In a move that’s sure to delight Irish rugby fans, Johnny Sexton, the seasoned fly-half, retains his spot in the Ireland team for their upcoming Rugby World Cup clash against Tonga. This decision comes on the heels of Sexton’s remarkable return to action last weekend, marking his presence on the field after nearly six months of absence in a resounding 82-8 World Cup victory over Romania.
The anticipation is palpable as Ireland prepares to face Tonga on Saturday, the 16th of September, at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, with the kick-off set for 20:00 BST. Fans around the world can catch the action live through various channels, including BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Sounds, and online streaming. If you can’t watch, don’t worry; you can follow the text commentary on the Sport News Center website and app.
Sexton’s inclusion in the starting lineup is a testament to his enduring prowess on the field. At 38 years old, he continues to be a stalwart for the Irish team. Alongside him, we’ll see some changes in personnel from the previous victory over Romania. Mack Hansen takes up a spot on the wing, and Conor Murray steps in as the scrum-half, replacing Keith Earls and Jamison Gibson-Park, respectively.
In the forward pack, the changes continue. Ronan Kelleher steps into the role of hooker, while Josh van der Flier makes his return, necessitating Joe McCarthy’s omission. This shift prompts Peter O’Mahony to move to the blind-side flanker position, and Tadhg Beirne returns to his familiar role as a lock.
However, there are some notable absentees and potential debutants in the squad as well. Dave Kilcoyne and Robbie Henshaw make appearances on the bench after being sidelined for the Romania game due to fitness concerns. Curiously, hooker Dan Sheehan remains out of contention, despite nearing a return to full fitness after a foot injury.
One of the exciting prospects for this match is Craig Casey, who is in line to make his World Cup debut from the replacements. The youthful energy he brings to the team could be a game-changer.
Adding a touch of humor to the announcement, coach Andy Farrell jokingly suggested that Johnny Sexton “picks the team.” In response to whether he had a hand in his selection, Sexton, who plans to retire after this World Cup, quipped, “I don’t have any say in selection,” prompting Farrell to play along, saying, “he does…he picks the team.”
Despite Sexton’s impressive performance last weekend, where he contributed two tries and a 24-point haul, moving closer to Ireland’s all-time top scorer Ronan O’Gara, he remains focused on the team’s success. He emphasized that personal records won’t influence his decisions during the game, stating, “I won’t be making decisions off the back of it. I want to win the game. I want to progress further in the competition, and that’s the only thing that is going through my head at the moment.”
Looking ahead to the Tonga match, both Sexton and Farrell acknowledge that Tonga, bolstered by former All Blacks and Wallabies players, poses a significant challenge. The Pacific Islanders have added considerable firepower to their squad following World Rugby’s 2021 eligibility rule change.
Farrell dismisses comparisons to Ireland’s defeat against Japan in the 2019 World Cup, emphasizing that this is a different team, different circumstances, and a different competition. Ireland is looking forward, not backward.
Finally, keep an eye on wing Mack Hansen, who was initially a surprise absence from Ireland’s squad last weekend but could prove pivotal in this matchup. Ronan Kelleher’s second Test start since the 2022 Six Nations is also a storyline to watch, as he aims to make the most of his opportunities amidst competition and injuries.
As Ireland aims to extend their record-winning streak to 15 matches, the upcoming game against Tonga sets the stage for what promises to be an exciting Rugby World Cup journey.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Rugby World Cup Ireland
Who is Johnny Sexton, and why is his inclusion significant for Ireland?
Johnny Sexton is a renowned fly-half and the captain of the Ireland rugby team. His inclusion is significant because he recently returned to action after a six-month absence and has a pivotal role in leading the team’s performance.
What changes have been made in Ireland’s lineup for the Tonga match compared to their previous game against Romania?
For the Tonga match, Ireland has made several personnel changes. Mack Hansen and Conor Murray step in for Keith Earls and Jamison Gibson-Park in the backline. Ronan Kelleher replaces Rob Herring as the hooker, and Josh van der Flier returns, leading to Joe McCarthy’s omission. These changes also impact the positions of Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne in the forward pack.
How is Johnny Sexton approaching this game in terms of personal records and team success?
Despite his individual success in the previous match, Johnny Sexton is solely focused on the team’s success. He emphasized that personal records won’t influence his decisions during the game, and his primary goal is to secure a win and advance in the competition.
What are the expectations for Tonga in this match?
Tonga, bolstered by former All Blacks and Wallabies players, is expected to present a tough challenge for Ireland. They have strengthened their squad following a change in eligibility rules by World Rugby in 2021, and both Sexton and coach Andy Farrell anticipate a competitive game against top-class opposition.
How does Ireland’s coach, Andy Farrell, view the team’s past performance against Japan in the World Cup?
Andy Farrell dismisses discussions about Ireland’s defeat against Japan in the 2019 World Cup, emphasizing that this is a different team, different circumstances, and a different competition. The focus is on moving forward and not dwelling on past results.