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Cian Healy was withdrawn at half-time for a head injury assessment, and Keith Earls came off with a quad injury, but the Ireland boss was otherwise able to report a clean bill of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

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6 Nations

Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow

Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty

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(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Wales will be without both Jonathan Davies and Rhys Patchell for some part of the 2020 Six Nations campaign due to injury it has been confirmed.

Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.

The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.

As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.

He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.

It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.

As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.

Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.

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6 Nations

Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race

Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt

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Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.

Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback  due to the nature of the injury. 

“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery. 

The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue. 

His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now. 

“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added. 

It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season. 

The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.

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6 Nations

Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation

Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports

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Japan are to be handed an invite into the Six Nations after their impressive showing at this year’s Rugby World Cup, according to a report by the Mail Online.

The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition. 

It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played. 

However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament. 

The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect. 

It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun. 

They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances. 

Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed. 

We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.

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