Gerry Thornley’s Rugby World Cup letter; Spurs slip up in Athens

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Australia’s Silatolu Latu and Will Genia pose for a selfie after the team welcoming ceremony at Ebetsu, Hokkaido Prefecture ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Photo: William West/Getty Images

Australia’s Silatolu Latu and Will Genia pose for a selfie after the team welcoming ceremony at Ebetsu, Hokkaido Prefecture ahead of the Rugby World Cup. Photo: William West/Getty Images

“The spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from the top floor of the squad’s hotel are incomparable to the manmade lake adjoining the squad on the outskirts of Bordeaux in 2007,” that’s just one of the positives of Ireland’s base in Chiba for the Rugby World Cup, according to Gerry Thornley in his first letter from Japan this morning. The country is quite a change from the normal rugby destinations and all for the better as Irish fans and players get to explore a whole new world. For the moment though, it’s all focus on Scotland for the Ireland camp as the build-up to Sunday’s opener approaches the end. For Andy Farrell, he believes Ireland’s defence will be the key in thwarting a very dangerous Scotland attack. “They’re attacking kicking game is really potent. They see the space whether it’s been in behind and they’re not shy of throwing a long ball into that space and somebody picking it up on the run etc,” he said. The defence coach also reiterated the point that Will Addison is not on standby as staff expect Keith Earls and Rob Kearney to overcome their injuries.

Addison is one of those players who narrowly missed out on selection for the squad, an experience which Leo Cullen spoke about yesterday at the launch of the Pro14. The Leinster coach wasn’t selected for the 2003 World Cup and yesterday he spoke about the ‘grieving’ process he went through. The standout game from the opening weekend is undoubtedly the meeting of New Zealand and South Africa on Saturday morning and former Ireland player Jerry Flannery has backed the Boks to go all the way in this tournament. Flannery worked alongside three of the South African coaches – including Rassie Erasmus – at Munster and he believes their “pragmatic” style of rugby could cause huge problems for their opponents. Early this morning Steve Hansen named his starting 15 for the match on Saturday and also took the opportunity to accuse Erasmus of trying to pressure referees. Don’t forget you can follow all of the build-up to Japan with columns, analysis, news, interviews, stats, fixtures and much more on our dedicated 2019 Rugby World Cup site.

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