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Ireland’s Big Problem Assessed

Ireland have a growing problem within their squad that could hamper their Rugby World Cup hopes and aspirations

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has named his 23-man squad for their opening Rugby World Cup game against Scotland on Sunday, but it has caused some concern.

Going into the first match Schmidt would have had plans for his team but surely starting with his two of his second-choice back-three options wasn’t one. 

It is an exciting prospect having Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour in the back-three alongside Jacob Stockdale. However, against Scotland, the team thought to be Ireland’s biggest contender for top spot in pool A, you can imagine the plan was to have Keith Earls and Rob Kearney or at least one in the starting XV. 

The team is already missing a huge player in the midfield with Robbie Henshaw out due to a hamstring problem. 

Kearney and Earls were suffering from calf and knee injuries earlier in the week and it was reported that they could have played on Sunday, but it seems unlikely that if they were both available that neither would be selected. 

It raises the question of did Schmidt bring not only the right back-line players but did he bring enough? 

Joey Carbery has been making his way back from an ankle injury picked up in Ireland’s warm-up game against Italy, but wasn’t ready for this weekend. 

All of those things have led to Schmidt naming a back-line that although exciting, it appears to lack a certain stability and not only that, the bench is worrying. 

Luke McGrath and Jack Carty are obvious choices for the 21 and 22 jerseys but Chris Farrell has been chosen at 23, covering the rest of the backs, which appears far from ideal. 

It would seem as though Ireland’s hand has been forced with only nine of the 13 backs brought to Japan being fully fit, meaning the players that were picked, had to be picked!

If you think of a couple of possible situations, such as if Conway, Larmour or one of the centres get injured on Sunday, what would happen?

If Conway gets injured on the wing, does that force Farrell to come on in the centre and switching Garry Ringrose out to Conway’s position? Does a similar situation occur if Larmour picks up an injury? 

That would leave Ireland’s only fully fit centres in Ringrose, Farrell and Bundee Aki all on the pitch with a game against Japan only six days after the clash against the Scots. If one of those were to suffer a blow or just simply lack form, where does that leave Ireland’s back-line? 

Already you are looking at a stretched squad, a vulnerable squad. One can only wonder if Schmidt should have taken the versatile Will Addison to Japan, or Ross Byrne as a fly-half and Carbery as a cover in the back-line? 

Ireland will hope to come through the game with no further concerns, but there is a chance that going into the second game of the tournament players could be rushing themselves back from injuries just to make up the numbers. 

It is hard to predict what will happen, but it is something that fans should take note of, another injury and this squad could be in trouble. 

Henshaw, Earls, Kearney and Carbery will be hoping for speedy returns to action, and it is vital in a tournament like this that the squad is managed and rotated correctly or things can turn into a crisis very quickly. 

Let’s hope that all the players are back to full-fitness in the coming days, but no matter what way it is spun this is far from the ideal start to the campaign for Schmidt and co. 

Rugby World Cup

Women’s Rugby World Cup looks set to be postponed.

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World Rugby has made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between 18 September-16 October, until next year. The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on 8 and 9 March respectively.Play Video

While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family.

The recommendation is based on the evolution of the uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape. It has become clear in recent discussions with key partners including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand Government and participating unions, that, given the scale of the event and the COVID-19-related uncertainties, it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport’s greatest stage.  

The challenges include uncertainty and the ability for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand, and challenging global travel restrictions. 

World Rugby can assure teams, New Zealanders and the global rugby family that the recommendation to postpone the tournament will help to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2021 will be all it can be next year for players, fans and the rugby family – one of the great Rugby World Cups.

Further updates will be issued following the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meetings next week.  

Statement Ends.

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RWC 2023 Pools confirmed.

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Confirmed.

How the draw worked

As host nation, France was drawn first and placed randomly in one of the four pools. The teams were then drawn randomly from each band, starting with Band 5 (Africa 1, Oceania 1, Asia / Pacific 1, Final Qualifier Winner), then Band 4 (Americas 1, Americas 2, Europe 1, Europe 2), then Band 3 (Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy), then Band 2 (Ireland, (France), Australia, Japan) and finally Band 1 (South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales). The first drawn in each band was placed in Pool A, the second in Pool B, the third in Pool C and the fourth in Pool D.


