Nick Mulvenney http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney Nick Mulvenney's Profile Sun, 18 Oct 2015 15:30:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Rugby-Brilliant Pumas down Ireland to reach semi-finals http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/18/rugby-union-world-ireland-argentina-upda-idUKL3N12I08A20151018?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/18/rugby-brilliant-pumas-down-ireland-to-reach-semi-finals/#comments Sun, 18 Oct 2015 14:15:32 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5485 CARDIFF, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Argentina stunned an injury-depleted Ireland with an early onslaught and finished at a canter to secure a 43-20 victory on Sunday that sent them into the Rugby World Cup semi-finals for the second time.

Even the Six Nations champions of the last two seasons could not halt the unstoppable march of the Southern Hemisphere as the impressive Pumas joined New Zealand and South Africa in the last eight.

Blistering two-try opening and closing salvos allied with the assured place-kicking of flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez earned Argentina a Twickenham meeting with Australia or Scotland, who play in the last quarter-final later on Sunday.

Early tries from centre Matias Moroni and winger Juan Imhoff silenced the passionate Irish following in the 72,316 Millennium Stadium crowd and when Sanchez kicked the first of his five penalties, the Pumas were 17-0 up after 14 minutes.

Ireland fought back with tries from replacement winger Luke Fitzgerald in the 24th minute and flanker Jordi Murphy shortly after the break to cut the deficit to 20-17, but three points was as close as the Irish would get.

Sanchez kept the scoreboard ticking over and clinical finishing from fullback Joaquin Tuculet and Imhoff for tries in the last 11 minutes ensured Argentina would match their breakthrough achievement of reaching the last four in 2007.

Ireland deserve credit for their comeback because for the first quarter-of-an-hour, it looked like Argentina would romp into the semi-finals on the back of a stunning display of total rugby.

Hammering into contact and transferring the ball through the hands of backs and forwards alike at pace, it took only four minutes for Moroni to score in the corner after a sweeping move.

Six minutes later Imhoff beat Rob Kearney in a race to Santiago Cordero’s chip through and did superbly to touch down before the ball went dead.

Ireland were able to regroup in the 17th minute when Pumas prop Ramiro Herrera earned a yellow card for a no-arms tackle and before he returned Fitzgerald skipped down the touchline and stepped inside Juan Martin Hernandez for a try.

It was a break up the middle from Fitzgerald, on for the injured Tommy Bowe, that sent Murphy through for a second Irish try which brought the crowd back into the match.

Ultimately, though, the absence of captain Paul O’Connell and playmaker Johnny Sexton as well as two regular starting flankers were losses Ireland could not afford and their quest for a first World Cup semi-final will go on for at least another four years. (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Ireland bank on passion, resolve for Pumas clash http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/18/uk-rugby-union-world-ireland-argentina-s-idUKKCN0SC0NU20151018?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/18/ireland-bank-on-passion-resolve-for-pumas-clash/#comments Sun, 18 Oct 2015 13:04:44 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5483 CARDIFF (Reuters) – Ireland have lost four key players but, if last week’s match against France is anything to go by, they will have an extra man in the Millennium Stadium crowd when they meet Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

The Six Nations champions were supported with a passion and noise rarely seen at any rugby ground when they beat the French last Sunday, an emotional performance they are likely to have to repeat to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

Inspirational skipper Paul O’Connell, loose forward Peter O’Mahony and flyhalf Johnny Sexton will not reprise their roles because of injuries sustained against France, while openside flanker Sean O’Brien is banned for an injudicious punch.

Ian Madigan replaces Sexton in the playmaker role, young gun Iain Henderson takes over from O’Connell in the second row with flankers Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry coming into the back row.

Coach Joe Schmidt trusts the depth of his squad and will also welcome the support of the green-clad legion of fans, but he is looking more to the cussedness of his team for comfort.

“The group have demonstrated in adversity that they can respond,” the New Zealander said.

“There’s something in the Irish pysche that if you are beaten around a little bit, there’s a resilience and a resolve that gets demonstrated.

