Schmidt wants Ireland to focus on Samoa clash amid weather confusion

Japan’s meeting with Scotland is under threat.

By Press Association Published: 10 October 2019 - 10.18am
Rugby Union

Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Joe Schmidt has admitted the uncertainty around Typhoon Hagibis has created a “distraction” for Ireland’s crucial World Cup clash with Samoa.

Head coach Schmidt is confident Ireland can quickly focus back in on Saturday’s Pool A decider in Fukuoka, that will now definitely beat the weather.

Typhoon Hagibis is due to rip through Tokyo, Yokohama and Toyota City at the weekend, with World Rugby already cancelling New Zealand versus Italy and England versus France.

Scotland’s clash with Japan on Sunday remains under threat – and a cancellation there would see Japan top Pool A and Ireland only able to finish second.

A second-place finish would set Ireland up for a quarter-final against back-to-back world champions New Zealand, but Schmidt is determined not to get ahead of himself with Samoa looming on Saturday.

“There is a distraction; there was a lot of talk among the players post-training today when we found out about the cancellations,” said Schmidt.

“Because any time there’s something up in the air or something is unknown – especially when two games have already been abandoned – you get players are going to talk about that because it’s newsworthy and influential once games are being cancelled.

Ireland v Wales – Guinness Summer Series – Aviva Stadium
Robbie Henshaw, centre, is fit for his first match of the World Cup after hamstring trouble (Brian Lawless/PA)

“But we’ve just got to make sure our game gets finished with the right result for us, and I’m sure Samoa are going to out to make that as difficult for us as possible.

“We’re not really having too many conversations with World Rugby; we had a few earlier in the week because at one stage the typhoon pattern was somewhat different from what it is now.

“But for us we just have to be business as usual. We can’t control what happens with the Japan-Scotland game, so on Saturday it’s up to us to get our business done as best we can.”

Fit-again Robbie Henshaw will partner Bundee Aki in the centres for Ireland’s Samoa clash, with Jordan Larmour slotting in at full-back and Tadhg Beirne at blindside flanker.

Rob Kearney was deemed not quite ready having missed a section of training on Tuesday, while Peter O’Mahony is handed a rest with a seat on the bench.

Scotland’s match with Japan will be played on Sunday in Yokohama or not at all.

A cancellation would see the result inked in as a scoreless draw, and both teams awarded two points.

That would leave Ireland unable to leapfrog Japan at the top of the pool. Schmidt’s men would be able to match Japan’s points tally, but would fall behind the Brave Blossoms owing to the hosts’ 19-12 victory over the Irish.

Ireland boss Schmidt refused to be drawn on whether cancellations damage the World Cup’s integrity, saying: “Again it’s not something I can control, I only know what we need to do, and we need to get out and get a result.

“It’s a situation nobody wanted to have. I know there are several teams who are massively disappointed their games have already been abandoned.

“With the amount of people travelling to games there are supporters and certainly players disappointed.

“Some players are playing in their last World Cup, there’s no bigger game than getting to play against some of the biggest players in the world game, and they are missing that opportunity.

“So do I think that from that perspective that’s disappointing, but from our perspective all we can do really is what we can control, and as much as possible that’s what our full focus is on.”

Ireland team to face Samoa in Fukuoka On Saturday: J Larmour (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), J Kleyn, P O’Mahony (both Munster), L McGrath (Leinster), J Carbery, A Conway (both Munster).