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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 6 April, 2020

Schmidt's Ireland 'simmering up' for blockbuster weekend in Yokohama

The All Blacks and Springboks will whet the appetite even further on Saturday.

THE IRELAND SHOW gets on the road today and heads for Yokohama, where an epic weekend of rugby awaits.

Joe Schmidt and his coaching staff may visit International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday night to take in the mouth-watering Pool B opener between the Springboks and All Blacks, keen to get a closer look at their potential quarter-final opponents. 

But Ireland’s clear focus right now is Sunday evening at the same venue, where Schmidt’s side begin their own Pool A campaign against Scotland.

joe-schmidt Joe Schmidt at Ireland training today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

For supporters and media, much of the conversation surrounding Ireland in recent days has been about the injury concerns for Robbie Henshaw, Rob Kearney, and Keith Earls. 

But while Schmidt’s side are set to go into their tournament opener without at least one of those key men in Henshaw, the narrative within Schmidt’s group has had a different tone. 

The sense on the inside is that Ireland are ready to explode into this clash with Scotland.

“Our first training day was Saturday over here, so we’ve kind of been able to get a little bit of a headstart on the week with the game obviously on Sunday,” said back row Rhys Ruddock yesterday.

“So there’s been a huge level of excitement and maybe you guys have heard about a few niggles but the squad is in good health and good spirits. We’re just about over the jet lag now and training has been really sharp.

“We’ve had two days of training where we’ve probably looked our best over the period and it’s kind of building and simmering up to the game that we expected because even at the very start of the block, we really targeted this game and said, ‘We’ve got four massive games to build-up to the World Cup but at the end of the day it’s all about the first game against Scotland.’

“We know how good a side they are, the quality they have within their group and how much they’ll be targeting us as well.

“So it’s really shaping up, with all things considered, to be a massive game for both teams and an exciting one as well with the way they play and how we’re approaching it too.”

Such positive words will come as a soothing balm for some concerned Ireland fans, perhaps easing some of the nerves with Schmidt’s side just four days out from opening their campaign.

We haven’t heard much from the Scots this week, with Gregor Townsend’s side having based themselves in Nagasaki for their final pre-World Cup camp, keeping them even more out of the media glare than Schmidt’s side have been in the quiet prefecture of Chiba.

The Scots have had injury disappointment of their own, with flanker Jamie Ritchie set to miss Sunday’s game due to the facial injury he sustained in their final warm-up game against Georgia. 

Townsend’s men have been attempting to ready themselves for demanding conditions in Yokohama, with heavy rain forecast. The temperature will still be over 20°C, although the actual level of downpour is rather unclear at the moment. 

Ireland have trained in both rain and sunshine in recent days in Chiba, and they’re prepared for either scenario.

“If it’s raining, we might change our tactics slightly but you speak about that early in the week, you have options to cover both and at the end of the day, most players aren’t going to have to worry about it too much,” said Ruddock.

“I certainly wouldn’t be calling plays or anything like that if I’m out there, but I think the guys who are making those decisions on the day will have options, depending on how the game is going, what the score is, the time on the clock. The weather definitely comes into it.

“You’re not going to do anything that’s going to be completely unrealistic in the conditions, so it’s definitely a factor but I don’t think it’s as big a factor.

jacob-stockdale Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re used to playing in the rain at the end of the day, and the wet, and we’ve had some big performances in the past in shocking conditions, so it’s certainly not dampening the excitement for the match anyway.”

Schmidt will have drilled the specifics into Ireland a little more out on the training pitch today in Chiba before his squad ventured on their hour-and-a-half-long trip to Yokohama, where everything steps up a notch.

Whether Schmidt and co. actually head to the stadium on Saturday remains to be seen but all eyes in the rugby world will be glued to the first part of a blockbusting World Cup weekend in Yokohama on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, it’s Ireland’s turn to step under the spotlight.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Chiba

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