    “And I will be really confident that will be demonstrated. Is that going to be enough? We’ll find out on Sunday.”

Schmidt is right to be wary as the Pumas, semi-finalists in 2007, have been playing some of the best attacking rugby of the tournament on their way to the last-eight showdown.

They have always been strong in tight play, particularly the scrum, but flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez now manages a backline that is as comfortable running with ball in hand as kicking the leather off it.

Marcelo Bosch, banned for a dangerous tackle in their last pool match against Namibia, is a loss at outside centre and his replacement Matias Moroni is sure to have his defensive skills tested.

Argentina’s pack fears no one and the back row of Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Leonardo Senatore would be a handful for any side, let alone one without three of its top forwards.

Victories over Australia and South Africa over the last two years have proved the Pumas can live with the best sides around and in Sanchez they have a world class place-kicker.

The prize for victory is a semi-final date with Australia or Scotland, who face off in the last quarter-final later on Sunday.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Rugby-Ireland bank on passion, resolve for Pumas clash http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/18/rugby-union-world-ireland-argentina-scen-idUKL3N12I07M20151018?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/18/rugby-ireland-bank-on-passion-resolve-for-pumas-clash/#comments Sun, 18 Oct 2015 11:24:21 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5481 CARDIFF, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Ireland have lost four key players but, if last week’s match against France is anything to go by, they will have an extra man in the Millennium Stadium crowd when they meet Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.

The Six Nations champions were supported with a passion and noise rarely seen at any rugby ground when they beat the French last Sunday, an emotional performance they are likely to have to repeat to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

Inspirational skipper Paul O’Connell, loose forward Peter O’Mahony and flyhalf Johnny Sexton will not reprise their roles because of injuries sustained against France, while openside flanker Sean O’Brien is banned for an injudicious punch.

Ian Madigan replaces Sexton in the playmaker role, young gun Iain Henderson takes over from O’Connell in the second row with flankers Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry coming into the back row.

Coach Joe Schmidt trusts the depth of his squad and will also welcome the support of the green-clad legion of fans, but he is looking more to the cussedness of his team for comfort.

“The group have demonstrated in adversity that they can respond,” the New Zealander said.

“There’s something in the Irish pysche that if you are beaten around a little bit, there’s a resilience and a resolve that gets demonstrated.

“And I will be really confident that that will be demonstrated. Is that going to be enough? We’ll find out on Sunday.”

Schmidt is right to be wary as the Pumas, semi-finalists in 2007, have been playing some of the best attacking rugby of the tournament on their way to the last-eight showdown.

They have always been strong in tight play, particularly the scrum, but flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez now manages a backline that is as comfortable running with ball in hand as kicking the leather off it.

Marcelo Bosch, banned for a dangerous tackle in their last pool match against Namibia, is a loss at outside centre and his replacement Matias Moroni is sure to have his defensive skills tested.

Argentina’s pack fears no one and the back row of Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Leonardo Senatore would be a handful for any side, let alone one without three of its top forwards.

Victories over Australia and South Africa over the last two years have proved the Pumas can live with the best sides around and in Sanchez they have a world class place-kicker.

The prize for victory is a semi-final date with Australia or Scotland, who face off in the last quarter-final later on Sunday. (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Big Black Bus Savea accelerates into World Cup knockout stage http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/17/uk-rugby-union-world-newzealand-savea-idUKKCN0SB10X20151017?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/17/big-black-bus-savea-accelerates-into-world-cup-knockout-stage/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 23:16:06 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5477 CARDIFF (Reuters) – New Zealand’s try-scoring machine Julian Savea went into overdrive on Saturday with his second hat-trick of the Rugby World Cup as the All Blacks humiliated France to storm into the semi-finals of the tournament.

The 25-year-old winger showed just why his team mates gave him the nickname “Big Black Bus” as he sped past, fended off and sometimes simply powered through French defenders to take his tournament tally to eight tries.

With two matches still potentially ahead of him, Savea has equalled the World Cup record set by compatriot Jonah Lomu in 1995 and matched by South African Bryan Habana in 2007.

