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Must-win match for Ireland

Wednesday, 2nd October, 2019 3:40pm

Ireland play in their third pool match at the Rugby World Cup and will be looking for the right result against Russia after a shock defeat to hosts Japan last Saturday.

Joe Schmidt has made 11 changes to the team that was defeated and has called on Johnny Sexton, who will captain the side, and he is joined by his provincial partner Luke McGrath at half-back. Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are named in the centre with Rob Kearney at fullback supported by Munster players Andrew Conway and Keith Earls on the wings.

The backrow sees new arrival Jordi Murphy at number 8 alongside Peter O’Mahony at openside and Rhys Ruddock at blindside.

Murphy was called in to the squad in place of the injured Jack Conan who fractured his foot in training last week.

Tadhg Beirne and Jean Kleyn are named at lock with Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan all coming in to the front row, making a Munster front five.

Speaking about the changes, Schmidt said: “There's 11 changes just because we do need to make sure that everyone's ready and that everyone's involved as much as possible, get everyone up to speed and as well as that, it's pretty tough with a six day turnaround and a five day turnaround.

“We're looking to freshen it up and give guys an opportunity and it's great 'cause we've got some guys who are very keen to be involved and they will get an opportunity on Thursday.”

The surprise defeat to hosts Japan

Despite a decent start to last Saturday's match, Ireland failed to scored for the last 60 minutes of the match, with Japan securing a famous 19-12 win on home soil that sees them top of Pool A after two matches with nine points, Ireland are three behind on six in second place.

“We have to stay around our performance orientated goals because, for us, if we don't focus on those we can't actually put anything on the scoreboard without getting the things that we need to put in place, that we build the pressure or that we create the opportunities from,” continued Schmidt.

“I felt the first 20 minutes last weekend was very good. We got in to the right field positions, we turned a few balls over which was frustrating but at the same time, we converted two tries on the back of some really good line breaks and maybe that was to our detriment 'cause we kind of stepped back after that and didn't play with the same front foot attitude and you can't really afford to do that against a good opposition.”

Garry Ringrose will play his third match on Thursday in 11 days, with Schmidt admitting his hands are tied over Ringrose's selection with Chris Farrell concussed and Robbie Henshaw not fit to start.

“It's a risk but he is feeling great and he's playing super. I thought Garry was really good last weekend, he was one of the guys who didn't really miss a beat. He was still working really hard, he was still creating opportunities that I think were very difficult, he moved in to 12, we had Jordan Larmour at 13, who is really a back three player for us, we had Luke McGrath on the wing, and we're chasing the game.

“It's a really tough situation to be in,” he continued, “sometimes ‘cause you're limited to 23 players. Robbie is on the cusp of being available and again, if we put him back in this week, which we thought about, it's a risk we feel we don't need to take ‘cause Garry is feeling good and we could put Robbie in maybe next week and at the same time, we've got Bundee back and he's got a fair bit of bounce about him.

“With Chris Farrell suffering a concussion and it being a five day turnaround, our hands are tied there and we want to make sure that we look after Chris as well. We thought about potentially moving Keith Earls in there and then we'd still have to keep Jacob Stockdale ticking over, so it was really based around who was still feeling really good. Bundee and Garry have a really good midfield relationship so it works out, hopefully, that it will still be productive for us.”

As for Jordi Murphy being parachuted in to the team, he will start today (Thursday) just four days after joining the team in Japan on Sunday, Schmidt said the Ulster backrow has adapted well in a short space of time with the promise of a weekend break awaiting him following the game against Russia.

“He trained unbelievably well today (Tuesday), he got straight off the flight on late Sunday so he's at least had a couple of nights. He was feeling good yesterday, one of the things I suppose is that it's a 7.45pm game so that's around about midday in Irish terms, so he doesn't have to recalibrate himself too much to get out and play a game hopefully and then we'll give him the weekend off after that.

“We're just asking him to do the best that he can for us, the one thing with Jordi is that you sure don't get anything other then that. I think he's a really good performer for us and we'd have a lot of confidence about him being able to slot straight in.”

Meanwhile Johnny Sexton returns to the team after missing last week's defeat and he captains the side for the first time. The Leinster out-half said it is a massive honour for him to be the 106th person to lead out an Irish team at this level. “I spoke to Joe this morning so I've only found out myself the last few hours, so I haven't had the chance to tell my family or anything but I'm sure they're going to be very proud as well.

“It's something that I've thought about a lot as a kid, I've made a lot of decisions around trying to get there one day, it's taken a while but it was worth the wait and I feel incredibly proud. I want to be captain of a good performance and a good World Cup win so that's my focus. I don't think anything really changes for me, I take a big responsibility on the team anyway so nothing strange.”

Ireland are set to play Russia in the Kobe Misaki Stadium, where the roof will be shut throughout the match. Scotland and Samoa played out a 34-0 in 30C degree heat with 70 per cent humidity on Monday while England's victory over Tonga was also in the same venue. Sexton is aware that conditions will be very difficult.

“We watched the game (Scotland vs Samoa) and it looked very slippy. When you hear an indoor stadium you think of air con and that it's maybe going to be a bit cooler but it's quite the opposite from what we hear. Even Andy (Farrell) was telling me from speaking to (his son) Owen how slippery it was, it's something that we're going to have to be mindful of, even when you play outside, the ball gets pretty slippy. The boys were saying against Japan, the first half was bone dry but then the longer the game went on, the sweatier everyone got and that the ball was like a bar of soap so it's something that we have to be conscious of and play smartly, we can't just go out and run everything but yes, we've plans in place and hopefully it won't be too big a factor.”

Ireland play Russia on Thursday 3 October. Kick-off is at 11.45am Irish time.

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