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.
“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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Qualification process set for Rugby World Cup 2023
- 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
Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.
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.
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
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.
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.