“I think everyone was on fire today, the whole team,” Savea told reporters after the 62-13 victory.

“I was really proud of the boys from the first minute to the last, it was an excellent performance.”

It is Lomu that Savea has been compared to most frequently but Saturday’s triple took him past the All Black great’s career tally of 37 tries in 68 tests with an astonishing 38 in just 39 matches for his country.

The most Lomah-esque of his tries on Saturday was his second, when he bounced off two defenders before going over the line in the corner in the grasp of a third Frenchman.

“I was eager to get to the try line, whoever was in my way, I just reacted to what was in front of me,” he said.

“I’ve always said it, no one can come close to Jonah. I watched him run over people when I was a kid and it’s awesome to be compared to him, but I’m just doing my job the best I can.”

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, like the many New Zealanders in the crowd of 71,619 at the Millennium Stadium, very much enjoyed the sight of Savea going at full pelt.

“It’s great to see Julian play like that,” he said.

“I know I’ve been on the receiving end of trying to tackle him when he’s running hard, he’s a pretty tough man to tackle so it was great to see that tonight.

“You can see the grin from ear-to-ear with Jules in the shed, he’s pretty happy, which he deserves to be.”

The test season did not start so well for Savea, missing three tests and being sent away for a three-week boot camp by coach Steve Hansen after turning up for All Blacks duty overweight.

Two tries against Namibia in New Zealand’s second World Cup match, a hat-trick against Georgia in their third and now another in the quarter-finals was proof enough to Hansen that Savea was now right back at the top of his game.

“I’m obviously very proud of him,” the All Blacks coach said. “He showed today what he’s really, really capable of.”

(Additional reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Julian Linden)

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Rugby-Big Black Bus Savea accelerates into World Cup knockout stage http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/17/rugby-union-world-newzealand-savea-idUKL3N12H0AX20151017?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/17/rugby-big-black-bus-savea-accelerates-into-world-cup-knockout-stage/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 23:04:37 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5479 CARDIFF, Oct 17 (Reuters) – New Zealand’s try-scoring machine Julian Savea went into overdrive on Saturday with his second hat-trick of the Rugby World Cup as the All Blacks humiliated France to storm into the semi-finals of the tournament.

The 25-year-old winger showed just why his team mates gave him the nickname “Big Black Bus” as he sped past, fended off and sometimes simply powered through French defenders to take his tournament tally to eight tries.

With two matches still potentially ahead of him, Savea has equalled the World Cup record set by compatriot Jonah Lomu in 1995 and matched by South African Bryan Habana in 2007.

“I think everyone was on fire today, the whole team,” Savea told reporters after the 62-13 victory.

“I was really proud of the boys from the first minute to the last, it was an excellent performance.”

It is Lomu that Savea has been compared to most frequently but Saturday’s triple took him past the All Black great’s career tally of 37 tries in 68 tests with an astonishing 38 in just 39 matches for his country.

The most Lomah-esque of his tries on Saturday was his second, when he bounced off two defenders before going over the line in the corner in the grasp of a third Frenchman.

“I was eager to get to the try line, whoever was in my way, I just reacted to what was in front of me,” he said.

“I’ve always said it, no one can come close to Jonah. I watched him run over people when I was a kid and it’s awesome to be compared to him, but I’m just doing my job the best I can.”

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, like the many New Zealanders in the crowd of 71,619 at the Millennium Stadium, very much enjoyed the sight of Savea going at full pelt.

“It’s great to see Julian play like that,” he said.

“I know I’ve been on the receiving end of trying to tackle him when he’s running hard, he’s a pretty tough man to tackle so it was great to see that tonight.

“You can see the grin from ear-to-ear with Jules in the shed, he’s pretty happy, which he deserves to be.”

The test season did not start so well for Savea, missing three tests and being sent away for a three-week boot camp by coach Steve Hansen after turning up for All Blacks duty overweight.

Two tries against Namibia in New Zealand’s second World Cup match, a hat-trick against Georgia in their third and now another in the quarter-finals was proof enough to Hansen that Savea was now right back at the top of his game.

