with Japan came under threat by Typhoon Hagibis. 

In what was a must-win game for the Scots to progress to the knock-out stages, he also criticised the running of the competition by the hosts. Eventually the match was played and Scotland lost 28-21, leaving them heading home, but World Rugby were not happy. 

Having announced the punishment last week, World Rugby have now released a statement to confirm that Scotland have accepted the decision. 

“World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter. The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party,” the statement read. 

It puts and end to a dragged out argument between the organisations which will be a relief to fans. The fine will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme, which is continuing to help the areas affected by the typhoon last month. 

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