Ireland's slim hopes of avoiding the All Blacks in last eight

  • Ireland's slim hopes of avoiding the All Blacks in last eight

Ireland's slim hopes of avoiding the All Blacks in last eight

Ireland's final pool match at the Rugby World Cup will be special for Bundee Aki as he faces friends in the Samoa team but the rugged inside centre can expect no favours out on the field, Samoa's captain Jack Lam said.

If Ireland fail to secure five points against Samoa, their fate will be decided by the outcome in Yokohama.

Henshaw's inclusion is one of 11 changes from the uninspired 35-0 win over Russian Federation with only Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls and Tadhg Beirne retained, although the latter switches from lock to the back row.

"Again, I think as soon as you start running in space it's not that bad, so we have to make sure we keep that scrums up for the front-row, and for Feeky, and so the backs get good ball".

Schmidt's likely plan would have been to rest several of his frontline players in the final Pool A game only for the shock defeat by hosts Japan to rip up the script.

Ireland's match against Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday is going ahead and, for now, so is Scotland's match with Japan at Yokohama.

Samoa are out of quarter-final contention after losing to Pool A rivals Japan and Scotland but they are hopeful of taking down a tier one team before they leave Japan, having seen fellow Pacific islanders Tonga push France close and Fiji give Wales a fright in Oita.

By contrast Jackson has made just two changes to his Samoa team from the side beaten 38-19 by Japan.

Joe Schmidt's team have rebounded well from their loss to Japan, keeping Russian Federation scoreless in a bonus-point success, although it was not quite as straightforward as the 35-0 scoreline suggested.

The Samoan bond remains strong with Aki, who was coached at Connacht by former Samoa worldwide and coach Pat Lam, a one-test All Black who is also Jack Lam's cousin.

"This is probably one of the biggest games that we could play and win, being ranked where we are (14th) and they are in the top five in the world. All we can do is concentrate on that now", said the South African-born back row.

"You can't control these things", he said.

But Ireland's players and coaches have remained at pains to point out that although the focus of many onlookers has been elsewhere, their priorities have not changed.

"You do sympathize. We all knew there was going to be a risk and a lot of the managements have spoken about the 'what ifs?' around the World Cup", Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek said Friday.

"To be involved in a World Cup is an honour and it's so exciting to be part of it".

"For us it's just business as usual".

The score was 21-5 when Aki went off - Ireland's tries coming from hooker Rory Best, prop Tadhg Furlong and Sexton - and 26 unanswered points followed.

Subs: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Peter O'Mahony, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Andrew Conway.

Samoa: Nanai-Williams; Tuala, Leiua, Taefu, Fidow; Seuteni, Polataivao; Mulipola, S Lam Alaalatoa, Paulo, Le'aupepe; Vui, Ioane, J Lam.

"We've been out there and that's why we do a captain's run, to get out there and see how it is. It's a situation nobody wanted to have".

Ireland's sympathy for Scotland's predicament at the Rugby World Cup only stretches so far. "Knowing that we're on an airplane on Monday, going home - to have a scalp like that would be great", said Samoa head coach Steve Jackson. "Once we'd got the three tries it took us about another 25 minutes before we got the next one", coach Joe Schmidt said Thursday.