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6 Nations

Schmidt applauds Irish Support.

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

He may have led his side out for the final time at the Aviva Stadium today, but for Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, the importance of the Rugby World Cup in Japan meant he could not get too wrapped up in the occasion.

A well-earned victory over Wales for the second weekend running provides Ireland with considerable momentum heading into their Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday, September 22. Speaking afterwards, Schmidt’s post-match thoughts were already on that Yokohama clash.

“The focus of the World Cup is huge, so you’re immediately starting to think in terms of our next game,” he explained. “Obviously Scotland have had a couple of big wins against Georgia and a good win against France after doing similar to what we did against England, in not really being ready to go from the very start.

“That’s the nature of these pre-World Cup Test matches, where people are trialling combinations and people are at various stages of preparation. For me, it’s been good to take the emotion out of it, as emotionally connected as I am to the team and the performance to the Aviva Stadium and what it’s meant over the last 10 years.

“I was here at the first game of rugby with my kids watching an Under-20 game with the four provinces mixed into two teams. Ever since then I’ve had some really special experiences just being here and absorbing the atmosphere.

“It’s phenomenal for such an open stadium the volume of noise that gets created. We are incredibly lucky with the support that we have and that was very evident with the reception that Rory (Best) got coming off the pitch today.”

Indeed, the emotion Schmidt did allow himself in the minutes that followed this afternoon’s encounter was that of relief. Given how close the start of the Rugby World Cup is, he was pleased to see the majority of his troops coming through the game unscathed.

Cian Healy was withdrawn at half-time for a head injury assessment, and Keith Earls came off with a quad injury, but the Ireland boss was otherwise able to report a clean bill of health.

“After a game, relief is probably the primary emotion. Just because hopefully we’ve negotiated that. The boys who came off seemed in really good spirits. We’ve hopefully gotten through that unscathed. That’s always the most important thing. Then we’ve got a performance that we can be proud of, I think. The first quarter of the game we couldn’t hang onto the ball.

“I think we made 40 tackles as opposed to them having made six tackles in that early part of the game. I thought we did a really good job defensively and then we built our way into the game. I felt we dominated the last quarter. It wasn’t necessarily pretty to watch, but it was nice to get that result.”

On just his third appearance in an Ireland jersey, Schmidt felt that Jean Kleyn was ‘solid, not spectacular’. Nonetheless, he believes the Munster lock has the tools to become a key figure for Ireland in Japan, with the other second rows, including man-of-the-match James Ryan, adding their own unique flavours to the Irish pack.

“Jean’s a good man for us in the engine room. He can carry okay as well. He’s a big man. I think across the board there was a real work ethic out there today. It wasn’t flash, but it was functional. Sometimes when you’re building towards something you want functional. I think James Ryan is James Ryan really.

“He just keeps setting a bar for himself and then looking to jump a little bit higher. I thought Iain Henderson added some value and we’ve Tadhg Beirne too, so it’s going to be a good contest for those spots. They are four quite different profiles of second row. So it allows us a little flexibility in how we change up the game, during a game or from game-to-game.”

Schmidt also has a number of options in midfield as Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Chris Farrell are vying for the two starting berths. The old Connacht centre partnership of Aki and Henshaw received the nod on this occasion and repaid Schmidt’s faith with a pair of powerhouse performances.

“Those two know each other inside-out. They are good friends, they are good players together. I thought Robbie’s first carry, when he gets that ball in behind the line, Bundee knows exactly where to be and punches onto that ball really well. Instead of us just having a ruck on the edge of our 22, suddenly we’re going forward to the next ruck.

“Defensively they got to space. I do think that our midfield defence with those two was really strong as well. We’d have real confidence in all four midfielders we have, especially that they are very good defenders. They are going to compete for spots.

“Some of it is about the combinations, and the fact that Bundee and Robbie know each other well. Then Robbie and Garry Ringrose have been playing together for Leinster and they know each other well. Chris Farrell has never let us down, so there’s a mix there.”

A number of firsts have been achieved by this Ireland squad over the course of Schmidt’s coaching reign. Victories against the southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa spring to mind, while 2015 saw them retain the Six Nations title for the first time in 66 years.

Another milestone was ticked off the list today with Ireland’s return to form propelling them to the number one position in the World Rugby Rankings. Although he sees it a notable feat for Ireland, Schmidt still believes his native New Zealand will be the team to beat at the tournament in Japan.

“I didn’t even realise that we were (number one in the rankings) until I did an interview after the game. That’s how far away from our thoughts it’s been. It’s a label, it’s a nice label to get and it’s a nice…first time that we’ve been in that position.

“We have been lucky enough to tick a few firsts off with this group in the last six years. But that label is not going to be relevant to anyone. We all know who the favourites are for the Rugby World Cup, and it’s not us.”

The post Schmidt: We’re Incredibly Lucky With The Support We Have appeared first on Irish Rugby.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


6 Nations

Referee Appointments Made For November Internationals

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The match day officials for Ireland’s international fixtures in November have been announced by World Rugby and the IRFU High Performance Referees will have a busy month on international duty.

For our teams in green, the RFU’s Adam Leal will take charge of the game between Ireland ‘A’ and the All Blacks XV at the RDS on Friday, 4th November. The following day, Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli has the whistle for the game between Ireland and World Champions South Africa at Aviva Stadium.

South African Jaco Peyper is in charge of Ireland v Fiji and New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe is the man in the middle for Ireland’s final game of the Autumn Nations Series against Australia.

