Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021


145,741 Views 67 Comments

No time for formalities, there is late-breaking team news!

Joey Carbery’s comeback has hit a bit of a snag, the IRFU tweeted this morning.

 He felt some irritation in the ankle after Captain’s Run & it was felt best not to risk him”.

The Munster 10, who was named as scrum-half cover for the 11.15 kick-off against Russia, has been withdrawn and so Conor Murray will step back into the matchday squad in the 21 shirt.

The full story is here.

Carbery, of course, was an injury doubt coming into this World Cup after picking up an ankle problem in the warm-up win over Italy.

All the more pressure now on Jonathan Sexton’s fitness against the belated Rugby Europe qualifiers. 

Okay, no time to stay reeling and re-pressing the big red World Cup Panic Button over and over again. There’s an 80-minute contest ahead with five points at stake and, almost as importantly, a chance to re-right the ship, get back on the horse, stick the foot back on the rabbit or whatever your preferred idiom / Eddie-ism is for this situation.

A bonus-point win can put Ireland back on top of Pool A, and though Japan are firmly in the driver’s seat, their matches against Samoa and Scotland will pose decent hurdles to their progress.

Here’s how Joe Schmidt will line his team up for today then.

Jordi Murphy is the newcomer in this squad after hopping on a plane to replace Jack Conan. It’s a first RWC outing for Munster men John Ryan and Jean Kleyn, while Garry Ringrose starts for the third match running.


15. Rob Kearney
14. Andrew Conway
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Jean Kleyn
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Peter O’Mahony
8. Jordi Murphy


16. Sean Cronin
17. Andrew Porter
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. Iain Henderson
20. CJ Stander
21. Conor Murray
22. Jack Carty
23. Jordan Larmour


15. Vasily Artemyev (captain)
14. German Davydov
13. Igor Galinovskiy
12. Kirill Golosnitskiy
11. Denis Simplikevich
10. Ramil Gaisin
9. Dmitry Perov

1. Andrei Polivalov
2. Evgeny Matveev
3. Kirill Gotovtsev
4. Andrey Garbuzov
5. Bogdan Fedotko
6. Anton Sychev
7. Tagir Gadzhiev
8. Victor Gresev


16. Stanislav Selskii
17. Valery Morozov
18. Vladimir Podrezov
19. Andrey Ostrikov
20. Evgeny Elgin
21. Sergey Ianiushkin
22. Roman Khodin
23. Vladimir Ostroushko 

Referee: Jerome Garces [France].

As far as Russia are concerned, I think at this stage we’re all familiar with their captain Vasily Artemyev, who went to school in Dublin and has played professionally with Northampton.

Openside Tagir Gadzhiev was another very impressive figure in their opening night loss to Japan.

But really and truly, this is a side who qualified for this World Cup by default after both Romania and Spain were disqualified for fielding ineligible players. 

Connacht went to Moscow early last month for a warm-up fixture and ran out 14-42 winners. So although Lyn Jones and Mark McDermott’s side have looked better and fitter since that day, Ireland – a team with aspirations of reaching the semi-finals – should really be running up a score today.

The bookmakers reflect that too, slapping a 51-point handicap on the former world number one side.

The rain is coming down in Kobe, but the Misaki Stadium will host this game with a closed roof. That doesn’t mean ideal conditions, mind you.

The roof seems to create something of a sauna, so the conditions will test the stamina and the handling skills of Ireland.

“I had a couple of brothers who went to the England-Tonga game (at this stadium) and they said that they were saturated just sitting watching it,” said Schmidt.

“I was here just to have a look and it’s sweaty conditions, slippery ball,” said Bundee Aki.

As the teams prepare to come out for the anthems, the heat might not be all that bad, actually.

Right, here comes kick-off.

Russia get us under way and Bundee Aki takes fields in his 22, setting up a box kick, which Earls does brilliantly to bat backwards.

Ireland go wide so that Conway can boot forward.


You wait four years for a Rob Kearney try and then he goes and scores three in a month.

Ireland’s line-out runs smoothly and Ireland go to a tried-and-trusted Joe Schmidt strike play with Jordi Murphy popping the pass inside for Kearney to break.

The fullback used Aki as a decoy runner and then showed his hunger for the score, shunning a pass outside to Ringrose to go at the line himself.

Sexton nails the conversion.

Ireland 7 Russia 0


Russia haven’t exactly looked deflated since that early score. Red shirts are hitting greens with venom and Ireland struggling to make ground – outside of that rehearsed try-scoring move.

Jean Kleyn guilty of a poor pass there after a turnover in positive attacking position.


As Kearney and Conway get all mixed up under a high ball and let Russia set up with a five-metre line-out, let’s keep taking the positives out of that early try.

It was fast. Very fast.


It’s Ireland dishing out punishment for errors though. Russia knock on just outside their 22 and it’s another clinical move to finish from that set-up. Sexton was in a gap that might have been wide enough to run through, but he grubbered for the posts and Peter O’Mahony was first off the mark to collect under the posts.


That’s Peter O’Mahony’s second international try. His previous score came in Joe Schmidt’s very first game in charge, back in November 2013 against Samoa.

Poor Golosnitsky, who crashed into the posts trying to stop O’Mahony reaching the ball, is off injured. Ostroushko is the man to replace him.


Johnny Sexton determined to force the issue now and pull Russia apart with his boot.