“I’m obviously very proud of him,” the All Blacks coach said. “He showed today what he’s really, really capable of.” (Additional reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Julian Linden)

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Ruthless All Blacks demolish France to reach semi-finals http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/17/uk-rugby-union-world-newzealand-france-idUKKCN0SB0YH20151017?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/17/ruthless-all-blacks-demolish-france-to-reach-semi-finals/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 21:03:18 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5473 CARDIFF (Reuters) – Julian Savea scored his second hat-trick of the tournament as a ruthless New Zealand, looking every inch the reigning champions, dismantled France 62-13 on Saturday to set up a Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa.

In a repeat of the 2011 final, the All Blacks ran in nine tries for the biggest score ever conceded in a test by France and will now meet the Springboks, who beat Wales 23-19 in the first quarter-final, at Twickenham next Saturday.

Winger Savea’s triple took his tally to eight for the tournament and there was a brace for replacement Tawera Kerr-Barlow with further tries from Nehe Milner-Skudder, lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Jerome Kaino and number eight Kieran Read.

French flair flickered briefly but the dominant All Blacks quickly snuffed out hopes of an upset to match those of 1999 and at the same stage in the same stadium in 2007, the only time New Zealand have failed to reach the last four of a World Cup.

New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter looked back close to his best and contributed 17 points with the boot, including a single penalty in the fifth minute to open the scoring.

Fullback Scott Spedding had just brought France level with a 54-metre penalty when Retallick charged down Frederic Michalak’s clearance kick, gathered the ball on the first bounce and lumbered to the line to touch down.

Carter added the extras but that was the end of Michalak’s night and scrumhalf Morgan Parra took the short-range kicking duties to reduce the deficit to 10-6.

Parra should have cut it still further, only to miss an easy penalty, and Carter had a drop goal attempt charged down before Milner-Skudder cut inside off his wing and turned on the afterburners to score his fifth try of the tournament.

SUBLIME OFFLOAD

Carter converted and soon created a try for Savea, taking on the defensive line with a dummy, fending off his tackler and producing a sublime backhanded offload to send the hulking winger flying to the line.

France hit back seven minutes later, however, when number eight Louis Picamoles picked up a loose pass and bulldozed his way to the line for a converted try.

But the revival was short-lived and Savea pushed away two tacklers and crashed over the line in the grasp of a third to send New Zealand into the break 29-13 up.

France tore into the All Blacks after halftime but their most promising passage of play ended when Picamoles was sent to the sin-bin for pushing his fist into the face of Richie McCaw.

That pretty much ended French hopes of victory and Kaino crossed before he returned with Savea completing his hat-trick with the sixth try before the hour mark.

The All Blacks looked like scoring every time they got the ball for the last 20 minutes and it was Read and Kerr-Barlow, on at scrumhalf for Aaron Smith, who put the gloss on New Zealand’s ninth straight victory over the French.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Rugby-Ruthless All Blacks demolish France to reach semi-finals http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/17/rugby-union-world-newzealand-france-upda-idUKL3N12H08Q20151017?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/17/rugby-ruthless-all-blacks-demolish-france-to-reach-semi-finals/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 21:00:40 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5475 CARDIFF, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Julian Savea scored his second hat-trick of the tournament as a ruthless New Zealand, looking every inch the reigning champions, dismantled France 62-13 on Saturday to set up a Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa.

In a repeat of the 2011 final, the All Blacks ran in nine tries for the biggest score ever conceded in a test by France and will now meet the Springboks, who beat Wales 23-19 in the first quarter-final, at Twickenham next Saturday.

Winger Savea’s triple took his tally to eight for the tournament and there was a brace for replacement Tawera Kerr-Barlow with further tries from Nehe Milner-Skudder, lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Jerome Kaino and number eight Kieran Read.

French flair flickered briefly but the dominant All Blacks quickly snuffed out hopes of an upset to match those of 1999 and at the same stage in the same stadium in 2007, the only time New Zealand have failed to reach the last four of a World Cup.