Draw seedings

Twelve of the 20 teams qualified automatically by finishing in the top three places of their Rugby World Cup 2019 pool. These 12 teams are: South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, Japan, Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy. Acknowledging the global COVID-19 impact on international rugby in 2020, these teams were seeded based on the World Rugby Men’s Rankings as of 1 January, 2020 and placed into the first three bands of four teams.

The remaining eight teams will come through the regional qualification process and were allocated for the draw into bands four and five based on relative strength. They are: Americas 1, Americas 2, Europe 1, Europe 2, Africa 1, Oceania 1, Asia / Pacific 1 and the Final Qualifier Winner.

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Qualification process set for Rugby World Cup 2023

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Image from World Rugby
  • Process designed to promote regional strength and the best teams to rugby’s showcase event
  • 12 teams already qualified owing to top three pool placing at RWC 2019
  • RWC 2023 on track to be a spectacular celebration of rugby and France


World Rugby has announced details of the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

Following the most competitive and widely-acclaimed Rugby World Cup to date in Japan, the qualification process is designed to deliver the top teams in the world to rugby’s showcase tournament, while promoting a genuine opportunity for all unions.

With 12 teams having secured their place at France 2023 courtesy of finishing in the top three of their respective pools at RWC 2019, the remaining eight places will be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers. The process will conclude with a four-team round-robin Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022 to determine the final qualifier.

The dates for events in 2021 will be announced in due course and will be subject to an anticipated easing of the COVID-19 situation.

The announcement follows consultation with unions and regions in January 2020 and a full review of performance at Rugby World Cup 2019, where rankings upsets and the impressive performances in particular of Japan, Fiji, Uruguay, Tonga and Georgia cut the performance gap, with the average winning margin between established and emerging unions decreasing in comparison with 2015 benchmarks.

The Americas will deliver two direct places, while Oceania will deliver a direct qualifier with a further direct place available following a play-off with Asia. The Rugby Europe Championship (two direct places), Rugby Africa Cup (one direct place) and Final Qualification Tournament (one direct place) will provide the other qualifiers. Further details are provided below.

RWC 2023 qualification principles

  • Americas: the Americas will qualify two teams by September 2022. The third best team in the region will enter the Final Qualification Tournament – Americas 1 & Americas 2
  • Europe: the existing Rugby Europe Championship will have two qualifying places, with the two best teams in March 2022 qualifying directly and the third placed entering the Final Qualification Tournament – Europe 1 & Europe 2 
  • Africa: the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 winner will qualify directly and the runner-up team will go to Final Qualification – Africa 1
  • Oceania: a home and away play-off between Tonga and Samoa in 2021 will determine the direct qualifier for the Oceania region. – Oceania 1
    The loser will then play the Oceania Rugby Cup 2021 winner in the highest ranked team’s country with the eventual winner contesting Asia / Pacific (see below) as Oceania 2
  • Asia / Pacific: the winner of the Asian Rugby Men’s Championship 2021 will play Oceania 2 home and away. The winner on aggregate will determine the qualifier and the loser will go to Final Qualification – Asia / Pacific 1
  • Final Qualification Tournament: the tournament in November 2022 will feature four teams playing in a round-robin format with the winner qualifying for RWC 2023 – Final Qualification winner


Teams already qualified: South Africa, England, New Zealand, Wales, Japan, France (host), Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Argentina, Fiji

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With the global pandemic having halted most rugby activity, confirmation of the global qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023 provides a beacon of excitement for all, including players and fans.

“The process that has been developed via full consultation with our regional associations and member unions will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for our showcase men’s 15s event.

“Maximising existing regional competitions, the process is good for regions and unions in managing costs for organisers and participants alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.

“On behalf of World Rugby, I’d like to wish all teams involved the best of luck on their journey to France 2023.”

Rugby World Cup France 2023 CEO Claude Atcher added: “This qualification process gives emerging unions an opportunity to take part in our sport’s biggest competition.

“The success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and performances by the host nation is a testimony of rugby’s expansion globally. As the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is about to be won, I welcome this optimistic prospect of reconnecting with the excitement of our sport. This is the start of our journey towards France 2023, which will be the best tournament ever delivered.”

Final details of the regional competition formats and dates will be announced in due course.

Official Press Release from World Rugby

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