Gordon D’Arcy on Rassie Erasmus, Chelsea fight back in eight-goal Ajax thriller

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

Reece James celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s equaliser against Ajax. Photograph: Ian Walton/AP

Reece James celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s equaliser against Ajax. Photograph: Ian Walton/AP

The dust is settling on the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with South Africa champions for a joint-record third time after their dominant 32-12 win over England last Saturday. And in his column this morning Gordon D’Arcy has paid tribute to their coach Rassie Erasmus, whom he had previously criticised for leaving Munster to take up the Springboks role in 2018. He writes: “I’m guilty of my own bias and a national ‘the world revolves around Ireland’ bias as well. I was very harsh on Rassie following his exit from Limerick. How could he do this to Munster in their time of need? Irish rugby needed him as well, and he deserted them at their most vulnerable moment.” But he admits he was wrong: “How could Rassie not answer the call? It is the ultimate job for a former Springbok.” And what now for the rest of the world, after South Africa’s physicality saw them blunt even the likes of Billy Vunipola? He suggests Ireland are going to have to be clever if they wish to topple the Springboks beast over the coming years: “The challenge for the next generation of coaches is how to navigate these gargantuan opponents - because they are not going to get smaller - and how to do it consistently. Watch how Leinster seek to evolve under Stuart Lancaster in 2020, and Ireland under Mike Catt, because collision-heavy tactics cannot be how we operate anymore.”

Elsewhere and Chelsea came from 4-1 down to salvage a point against Ajax in a thrilling Champions League fixture at Stamford Bridge last night. Donny van de Beek looked to have put last year’s semi-finalists out of reach with a smartly taken goal in the 55th minute before a crazy passage of play - which saw Ajax centre-halves Daley Blind and Joel Veltman sent-off, the latter conceding a penalty - turned the game for Frank Lampard’s side. 19-year-old Reece James gave Chelsea parity in the 74th minute but they couldn’t force a fifth, with César Azpilicueta’s later winner being chalked off by VAR after a Tammy Abraham own goal. Elsewhere, Liverpool edged towards the knockout stages with a 2-1 over Genk at Anfield, while Borussia Dortmund came from 2-0 down to beat Internazionale 3-2. In one of the night’s earlier kick-offs, Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at the Nou Camp by Slavia Prague. In tonight’s fixtures, Tottenham Hotspur travel to play Red Star Belgrade and Manchester City are away to Atalanta - while in the Europa League Arsenal take on Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal (kick-off 3.55pm).

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