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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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.
World Rugby Confirm Timing of 2023 RWC Draw
World Rugby have confirmed when they will be hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw and it has put pressure on teams to get positive results this year
World Rugby has announced that it will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup draw in November of this year.
The tournament will take place in France with the draw being held in Paris following the November internationals.
That means that teams only have between now and then to better their current rankings and move into a different drawing band, whereas for the previous draw they had 18 months to improve.
Speaking on the announcement World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont is excited to discover the fate of the teams and has put the pressure on teams to do well this year.
“The pool draw is an important milestone on the road to Rugby World Cup 2023 in France as it really drives excitement and momentum both in the host nation and throughout the global rugby family – it is the moment teams and fans can start to plan. With the World Rugby rankings determining the bands for the RWC 2023 pool draw, it promises to be a fascinating year of men’s international rugby with every match counting towards seeding at the end of the November Test series,” he said.
Twelve of the 20 participating teams from last year’s World Cup in Japan have automatically qualified, with the other eight to be decided in the qualifiers that will begin later this year.
However, the twelve teams that are already involved will have to be at their best to move up a band in the current rankings or fear dropping down in which case they could get a harder draw.
As of this moment the first band contains the World Cup semi-finalists from last year in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Wales, with the remaining quarter-finalists making up band two in Ireland, Australia, Japan and France.
It will be a tough task for teams to improve their current standings with the Six Nations teams only having one edition of the tournament to improve compared to the two editions they had last time around, but it does add some extra competition to this year’s fixtures.
Fans Player of the Decade Confirmed
World Rugby have announced the winner of their Fans Player of the Decade vote and there’s no surprise who’s won
Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter has been named World Rugby’s Fans Player of the Decade following their polls over the past couple of weeks.
The organisation narrowed the competition down to 16 players, as they split them into a last-16 style format, with backs on one side and forwards on the other. With two players going head-to-head in the polls to make it through to each respective round.
Last week it was brought down to the final four, with all of them being New Zealand internationals as Carter was pitted up against Beauden Barrett, with Richie McCaw facing Kieran Read.
McCaw and Carter were victorious and now Carter has come out as the overall winner as the best player over the past 10-years.
It is not hard to see why fans have gone for the 112-cap All Black, who finished up his international career in 2015, having guided his country to historic back-to-back Rugby World Cup crowns.
As well as that he holds the title for the most points scored at test-level rugby with an incredible 1598 to his name.
On the international stage he was impressive, but he has been equally so at club-level, winning domestic crowns in both France with Racing 92 and in Japan with the Kobelco Steelers.
The 37-year-old is still under contract with the Japanese outfit, but has been unable to play for them for the majority of the year, having suffered a major injury, which also prevented him from a brief return to Racing 92 for the latter-half of last season.
However, he is poised to return to the playing field shortly and will be hoping to guide his team to further success and will have the aid of another All Black great joining him in the form of Brodie Retallick, who is linking up with the side for the season during his year sabbatical.
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