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Rugby World Cup

Sexton Praises Schmidt & Best Ahead Of Aviva Stadium Send-Off

Last game on home soil.

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Jonathan Sexton says the Ireland squad are determined can give Joe Schmidt and Rory Best a winning Aviva Stadium send-off when they play in Saturday’s return match (kick-off 2pm).

In addition to Schmidt stepping down as Ireland head coach following the completion of the team’s Rugby World Cup campaign in Japan, 37-year-old captain Best will also bring his illustrious playing career to an end.

Both men have made enormous contributions to Irish Rugby, most notably the Grand Slam success of 2018. Schmidt and Best were also at the coalface for the back-to-back Championship triumphs of 2014 and 2015, while the Ulster hooker was also part of the squad that previously earned Grand Slam honours in 2009.

Sexton was a European Cup champion under Michael Cheika in the same year, before New Zealander Schmidt guided Leinster to subsequent Heineken Cup victories in 2011 and 2012.

“It will be (significant), for him (Schmidt) and Rory,” said Sexton, previewing this weekend’s warm-up encounter with Wales. “Rory is someone who has been there with Joe through all those games. We need to narrow the focus down to the Wales game in terms of what we have to do preparation-wise to build in towards Scotland.

“But in the back of our minds, when you talk about people that have had an impact on Irish Rugby, I’m not sure any coaches would go on the list. It would all be players and Rory would jump onto that playing list for his captaincy and for his playing for over 100, whatever (caps) he’s got now. I keep losing track!

“Joe, impact-wise. with Leinster to start off and with Ireland, has been phenomenal. Records speak for themselves. To do what he did in Leinster, we got to six finals in three years, we won four of them and to go on with three Championships with Ireland.

“Then also the special games where we’ve done things for the first time. We’ll miss him in terms of what he brings, what he has brought. We’ve got to have that in the back of our mind but again, he’ll drive it.”

This will be the third World Cup for Sexton in an already memorable international career. In contrast to the 2015 tournament when a series of injuries played a part in derailing Ireland’s campaign, it is felt there is greater depth to the squad this time around.

While Sexton cannot definitively say yet if this is the best assembled group of players Ireland has ever sent to a World Cup, he believes the game has evolved rapidly since his debut tournament in 2011.

“It’s hard to compare. Even when you look at those 2011 games, it’s like a different game almost. In a short period of time the game just moves on so it is very hard to compare squads. There is good strength in depth there now.

“That’s what we’ve built over the last couple of years through guys getting injured, Joe giving guys lots of chances through the last couple of Six Nations, and we’ll see if we are the strongest squad put together if we get past the quarter-final.”

Amongst a host of experienced faces, 19 players in the final squad of 31 will be appearing at a Rugby World Cup for the first time. The most recent debutant within the ranks is Munster lock Jean Kleyn, who made his international bow in last month’s GUINNESS Summer Series victory at home to Italy.

Having sat out the three warm-up fixtures to date, Sexton is yet to line out alongside Kleyn in a green shirt. Nonetheless, he has gotten a glimpse of what the towering second row can bring to the set-up.

“He’s working hard, the same as all of us. It’s a hard environment to come in to because there is a lot of detail, as there is in any international camp. It’s particularly hard here with the level of detail we go into and often it takes guys a couple of games to find their feet, to get used to the system. I’m sure he’ll get better from here on in.”

After watching on from the outside up until now, Sexton is expected to return in the green jersey this weekend. Despite acknowledging how disappointing the performance against England was, the Dubliner is confident that Schmidt’s men can continue to build leading into their World Cup Pool A opener against Scotland on Sunday, September 22. He added:

It’s very hard to comment on games you weren’t involved in, in my position. The guys obviously started well against England for 30 minutes, 10-8 up, I think. And then things just unravelled from there. Soft tries, good play by England and then suddenly we are chasing our tail and you’ve got a level of exhaustion after a tough week in Portugal. 33 degrees or whatever it was there.

