Ireland began to resurrect their Rugby World Cup campaign after their shock loss to Japan with a scrappy 35-0 bonus-point victory on Thursday over a stubborn Russia in Kobe that moved them to the top of Pool A and strengthened their quarter-final chances.
Ireland have 11 points, while unbeaten Japan (nine) face Samoa (five) in Toyota City on Saturday. Scotland also have five points and play Russia next Wednesday in Shizuoka before ending pool play against the tournament hosts in Yokohama on Oct. 13.
Fullback Rob Kearney and loose forwards Peter O'Mahony and Rhys Ruddock scored first half tries for Ireland, but it took until the 62nd minute before wing Andrew Conway crossed for the bonus point that kept them in the hunt for the knockout phase.
The fact Joe Schmidt's side struggled to put away a limited Russia side, who had Bogdan Fedotoko and Andrey Ostrikov yellow carded either side of halftime, would do little for their fans' waning hopes they could reach their first semi-final in Japan. Re-live the action below:
What time is it?
Ireland vs Russia kicks off at 7.15pm Japan Standard Time, which is 11.15am BST, on Thursday 3 October.
Where can I watch it?
ITV1 will be broadcasting the clash. Alternatively, you can live stream the match on your laptop, smartphone or tablet via the ITV Hub.
Hello all and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of this morning's Rugby World Cup clash between Ireland and Russia.
I'll be bringing you all the live action, reaction and analysis from Kobe - so make sure to stay tuned!
We'll get going in an hour or so. In the meantime, here's my preview for this morning's clash!
So, a hugely important game today. Ireland will be looking to respond in style after their humbling at the hands of Japan over the weekend. That shock defeat has left the Irish in a tizzy, with questions now being asked of their World Cup credentials.
Although the men in green are expectedly to comfortably return to winning ways today, it’s the manner of the performance which is of greater significance. Schmidt will want to see a clean, dominant, controlled display, with no frights and scares, to demonstrate that his men have the psychological constitution to move past Saturday's upset and push on here in Japan.
Before we go any further, though, time for my favourite thing: some scene-setting RWC trivia!
- Russia and Ireland also met at the 2011 edition, with the latter emerging victorious 62-12. Ronan O'Gara scored 15 points for Ireland that day. Keith Earls ran in a pair of tries and Rob Kearney was also among the try scorers.
- Ireland have not suffered back-to-back defeats at a World Cup since 2007, when they lost in succession against France and Argentina.
- Russia have lost their six World Cup matches by an average margin of 31 points.
- Ireland are the first RWC opponents that Russia will be facing for a second time.
- Apart from their RWC 2011 encounter, these teams have met in only one other test, a World Cup qualifier in Krasnodar on 21 September, 2002. Ireland won 35-3.
It’s a big game today for Johnny Sexton, who has been handed the skipper’s armband for the first time in his career. He’ll lead out his side from 10, having been restored to the starting line-up after being rested for the defeat by Japan.
"It’s a massive honour,” he said this week. “It’s something that I’ve thought about since I was a kid, something I’ve made a lot of decisions around, trying to get there one day. It has taken a while but it was worth the wait and I’m incredibly proud.
"I want to be captain now of a good performance and a good win in a World Cup game, so that’s my main focus - I don’t think anything changes really for me. I have a big responsibility in the team anyway so nothing has changed.”
Assistant Russia coach Mark McDermott admitted this week that his team are “realistic” going into today’s match - which translates as “We know full well that we’re going to get our arses kicked.” But that won’t stop the Bears from giving it their all.
McDermott, an Irishman himself, had this to say: "A worrying aspect from an Irish context was that when they were under pressure in that second half that they weren't able to find their way out of that pressure. Our goal is to be competitive, maybe give Ireland a bit of a scare for a bit." Another fright is the last thing Schmidt and Co need right now.
For all the pressure Ireland are under at the moment, centre Bundee Aki believes it’s going to bring the best out of his side.
Aki, who is actually learning the guitar at the moment, is confident Ireland will fine tune their performance today (see what I did there, eh?) to deliver a statement win.
"Obviously I think everyone had a setback there, but as a team we always focus on ourselves and what's in the circle," said Aki, running the rule over the loss to Japan.
"That's the beauty of this team: when the pressure's on and everybody's putting us down, we step up to the plate.
"And I think we'll try to get more consistent performances coming forward. We've got two hard games coming up. So we've just got to worry about ourselves and make sure we do what we need to do to get the results."
They've got the roof on again here at the Misaki Stadium. Although it's not quite as humid as the Scotland vs Samoa match, which made for some pretty slippery conditions handling-wise, it's still going to be a factor this evening.
Tonight's view from the press box - quite a sight!
Okay, the teams have headed back into the changing rooms as the starting line-ups are read out (Johnny Sexton with the biggest cheer from the crowds so far, unsurprisingly). We're 10 minutes away from kick-off!
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