New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter looked back close to his best and contributed 17 points with the boot, including a single penalty in the fifth minute to open the scoring.

Fullback Scott Spedding had just brought France level with a 54-metre penalty when Retallick charged down Frederic Michalak’s clearance kick, gathered the ball on the first bounce and lumbered to the line to touch down.

Carter added the extras but that was the end of Michalak’s night and scrumhalf Morgan Parra took the short-range kicking duties to reduce the deficit to 10-6.

Parra should have cut it still further, only to miss an easy penalty, and Carter had a drop goal attempt charged down before Milner-Skudder cut inside off his wing and turned on the afterburners to score his fifth try of the tournament.

SUBLIME OFFLOAD

Carter converted and soon created a try for Savea, taking on the defensive line with a dummy, fending off his tackler and producing a sublime backhanded offload to send the hulking winger flying to the line.

France hit back seven minutes later, however, when number eight Louis Picamoles picked up a loose pass and bulldozed his way to the line for a converted try.

But the revival was short-lived and Savea pushed away two tacklers and crashed over the line in the grasp of a third to send New Zealand into the break 29-13 up.

France tore into the All Blacks after halftime but their most promising passage of play ended when Picamoles was sent to the sin-bin for pushing his fist into the face of Richie McCaw.

That pretty much ended French hopes of victory and Kaino crossed before he returned with Savea completing his hat-trick with the sixth try before the hour mark.

The All Blacks looked like scoring every time they got the ball for the last 20 minutes and it was Read and Kerr-Barlow, on at scrumhalf for Aaron Smith, who put the gloss on New Zealand’s ninth straight victory over the French. (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Rugby-All Blacks expecting the best of France despite split reports http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/16/rugby-union-world-newzealand-idUKL3N12G4XW20151016?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/16/rugby-all-blacks-expecting-the-best-of-france-despite-split-reports/#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2015 16:48:23 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5471 CARDIFF, Oct 16 (Reuters) – New Zealand are determined not to be distracted by reports of splits in the France camp ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final and are expecting a fierce battle, assistant coach Ian Foster said on Friday.

France captain Thierry Dusautoir was forced to deny reports in the French media on Friday that the team had ostracised head coach Philippe Saint-Andre in the lead-up to Saturday’s clash with the world champions.

Talks of rifts in the France squad are a regular feature of World Cup campaigns, however, and Foster said holders New Zealand were paying no notice at all.

“We’re expecting the French team to be very, very fired up to be at Cardiff, it’s obviously a goal of theirs, that they’ve shown before, that they can rise to the big occasion,” he told reporters at the Millennium Stadium.

“We’re expecting the best of them and that’s been the focus of our preparations all week.”

The clash to determine which of the teams plays Wales or South Africa in the semi-finals is a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final, in which the All Blacks edged a determined French side 8-7 in Auckland.

New Zealand have famously not always had their own way against the French at rugby’s showpiece tournament, however, and were defeated in the knockout stages of the 1999 and 2007 World Cups.

The astonishing 20-18 upset in 2007 also came in the quarter-finals at Cardiff and was the last defeat New Zealand suffered in a World Cup match.

There have not been many losses in any tests for New Zealand in the intervening eight years and Richie McCaw suggested the lessons learned from that night had served the All Blacks well.

“Eight years ago is a long time and there’s been plenty of rugby played since then,” the All Blacks captain told reporters.

“There’s only a couple of us played that day but I know for myself, disappointing day as that was, it’s perhaps shaped the eight years since.

“Those days are the ones where you learn a few lessons (but) really not a lot of thought goes back that far, except acknowledging how tough quarter-finals are.”

The experience of such a gut-wrenching defeat has certainly not soured McCaw to the Millennium Stadium as a venue.

“The Millennium Stadium’s one of the best places to play rugby,” he added.