IRFU referee Andrew Brace takes charge of two games during this international window – England v Argentina and France v Japan. Joy Neville, who will have just returned from the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, is in the TMO hot seat for the France game against the Brave Blossoms.

Frank Murphy in on duty for Scotland against New Zealand at Murrayfield and Chris Busby has the whistle for the French Barbarians against Fiji in Lille.  Both Chris Busby and Eoghan Cross are on duty in Dubai for the World Cup Final Qualifier tournament.  Chris is refereeing the game between Portugal and Hong Kong with Eoghan in the AR role for that game and the clash between the USA and Kenya.

Friday 4th November, 2022
IRELAND A v All Blacks XV
REF: Adam Leal (RFU), ARs: Luc Ramos (FFR), Benoit Rousselet (FFR)

Saturday 5th November, 2022
IRELAND v South Africa
REF: Nika Amashukeli (GRU), ARs: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), Andrea Piardi (FIR)

Saturday 12th November, 2022
IRELAND v Fiji
REF: Jaco Peyper (SARU), ARs: Tual Trainini (FFR), Jordan Way (RA)

Saturday 19th November, 2022
IRELAND v Australia
REF: Ben O’Keeffe (NZRU), ARs: James Doleman (NZRU), Tual Trainini (FFR)

IRFU High Performance Referee Appointment

England v Argentina
REF: Andrew Brace (IRFU), ARs: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Pierre Brousset (FFR)

USA v Kenya
REF: Tual Trainini (FFR), ARs: Damian Schneider (UAR), Eoghan Cross (IRFU)

Portugal v Hong Kong
REF: Chris Busby (IRFU), ARs: Damian Schneider (UAR), Eoghan Cross (IRFU)

Scotland v New Zealand
REF: Frank Murphy (IRFU), ARs: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

Romania v Samoa
REF: Mathieu Raynal (FFR), ARs: Eoghan Cross (IRFU), Shota Tevadze (IRFU)

French Barbarians v Fiji
REF: Chris Busby (IRFU), ARs: Ben Blain (SARU), Adrien Marbot (FFR)

France v Japan
REF: Andrew Brace (IRFU), ARs: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Christophe Ridley (RFU)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)

England v South Africa
REF: Angus Gardner (RA), ARs: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Pierre Brousset (FFR)

Wales v Australia
REF: Matthew Carley (RFU), ARs: Luke Pearce (RFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Emerging Ireland Ready For Currie Cup Champions

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The Emerging Ireland Match Day Squad to take on Currie Cup champions, the Airlink Pumas, on Wednesday in Bloemfontein has been named by the Ireland coaching team.

Emerging Ireland started their Toyota Challenge campaign with a 54-7 victory over the Griquas on Sunday and will take on the Pumas on Wednesday afternoon at Toyota Stadium (Kick-off 4pm Irish time, live on IrishRugby.ie).

Cian Prendergast, a member of the touring party leadership group, will fulfil the captain’s duties against the Pumas.

Prenderast will line out on the blindside flank with John Hodnett in the number seven jersey and James Culhane in the number eight slot. Cormac Izuchukwu and Brian Deeny are named at lock with Callum Reid, Diarmuid Barron and Roman Salanoa in the front row.

Michael McDonald and Jake Flannery will steer the team from half-back with Cathal Forde and Antoine Frisch in midfield. Ethan McIlroy is joined in the back field by Sevens duo Chay Mullins and Andrew Smith.

The replacements named are Dylan Tierney-Martin, Josh Wycherley, Sam Illo, Tom Ahern, David McCann, Ben Murphy, Jack Crowley and Shane Daly.

The match will be streamed live on IrishRugby.ie, while there will be updates on Irish Rugby social media channels.

Emerging Ireland v Airlink Pumas:

Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, Wednesday 5th October, 2022, KO 4.00pm (Irish time)

15. Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
13. Antoine Frisch (Munster)
12. Cathal Forde (Connacht/Corinthians)
11. Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)
10. Jake Flannery (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
9. Michael McDonald (Ulster)

1. Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
2. Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
3. Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
4. Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
5. Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
6. Cian Prendergast (Connacht)(captain)
7. John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
8. James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)

Replacements:

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
17. Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)
18. Sam Illo (Connacht/Buccaneers)
19. Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
20. David McCann (Ulster/Banbridge)
21. Ben Murphy (Leinster/Clontarf)
22. Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
23. Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022:

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 14:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Aki Banned For Eight Weeks

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Aki will be unavailable for the westerners’ next five URC games, including the derby clashes with Munster and Leinster, and will also miss at least the first two of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures.

He will definitely be absent for the Tests against South Africa and Fiji, but could return to face Australia on Saturday, November 19 if he ‘successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme’.

After an act of foul play against Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed Aki a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a).

The particular law states that a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.

In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman from Scotland), Aki had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card.

She determined that his actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in his actions.

Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.

However, she also considered Aki’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.

This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that his offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.

The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that Aki’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his provincial coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.

These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.

Aki’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.

As a result, the Ireland international will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. As previously stated, should he complete the Coaching Intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.

Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:

Vodacom Bulls v Connacht, September 30, BKT URC
Connacht v Munster, October 7, BKT URC
Connacht v Leinster, October 14, BKT URC
Connacht v Scarlets, October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys v Connacht, October 29, BKT URC
Ireland v South Africa, November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Fiji, November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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