Caelan Dorris Anytime Tryscorer
Rugby World Cup
Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes, 8pm
TV: RTE, ITV
Ireland’s game against Romania in Bordeaux last weekend hardly captivated the nation like it did when Jack Charlton’s Ireland took on Romania in Genoa over thirty years ago.
It was as straightforward as you could hope for the Boys in Green, scoring twelve tries on their way to an 82-8 demolition of the Tier 2 minnows. This weekend, however, they face a sterner test in the form of Tonga. The significant rise in opposition quality was evident in Andy Farrell’s team selection, with a close on full-strength team as they look to fine-tune themselves for the epic showdown clash with South Africa next weekend.
Tonga will be no pushovers though. One of the countries to fully utilise World Rugby’s new eligibility rules, the island nation has been able to bolster its squad with some well-known names, including former All-Blacks Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa and Augustine Pulu.
Tongan Coach Toutai Kefu spoke to the media last month about his team’s chances and it’s clear to see they’ve targeted this Ireland game weeks out. “We’re in a tough pool, but we’ll throw all our eggs in one basket and aim up against Ireland,” he said. “We can’t play footy with them; they’ll beat us every day of the week. So, we need to come up with a bit of a plan and I think we’ve got one; it’s going to be good.”
A big factor for this game will be the weather conditions. At the time of writing, the forecast for Saturday night in Nantes is set for a very wet and thundery affair. As we’ve seen in the evening games in France, even with the humidity it makes for a slippery ball and very stop-start games. If the weather stays as predicted, I can see this game playing very similar to Ireland’s pre-tournament warm-up game against another Pacific island nation in Samoa. That contest started with Ireland as 25 points favourites but the conditions made it a tight and scrappy affair with Ireland eventually coming out 17-13 victors.
If the weather dries up, I’d expect Ireland to move the physically imposing Tongans around the pitch but if conditions deteriorate, it will play into the islander’s hands and I’d expect this game to be a lot closer than 38 points.
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Caelen Doris Anytime Try Scorer
Ireland had an array of try scorers in the open and expansive display last weekend in Bordeaux, but in more physical encounters, it’s the Irish pack that usually gets the job done. Caelan Doris had two tries in their warm-up game against the Italians in the lead-up to the tournament but was withdrawn early in their contest against Romania so he missed out on the late try-scoring bonanza.
With Jack Conan waiting in reserve back at base, Doris will want to lock down that number eight shirt before next weekend’s clash with the Springboks. I’d expect a big performance and him to be very eager to get over the line on Saturday. His value also appeals as a first-try scorer if that takes your fancy.
Caelan Dorris Anytime Tryscorer
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