“It’s tough on the guys, but that’s exactly why we had that game. It was probably the end of England’s preparation but the start of ours for some guys and it’s just important that we keep building now.

“Not listen to too much other than what is being said in the environment. Keep building and hopefully we see another step forward this week like we did last week, and keep building for that Scotland game.”

The post Sexton Praises Schmidt And Best Ahead Of Aviva Stadium Send-Off appeared first on Irish Rugby.

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Rugby World Cup

WATCH: How about this for skill from Cory Hill!?

Not bad …

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Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

If this was Ken Owens, we wouldn’t be surprised but normally Welsh 2nd Row, Cory Hill is on the receiving end of darts, not throwing them.

During a visit to Sayagtani Elementary School in Tokyo, Hill made this unbelievable shot …

Not bad for a 6ft 5 length.

Wales take on Georgia in their opening game on Monday but Hill is unlikely to feature as he continues to recover from injury.

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Springboks Name Experienced Side for All Blacks Test

The Springboks have named an unchanged squad to the one that faced Japan two weeks’ ago for their clash with the All Blacks on Saturday

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(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus has announced an unchanged 23-man squad for South Africa’s crunch Rugby World Cup clash with the All Blacks this Saturday.

The team took on World Cup hosts Japan two weeks’ ago, winning 41-7 and Erasmus has stuck with that side for the game between two of the tournament favourites. 

It is in fact the first time that the Springboks have named the same 23-man squad for consecutive games since the 2015 World Cup. 

That means that it is a front-three of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe, with Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert behind that trio in the engine-room. 

Siya Kolisi captains the side from blindside flanker, with Pieter-Steph du Toit on the openside and Duane Vermeulen makes his 50th appearance for the Boks from No 8 in what is a strong back-row. 

Faf de Klerk opens up at scrum-half and is partnered in the half-backs by Handre Pollard, with Damian de Allandre and Lukhanyo Am outside the pair in the centre positions. 

A solid back-three finish up the starting XV with Makazole Mapimpi on the left-wing, Cheslin Kolbe on the right and Willie le Roux at full-back. 

There is plenty to call upon from the bench also with the likes of Tendi Mtawarira, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies and Jesse Kriel among the replacements. 

The All Blacks and Springboks have had some thrilling close games in recent times and Erasmus is expecting another tough test on Saturday. 

“Our last three matches have ended in stalemate, one win each and a draw, for an aggregate score of 82-82. You couldn’t say there is a favourite. I think we have a healthy respect for each other’s capabilities but it will come down to a small moment to decide a big game in the end, I suppose. Our job is to focus on executing our plan and our skills to the best of our ability and hope that that is enough to overcome a New Zealand team that will be doing exactly the same,” he said. 

This game is seen as the one that will decide which of these nations finishes top of Pool B and whoever wins will feel momentum building in their bid to claim the Webb Ellis Cup. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

15. Willie le Roux

14. Cheslin Kolbe

13. Lukhanyo Am

12. Damian de Allende

11. Makazole Mapimpi

10. Handré Pollard

9. Faf de Klerk

8. Duane Vermeulen

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit

6. Siya Kolisi (captain)

5. Franco Mostert

4. Eben Etzebeth

3. Frans Malherbe

2. Malcolm Marx

1. Steven Kitshoff

Replacements:

16. Bongi Mbonambi

17. Tendai Mtawarira

18. Trevor Nyakane

19. RG Snyman

20. Francois Louw

21. Herschel Jantjies

22. Frans Steyn

23. Jesse Kriel

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Rugby World Cup

World Cup 2019 Preview.

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

It’s almost here, all 20 teams are now in Japan and itching to show off their prowess on the field and be crowned the Rugby World Cup Champions 2019. The competition kicks off on Sept 20th with 5 teams divided into 4 Pools, A, B, C, D.

What are the bookmakers saying?

