MAKUHARI: Ireland may be the number-one ranked team, but head coach Joe Schmidt is taking nothing for granted as he prepares to face Pool A rivals Scotland and Japan at the Rugby World CupThe Irish...
MAKUHARI: Ireland may be the number-one ranked team, but head coach Joe Schmidt is taking nothing for granted as he prepares to face Pool A rivals Scotland and Japan at the Rugby World CupThe Irish take on Scotland in Yokohama next Sunday in a marquee opening fixture that will go a long way to determining the fate of the group — and possibly the whole tournament. And while Ireland have had the better of their Celtic rivals lately, Schmidt told reporters on Sunday they had been “a little bit fortuitous” in recent encounters.
“They’ve always been really competitive. While we’ve managed to get our nose in front, it was a little bit fortuitous last time we played them,” said Schmidt, with Ireland running out 22-13 winners at Murrayfield.
New Zealander Schmidt highlighted the danger posed by Scottish fly-half Finn Russell who “brings an incredible variety to his kicking and passing game and is a threat with his running as well” as well as the “electric” full-back Stuart Hogg. “You could go right through their team and I think they will look at their personnel and our personnel and rate themselves a smashing chance,” said Schmidt. The coach will not be taking Japan lightly either, as the hosts bid to reach their first ever quarter-final.He compared the two teams’ recent performances against England, which Ireland lost by a humiliating 57-15 and the Brave Blossoms by the narrower margin of 35-15.
“I thought their first half in England at Twickenham was a lot better than our first half in England at Twickenham recently and that is probably a benchmark for them. I thought to lead England 15-10 was a very impressive effort,” he said.He added that Japan were also “a lot more competitive than the score suggests” in their recent match against South Africa, which the Springboks won 41-7 to atone for their shocking defeat in the 2015 World Cup.Ireland come into the World Cup in Japan off the back of two wins against Wales and desperate to advance further than the quarter-finals for the first time ever at the global showpiece.