Thursday 17 October 2019

It's time to deliver

Rugby World Cup

Jack Carty and Tadhg Furlong lead the players off the pitch after yesterday’s Captain’s Run in Yokohama. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Jack Carty and Tadhg Furlong lead the players off the pitch after yesterday’s Captain’s Run in Yokohama. Photo: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

The 2019 Rugby World Cup is up and running and, while they have to wait another 24 hours before they get in on the act, Joe Schmidt's Ireland are itching to kick off their campaign against Scotland tomorrow (8.45am).

Hosts Japan began with a 30-10 win over Russia in the opening game of Pool A yesterday morning with flying winger Kotaro Matsushima the darling of the home nation, crossing for three of their four tries.

Ireland take on Scotland in Yokohama tomorrow morning and Schmidt yesterday named Jordan Larmour to start at full-back and Andrew Conway on the wing, although that duo could swap roles at times against the Scots.

After four years of hard work and preparation, the moment has finally arrived and the coach is hammering home his desire for his team to take control of the pool and earn an extra day's preparation before facing New Zealand or South Africa.

"The biggest significance for me is that you get an extra day to prepare (for a quarter-final)," Schmidt said.

"I think people undervalue the difference between a six- versus a seven- versus an eight-day turnaround. I know we'll have six days and Japan will have eight days and I'm sure (coaches) Jamie (Joseph) and Tony (Brown) will make really good use of that.

"We finished the Six Nations with a six-day turnaround and didn't bounce back into that as well as we should have.

"So there's been some good learnings from that and if we go into that quarter we'd love to get that extra day to prepare for it, regardless of who that opponent will be.

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"Obviously we'll have a better idea tomorrow (New Zealand face South Africa this morning) as to potentially who that likely opponent is going to be, with ourselves, Scotland or Japan topping our pool."

With rain forecast for the Japanese port city, Scotland are expected to test out the new back-three combination of Larmour, Conway and Jacob Stockdale. And the man named at full-back is relishing the challenge.

"Across the board, Scotland are really skilful players and they've got a good kicking game, so I'm sure they'll want to be using that a bit," Larmour said.

"But we've come up with a good game plan, we think that anything they throw at us, we can solve as a team together and problem-solve together.

"So just in the back-field, with 'Bomber' (Conway) and Jacob there as well, we'll be chatting to each other all day and I'm sure they have a kicking game coming, so we all have to be ready for that.

"It's something that we've been working on as a back-three unit all pre-season, trying to get better aerial skills.

"We spend a lot of time on it in training after training, so it's something we pride ourselves on, being good in the air. We'll have to be the same this weekend."

Scotland coach Gregor Towsend is expecting a tight, taut affair and says the weather will play a part in how the game is played.

"I think it will be a really competitive game," he said after naming a strong side for the opener.

"If the weather is a factor it will probably limit the scoring, but if it's not then both teams will be keen to bring out their strengths and will be keen to pressure the opposition.

"Who knows what that will mean in terms of the scoreboard? Both teams have got strong 23s so we feel our bench can make a real impact. There's real pace there, but their bench is full of experienced players too.

"We know them well and are well aware of the strengths they possess throughout their squad.

"We expect them to play very well, as they did in their most recent games against Wales, so only our best performance will do in order to win.

"The prospect of facing them in the opening round of a Rugby World Cup is a fantastic challenge."

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