“I’ve experienced the atmosphere over the years and I expect tomorrow to be exactly the same. Plenty of noise from the Kiwis would be great.” (Editing by Justin Palmer)

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Ireland’s Sexton ‘ready to go’ against confident Pumas http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/16/uk-rugby-union-world-ireland-argentina-idUKKCN0SA1Y920151016?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/16/irelands-sexton-ready-to-go-against-confident-pumas/#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2015 14:59:26 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5467 CARDIFF (Reuters) – Even more than usual rests on the shoulders of Jonny Sexton when he lines up for a depleted Ireland against in-form Argentina on Sunday in what looks like being the tightest of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Ireland need their halfback playmaker, who has shrugged off injury to take his place in the side, at the peak of his powers as they seek to overcome the loss of two key players to injury and another to suspension.

The Pumas eased into the last eight on the back of a free-scoring running game and will be confident they can beat the Six Nations champions at the Millennium Stadium (kickoff 1200 GMT) and set up a semi-final against Australia or Scotland.

The Irish have never been beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup and their hopes of doing so this year were rocked this week when captain Paul O’Connell and flanker Peter O’Mahony were ruled out of the rest of the tournament by injury.

A further blow came when openside Sean O’Brien was banned for a week after throwing a punch during the victory over France last Sunday, forcing coach Joe Schmidt to rejig his back row.

“Obviously, it’s important,” Pumas centre Juan Martin Hernandez said of the Irish absentees. “But I think we should focus more on our game and the change in our style that has been working so far. We need to be strong.”

Sexton’s presence certainly gives Ireland a boost. His kicking from hand and off the tee, are key to the green machine’s effectiveness.

‘READY TO GO’

“We’ve allowed Johnny to build his way back into the week,” Schmidt said. “He had a fairly light start to the week but trained fully in the Millennium Stadium this morning and we feel he’s ready to go.”

Number eight Jamie Heaslip captains the Irish from a new-look back row, with Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry filling the flankers’ positions, while Iain Henderson replaces O’Connell at lock.

Argentina also lost a key player to suspension in Marcelo Bosch, cited for a dangerous tackle against Namibia. Winger Matias Moroni moves to outside centre to replace him.

Loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon misses the match because of injury but the back row of Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Leonardo Senatore will test the Irish at the breakdown and, no doubt, target Sexton’s defensive channel.

The Pumas reached the semi-finals in 2007 — one of two tournaments in which they ended Ireland’s World Cup — and Hernandez, the hero of that campaign, will line up at inside centre outside Nicolas Sanchez on Sunday.

Flyhalf Sanchez is as important to Argentina as Sexton is to Ireland and his accurate place-kicking is likely to punish any Irish indiscipline inside their own half.

Ireland have developed the all-important habit of winning under Schmidt, however.

“The players that are here, we know we’ve a chance of making history this weekend. That adds to the pressure but in the past two years we’ve risen to the pressure,” flanker Henry said.

Teams:

Ireland: 1-Cian Healy, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Iain Henderson, 6-Jordi Murphy, 7-Chris Henry, 8-Jamie Heaslip; 9-Conor Murray, 10-Johnny Sexton, 11-Dave Kearney, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 13-Keith Earls, 14-Tommy Bowe, 15-Rob Kearney

Replacements: 16-Richardt Strauss, 17-Jack McGrath, 18- Nathan White, 19-Donnacha Ryan, 20-Rhys Ruddock, 21-Eoin Reddan, 22-Ian Madigan, 23-Luke Fitzgerald

Argentina: 1-Marcos Ayerza, 2-Agustin Creevy (captain), 3-Ramiro Herrera, 4-Guido Petti, 5-Tomas Lavanini, 6-Pablo Matera, 7-Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 8-Leonardo Senatore; 9-Martin Landajo, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 11-Juan Imhoff, 12-Juan Martin Hernandez, 13-Matias Moroni, 14-Santiago Cordero, 15-Joaquin Tuculet.

