Ireland make 11 changes for Russia; United and Arsenal find their level

The Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the Rugby World Cup with The Irish Times sports team

Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt and outhalf Jonathan Sexton take part in a training session at the Steelers Training Ground in Kobe this morning. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt and outhalf Jonathan Sexton take part in a training session at the Steelers Training Ground in Kobe this morning. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland have retained just four players from the starting team defeated by Japan for Thursday’s encounter with Russia, and among the 11 changes is a fit again Johnny Sexton. Bundee Aki and Andrew Conway, a try-scorer against Scotland, also return to the backline, with Luke McGrath renewing his Leinster halfback partnership with Sexton. The biggest load of any player in the entire 31-man squad has been placed on Garry Ringrose who again starts in the centre. Russia’s assistant coach, Irishman Mark McDermott, says his team’s taxing schedule is taking a heavy toll: “These are not meant to be ironman competitions, but they’re turning into that.”

In his column this morning (Subscriber Only), Gerry Thornley explains why Japan are now a serious factor at their own Rugby World Cup: “the scheduling has clearly been designed to favour Japan at every turn in this pool. They had an eight-day turnaround to Ireland’s six, it will be seven days as against Samoa’s five next Saturday, and another eight as against four for the pool finale against Scotland.” For the second time in the tournament so far, today is a rest day with no matches.

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