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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Women’s Rugby World Cup looks set to be postponed.
World Rugby has made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between 18 September-16 October, until next year. The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on 8 and 9 March respectively.Play Video
While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family.
The recommendation is based on the evolution of the uncertain and challenging global COVID-19 landscape. It has become clear in recent discussions with key partners including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand Government and participating unions, that, given the scale of the event and the COVID-19-related uncertainties, it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport’s greatest stage.
The challenges include uncertainty and the ability for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand, and challenging global travel restrictions.
World Rugby can assure teams, New Zealanders and the global rugby family that the recommendation to postpone the tournament will help to ensure that Rugby World Cup 2021 will be all it can be next year for players, fans and the rugby family – one of the great Rugby World Cups.
Further updates will be issued following the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meetings next week.
RWC 2023 Pools confirmed.
How the draw worked
As host nation, France was drawn first and placed randomly in one of the four pools. The teams were then drawn randomly from each band, starting with Band 5 (Africa 1, Oceania 1, Asia / Pacific 1, Final Qualifier Winner), then Band 4 (Americas 1, Americas 2, Europe 1, Europe 2), then Band 3 (Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy), then Band 2 (Ireland, (France), Australia, Japan) and finally Band 1 (South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales). The first drawn in each band was placed in Pool A, the second in Pool B, the third in Pool C and the fourth in Pool D.
Twelve of the 20 teams qualified automatically by finishing in the top three places of their Rugby World Cup 2019 pool. These 12 teams are: South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, Japan, Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy. Acknowledging the global COVID-19 impact on international rugby in 2020, these teams were seeded based on the World Rugby Men’s Rankings as of 1 January, 2020 and placed into the first three bands of four teams.
The remaining eight teams will come through the regional qualification process and were allocated for the draw into bands four and five based on relative strength. They are: Americas 1, Americas 2, Europe 1, Europe 2, Africa 1, Oceania 1, Asia / Pacific 1 and the Final Qualifier Winner.
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