Replacements: 16-Julian Montoya, 17-Lucas Noguera, 18-Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Facundo Isa, 21-Tomas Cubelli, 22-Jeronimo De La Fuente, 23-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)

(Editing by David Goodman)

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Rugby-Ireland’s Sexton ‘ready to go’ against confident Pumas http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/16/rugby-union-world-ireland-argentina-idUKL3N12G3YE20151016?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/2015/10/16/rugby-irelands-sexton-ready-to-go-against-confident-pumas/#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2015 14:57:43 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/nick-mulvenney/?p=5469 CARDIFF, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Even more than usual rests on the shoulders of Jonny Sexton when he lines up for a depleted Ireland against in-form Argentina on Sunday in what looks like being the tightest of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Ireland need their halfback playmaker, who has shrugged off injury to take his place in the side, at the peak of his powers as they seek to overcome the loss of two key players to injury and another to suspension.

The Pumas eased into the last eight on the back of a free-scoring running game and will be confident they can beat the Six Nations champions at the Millennium Stadium (kickoff 1200 GMT) and set up a semi-final against Australia or Scotland.

The Irish have never been beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup and their hopes of doing so this year were rocked this week when captain Paul O’Connell and flanker Peter O’Mahony were ruled out of the rest of the tournament by injury.

A further blow came when openside Sean O’Brien was banned for a week after throwing a punch during the victory over France last Sunday, forcing coach Joe Schmidt to rejig his back row.

“Obviously, it’s important,” Pumas centre Juan Martin Hernandez said of the Irish absentees. “But I think we should focus more on our game and the change in our style that has been working so far. We need to be strong.”

Sexton’s presence certainly gives Ireland a boost. His kicking from hand and off the tee, are key to the green machine’s effectiveness.

‘READY TO GO’

“We’ve allowed Johnny to build his way back into the week,” Schmidt said. “He had a fairly light start to the week but trained fully in the Millennium Stadium this morning and we feel he’s ready to go.”

Number eight Jamie Heaslip captains the Irish from a new-look back row, with Jordi Murphy and Chris Henry filling the flankers’ positions, while Iain Henderson replaces O’Connell at lock.

Argentina also lost a key player to suspension in Marcelo Bosch, cited for a dangerous tackle against Namibia. Winger Matias Moroni moves to outside centre to replace him.

Loose forward Juan Manuel Leguizamon misses the match because of injury but the back row of Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Leonardo Senatore will test the Irish at the breakdown and, no doubt, target Sexton’s defensive channel.

The Pumas reached the semi-finals in 2007 — one of two tournaments in which they ended Ireland’s World Cup — and Hernandez, the hero of that campaign, will line up at inside centre outside Nicolas Sanchez on Sunday.

Flyhalf Sanchez is as important to Argentina as Sexton is to Ireland and his accurate place-kicking is likely to punish any Irish indiscipline inside their own half.

Ireland have developed the all-important habit of winning under Schmidt, however.

“The players that are here, we know we’ve a chance of making history this weekend. That adds to the pressure but in the past two years we’ve risen to the pressure,” flanker Henry said.

Teams:

Ireland: 1-Cian Healy, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Iain Henderson, 6-Jordi Murphy, 7-Chris Henry, 8-Jamie Heaslip; 9-Conor Murray, 10-Johnny Sexton, 11-Dave Kearney, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 13-Keith Earls, 14-Tommy Bowe, 15-Rob Kearney

Replacements: 16-Richardt Strauss, 17-Jack McGrath, 18- Nathan White, 19-Donnacha Ryan, 20-Rhys Ruddock, 21-Eoin Reddan, 22-Ian Madigan, 23-Luke Fitzgerald

Argentina: 1-Marcos Ayerza, 2-Agustin Creevy (captain), 3-Ramiro Herrera, 4-Guido Petti, 5-Tomas Lavanini, 6-Pablo Matera, 7-Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 8-Leonardo Senatore; 9-Martin Landajo, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 11-Juan Imhoff, 12-Juan Martin Hernandez, 13-Matias Moroni, 14-Santiago Cordero, 15-Joaquin Tuculet.

Replacements: 16-Julian Montoya, 17-Lucas Noguera, 18-Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Facundo Isa, 21-Tomas Cubelli, 22-Jeronimo De La Fuente, 23-Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino

Referee: Jerome Garces (France) (Editing by David Goodman)

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