Cup holders, New Zealand, are in Pool B and are pitted against South Africa, Italy, Canada and Namibia. Will the All Blacks make it three in a row? Is it a good thing that they are pitted against the Springboks? And many would love to know if they are worth betting on. Hell yeah, and that’s why you may want to check out this list of betting sites before you place that potentially lucky wager. Right now, the odds favour the All Blacks at 11/1, England at 5/1, South Africa at 9/2 and Wales at 12/1.

Did you know that England could potentially land a big payout if they manage to lift the Web Ellis Cup? That’s a cool £225,000 extra per player if they manage to take home the title which they last won in 2003.  

So we know the favourites, but who’s in pole position to cause an upset in Japan. Read on to find out more info per Pool.

All eyes on Pool B

For starters, All Blacks and Springboks are in the same pool and play each other in their opening game. Is that a good thing? Both are peaking in terms of form and will not meet each other again unless they both the reach final. However, it is important to remember that New Zealand have now suffered an injury setback with loose forward Luke Jacobson out of the reckoning after having suffered an injury due to a delayed onset of concussion, rumours are also circulating that SBW may also be carrying a knock. So, are the All Blacks a bit of a worry and worth a wager? Even though the odds say it all with New Zealand still the bookmaker’s favourite, they’ve drawn against the Springboks recently and had close calls against England and Argentina. Then there was that pretty huge loss 26-47 against Australia which they followed up with a sweet victory in the Bledisloe Cup with a 36-0 win. Do they still have it in them to top the pool? Most certainly!

Pool A – The toughest group to call

Ireland and Scotland have their work cut out as they face host nation Japan, Samoa and Russia. Scotland have had their ups and downs losing to and beating France all within a week. Rewind back to the Six Nations and we saw the Scots come back from 0-31 against England to draw the game at 38 all.

The Irish are previous Grand Slam winners and have also overcome New Zealand twice in recent years but have struggled for consistent form in 2019. Wales gave them a sound thrashing in the Six Nations and England added more salt to their wounds in a warm-up match. Their opening match v Scotland will most likely determine who finishes in top spot in Pool A.

Hosts Japan are likely to have all the possible backing from the crowd. They’ll be targeting their game v Scotland in Tokyo as a must-win game to try and make the knock-out stages!

Pool C – The pool of death

England, find themselves pitted against France and Argentina. Wrapping up the pool are Tonga and the USA. The question is whether the ‘Red Rose’ will bloom or wilt away. The 2018 Six Nations was a disastrous period for England, finishing 5th in the Six Nations. Since then they have had ups and downs but seem to be peaking just at the right time following a huge win over Ireland in Twickenham just a few weeks ago and big-name players hitting peak form. They are certainly favourites to top Pool C.

France, on the other hand have a dismal record away from home. They’ve only managed to record 2 away victories against Italy in the last 2 years out of 15 away games.  Selecting from the Top 14, they have a wide pool of players to choose from and that widened pool often leads to a lack of cohesion and understanding at International Level. French fans will settle for nothing less than reaching the knock-out stages but the French are notorious for raising their performances when it comes to the World Cup.

Argentina, another team who often raises their game at World Cup time will have their work cut out to make the knockout stages. Domestically, they had a fantastic season with the Jaguares reaching the Super Rugby Final for the first team but that form was not translated in the recent Rugby Championship fixtures. This group will certainly be competitive.

Pool D – A more predictable group

Australia and Wales are set to fight it out for first and second in this pool. The Welsh are without fly-half Gareth Anscombe and back up Fly-Half, Rhys Patchell is also a doubt. The Wallabies, on the other hand, haven’t had much to write home about in the last 18 months. Of the 18 games played they’ve dunked 12, so Wales will be gunning for them hoping for another victory after taken their scalp last Autumn. Uruguay, Fiji and Georgia make up the rest of this pool and will have to bring out their best to force an upset. Fiji have an explosive and exciting backline that will no doubt cause any defence problems and the famous Georgian scrum could also cause any pack a few problems!

Let the games begin!

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