The Ireland squad and management landed at Dunedin Airport earlier today as their focus switches to next Sunday’s final Pool C Match against Italy at Otago Stadium.
Head coach Declan Kidney said that Rob Kearney (jarred knee), Sean O’Brien (bruised arm) and Keith Earls (mild dead leg) had picked up ‘various bangs’ during yesterday’s 62-12 victory over Russia.
But all three are expected to make quick recoveries and Paul O’Connell, Gordon D’Arcy and Tommy Bowe, who were ruled out for the Russian game, are due to train on Tuesday.
Team manager Paul McNaughton reflected the mood in camp when saying: “Everyone was pleased with the result (against Russia), the guys felt it was mission accomplished.
“I think some players put their hands up (for selection). Some of those players got their first game or first start, we see it as dual purpose – everybody contributes and it allows people to put up their hand and say ‘consider me’.”
Six Nations rivals Italy now stand between Ireland and a place in the quarter-finals, with the Azzurri also in action tomorrow against the USA in Nelson.
McNaughton said there is no danger of the players looking ahead to potential opponents in the knockout stages, as the full focus is now on claiming that fourth and final win over the Italians.
“Nobody is thinking about the draw or anything like that, nobody is looking beyond this game. We were all very pleased to beat Australia but Italy was the game we had to win.”
Consultant scrum coach Greg Feek continued on that theme. Ireland are on a 15-match winning streak against Italy but some of the sides’ recent meetings have been close – 23-20 at Ravenhill in 2007, 16-11 at Croke Park in 2008 and 13-11 in Rome last February.
“Nobody is taking anything lightly. We know what’s ahead and will prepare accordingly,” explained Feek, who has been part of the Irish coaching set-up since last November’s GUINNESS Series.
“We can take some things from the Russian game as well, they played well and tested us at the breakdown.
“There is a lot of experience in this group (of players) and there is real determination (to succeed), but both teams will go into Sunday’s game knowing a win is a must.”
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