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Rugby World Cup

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

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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6 Nations

Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.

Official.

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
 
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
 
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. 
 
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing.  We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
 
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
 
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news.  We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us. 
 
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
 
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.

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International

Ireland Climb in Latest World Rankings

Ireland have had the biggest boost in the latest World Rugby Rankings ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw later this year

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ireland have leapfrogged Wales in the latest World Rugby Rankings of the the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.

The boys in green have taken over the No 4 spot in the rankings following their 24-14 win over Wales in the Six Nations over the weekend, with their opponents dropping down to fifth. 

It is a major boost for the Irish and gives them something to hold on to heading into the rest of this year’s fixtures as they are now currently in the top seeds ahead of the draw for the pool stages of France 2023. 

World Rugby announced recently that they will hold the draw later this year meaning that teams will have less time to climb the rankings than last time around when they had 18 months between the previous World Cup and the draw for the next one. 

A total of twelve teams will head into the draw as seeds in three brackets with the top four in the rankings being first seeds, meaning as of now Wales would be second seeds along with France, Australia and Japan. 

While Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Fiji are in the third bracket, with the remainder of the teams to be decided through different qualifiers over the next three years. 

Elsewhere in the rankings Georgia have moved up ahead of Italy, following the former’s latest two defeats in the Six Nations, while the biggest risers have been Portugal, who have moved from 22nd to 20th, but Russia have dived from 20th to 25th. 

Ireland will be hoping to continue their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign when they take on the third-ranked team England away from home, whom they may look to overtake in the rankings before the draw. 

It is certainly heating up between the Six Nations teams as they try to be the best-placed behind South Africa and New Zealand, who take the first and second spots, but won’t play until the summer.

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