Gordon D’Arcy on Sexton’s importance to Ireland; Hourihane reaping benefits of hard graft
The Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the Rugby World Cup with The Irish Times sports team
Ireland’s Bundee Aki and Jonathan Sexton during training ahead of the Rugby World Cup clash with Samoa. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Over to Scotland, then. If Gregor Townsend’s side, as they’re expected to, pick up a bonus point victory over Russia this morning (kick-off: 8.15am) then we’re heading for a final game shake-up in Pool A as Ireland meet Samoa on Saturday morning before Japan take on the Scots on Sunday. You can follow all of the action from Scotland’s clash with Russia on our liveblog from 7.45am while we also have coverage of Wales’ meeting with Fiji which follow directly after. As we approach the end-game in the pool stages the potential permutations are beginning to stack up, no more so than in Ireland’s pool. If you’re confused about any of them we’ve cleared it all up here. On the Ireland front, Gordon D’Arcy writes this morning that Ireland are at this stage reliant on just how well Johnny Sexton’s body holds up. Joe Schmidt’s men have been hit with their fair share of injuries in this tournament and keeping the key number 10 healthy remains the priority. “There is no hiding from this. If able, Sexton needs to play every minute against Samoa until the bonus point is secured. Then he will be needed for every second of the quarter-final,” D’Arcy writes.
Ireland will be expected to pick up the bonus point win necessary against Samoa on Saturday morning but this Rugby World Cup has shown that surprises can happen and so it could prove key for Ireland that Jacob Stockdale, who has scored 16 tries in 23 Test matches in his career, is refreshed and ready to go this weekend after sitting out the victory over Russia. “I don’t think we’re at panic stations or anything like that, you can see we’re getting into our shape really nicely, there’s just the odd pass not going to hand or maybe we’re not making the right decisions so those kind of wee one-to-two per cent things are making all the difference and they’re really easy to fix,” the Ulster man told Gerry Thornley yesterday. At the moment Argentina are beating the USA 26-5 but the US have managed to cause a few scares the the Pumas as the quiet rugby revolution begins to pick up a bit more pace stateside. One man who is very much involved in that is Aran Islands’ native and US forward Paul Mullan. He spoke to Keith Duggan yesterday about how people are becoming more and more aware of rugby in the States, so much so that the Houston Rockets basketball players have been following the results while on their tour of Asia. One of the themes of this Rugby World Cup has been the high tackle and how referees are dealing with them. Our columnist and former IRFU referee director Owen Doyle has been keeping tabs throughout the tournament and this morning he looks at how the referees have fared. 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.