The 10 unleashed two quick-fire cross-field kicks. The first into space ahead of Andew Conway. Simplikevich narrowly won the race to the loose ball.

On a follow-up advantage, Sexton switched the play to give Keith Earls a run and jump against three defenders. Earls won the ball, but knocked on. 

Russia try to exit from the 5-metre scrum, but it quickly turns into an attacking position for Ireland.

Ireland rumble through 16 phases with Tadhg Beirne, Niall Scannell and Rhys Ruddock all going close. But they’re held off the line and so we go back to line-out with the award of a penalty.

That might have been a chance to show some creativity, but Ireland continued pumping the big men for extra inches.

They set the maul, but it goes nowhere and breaks up to allow Russia take a penalty and clear their lines.


Ireland mount an attack from deep, but Jordi Murphy is definitely holding his rib and looking very uncomfortable.

CJ Stander is stripped and ready to replace the unfortunate Ulster back row.


Having battled on for a few gruelling, Jordi Murphy is now being replaced by Stander.


Luke McGrath is shining out as one of the positives in this Ireland performance. Very fluid, efficient service keeping Ireland moving forward even if the slippery ball and hard-hitting Russians are stalling progress.


SIN-BIN: Bogdan Fedotko

The lock pays the price for persistent offending in front of Russia’s posts. Ireland set the scrum, a great attacking platform.


The first scrum goes far from smoothly, but Ireland go again and persist with the battering ram. Eventually, they make the line as Ruddock takes a ball from O’Mahony and ground on the whitewash with a helping shove from John Ryan.

Sexton adds the conversion and Ireland are one score off the bonus point, yet a long way shy of the standard we expect from this side.

Ireland 21 Russia 0



HALF-TIME: Ireland 21 Russia 0


Eddie O’Sullivan calls the performance by Ireland so far as ‘not polished’ and that’s keeping tight reins on the understatement.

This game was always going to be something of a no-win affair, coloured more by the games leading up to it than the scoreboard. But with three tries are on the board, Joe Schmidt’s side have shown little to dispel the fears raised by the loss to Japan. 


The second half begins with a Jack Carty kick-off. The Connacht man is on as a replacement for Sexton.

Presumably, that’s a tactical call to wrap Sexton back in cotton wool.


Three games from three in the World Cup, but Garry Ringrose isn’t slowing down. The centre makes a break in the Russia 22 and is looking dangerous before being brought to ground.

Carty is caught on the next phase and Russia turnover. The clearance is poor, but not as poor as the attempted catch from Bundee Aki.

The Connacht centre looked like he might have been thinking about which corner he was going to run his try into.


Another game that shows Ireland have belatedly moved to an offloading game. 

It hasn’t borne a whole pile of fruit yet.


Russia still not looking like a side over-run at this point. Artemyev unleashes a great big clearing kick over the head of a defender and it bounces into touch in Ireland’s 22.

Larmour comes in to replace Rob Kearney now and the kid will get half an hour to impress.


SIN-BIN: Andrey Ostrikov is very lucky to only pick up a yellow card after a loose arm hits John Ryan in a high tackle.






Even Keith Earls is feeling the malaise of Ireland’s performance now, getting caught in possession on a starter play and the knock-on followed. 

We’re 20 minutes on from Ireland’s third try and they haven’t threatened the bonus point yet.


As a clever half-break from Carty is followed up by a turnover due to lack of support, it’s almost enough to make you like a Ewan MacKenna tweet.


Tahhg Furlong and Sean Cronin are in the game.

If they can’t add a bit of oomph to get Ireland going, then I don’t know what will.


The mood of the nation.

Iain Henderson is on for Jean Kleyn with 20 minutes to go and the bonus point still in doubt against 14 Russians.


A rare moment of invention from Ireland thanks to Jack Carty, chipping over the top for Keith Earls to regather and feed Andrew Conway.

Few Irish players better equipped to hit the after-burners and power 40 metres to the try-line. Carty slots the conversion.


Ireland are back, baby!


Ah, that is a lovely try.


CJ Stander makes a big break off the back of a line-out and with Sean Cronin in support it seemed Ireland were ready to pull away.

Cronin is kept short of the line though and Ruddock’s diving attempt is thwarted before Conway stretches, cuts back and gives Henderson a go. But the Ulster skipper spills and Russia can set a scrum.


Rhys Ruddock’s engine in evidence here late on as he skips through contact and puts Ireland on the front foot.

It’s all going well… until it isn’t. Another error, another turnover and Russia have the cheek to start flinging back hand offloads, safe in the knowledge that Ireland probably won’t be punishing an error.


A beautiful try to remind us all of why we once had cause to be positive about Ireland’s prospects in Japan.

Jordan Larmour has a cut at the line, flicks it outside for Earls to advance and return the ball his way. 

Larmour takes it high and releaseas Ringrose to go under the posts.

Skill is not the issue and nor is fatigue.


Garry Ringrose briefly celebrates a second try as Ireland belatedly cut loose, but he’s called back from the try-line for the TMO to rule on a knock-on.


FULL-TIME: Ireland 35 Russia 0

There we are then, another bonus point win for Ireland at the World Cup.

No problems to see here, move along now and keep plotting New Zealand’s downfall in the quarter-finals… right?

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

About the author:

Sean Farrell


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel