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Andy Farrell on the art of tackling, Ireland’s player welfare policy shelved

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

Garry Ringrose has played 240 minutes of rugby in 11 days in Japan. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Ireland's final Pool A clash against Samoa is just four days away, with Joe Schmidt's side braced for what is likely to be a physical encounter in Fukuoka. The Pacific Islanders have seen a number of players receive cards so far at the Rugby World Cup, with hooker Motu Matu'u and Cardiff centre Ray Lee-lo subsequently handed three-match bans for yellows picked up against Russia, ruling them out for the rest of the tournament. This, added to Jaco Peyper's bizarre decision at the death against Japan, has led to a sense of injustice which makes Samoa very dangerous opponents for Ireland. Gerry Thornley writes: "Samoa want to take their resentment out on someone, anyone, and the only team left for them to do so is Ireland next Saturday. They will play with enormous pride for what is their last test against a Tier One team for goodness knows how long." Discipline and the number of red cards shown at this tournament - five, already a record - has become one of the major talking points in Japan. And yesterday incoming head coach Andy Farrell gave a mini-tutorial on how to tackle properly during an Ireland press conference. He said: "The funny thing is, what people don't realise and I'll share it with you guys because it is important to get it out there, but it's super-important to almost lead with your head. . . Proper technique, in my opinion, to make sure we're looking after players, is making sure that we get the head through and not to the side because if it's to the side you're vulnerable."

Just three games into the tournament, and with potentially far stiffer tasks to come down the line, Ireland's hopes have already been blighted by injury - particularly in the midfield, backrow and at outhalf. This has made it difficult to rotate properly and has put a squeeze on the whole squad. Indeed, Gavin Cummiskey writes: "The much-lauded IRFU player welfare policy has been shelved. Garry Ringrose has clocked up 240 minutes in 11 days, finishing all three Pool A matches against Scotland, Japan and Russia. Robbie Henshaw, the Ireland management assures us, is raring to go despite a hamstring tear suffered on a dodgy Chiba surface sometime around September 14th." And Ireland's disappointing performances in the wake of their opening win over Scotland means there is no chance for rotation against Samoa in Fukuoka, and there's no chance of an afternoon off for Johnny Sexton: "That's definitely not an option," said incoming head coach Farrell. "No, this game is super important to us. We're fully in. We're after the best performance of the competition."

Away from Japan and Ireland are gearing up for a crunch international window, which sees them travel to play Georgia and Switzerland in their penultimate Euro 2020 qualifiers. And Republic manager Mick McCarthy has suggested 19-year-old forward Aaron Connolly could be in line to make his international debut in Tbilisi, following his stunning brace for Brighton against Tottenham at the weekend. He said: "They [young players]have to prove themselves at every level and he has proved himself for me. He has proved to be the difference in a really top league; if somebody gets into the Premier League and has done what Aaron has done, well, that gives me something to think about. He plays with personality as well. He is aggressive, he runs at people. He's out there trying to change the game which I really like."

Elsewhere tonight Ireland women take on Ukraine in Tallaght in the Euro 2021 qualifiers (kick-off 7.45pm, RTÉ2), in what will be Dutch manager Vera Pauw's first game in charge of the side. And she is confident her new charges can secure qualification by finishing second in their group - behind a dominant Germany side - before winning a play-off. She said: "It feels like I have been already here for months. I think we're absolutely ready. We are going to qualify, definitely. After this week, at least for the play-offs. We may meet a very highly ranked team there but we will qualify for the play-offs."


And in this morning's Pay for Play column Philip Reid looks at the popularity of golf tourism in Ireland, and how Fáilte Ireland are trying to spread the wealth to lesser-known courses, as more iconic ones become increasingly over-subscribed. He writes: "Certainly, it is not for the sunshine that golf tourists are attracted to these shores. It is the quality of the courses ultimately that is the big draw; and hammering home the message that there are hidden gems that sparkle just as brightly as any of the iconics is increasingly part of formal campaigns."

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times