RWC: Match preview: Ireland – Russia

Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua, Sunday 25th Sep 6pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: Played 1, Ireland 1, Russia 0
Last meeting: Ireland 35 beat Russia 3 in Kazan 2002
Last meeting at a World Cup: First meeting

Team news: Declan Kidney has made nine changes from the side that beat Australia. Prop Tony Buckley, hooker Sean Cronin and flanker Donnacha Ryan have come into the pack. Leo Cullen has replaced Paul O’Connell in the second row, he has also been handed the captaincy in the absence of Brain O’Driscoll. Isaac Boss and Ronan O’Gara form a new combination in the halves with Paddy Wallace coming in on O’Gara’s outside. Keith Earls switches from the wing to join Wallace in the midfield allowing for Andrew Trimble and Fergus McFadden to fill the spots out wide. Nikolay Nerush has also made nine changes to his side. Russia will field a new front row with hooker Valery Tsnobiladze and prop Alexander Khrokin joining Sergey Popov up front. Adam Byrnes has kept his place and is joined by Denis Antonov in the second row. The youngest member of the Russia squad, 20-year-old Denis Simplikevich, makes his debut on the wing, Vasily Artemyev switches from wing to full-back to accommodate the arrival Simplikevich.

Form: Ireland turned the World Cup upside-down when they beat Australia last Saturday. The win gives the Irish the best chance of taking top place in the Pool and avoiding South Africa in the quarters. Ireland pressured the Wallabies into mistakes and were able to capitalise through the boot of O’Gara and Sexton. Russia were pulverised against the Italy in their last outing. The 53-17 scoreline was a fair indication of how the match played out. The pleasing thing will be the three tries scored after they showed very little in attack against USA.

Prediction: Ireland will want to keep the momentum going after the win over Australia. A win seems inevitable, but if they drop their standards against the Russians they will go into the must win match against Italy a little underdone. Russia will make it hard but expect a landslide.
Ireland by 45

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Leo Cullen (c), 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Mike Ross, 18 Denis Leamy, 19 Shane Jennings, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Jonathan Sexton, 22 Geordan Murphy.

Russia: 15 Vasily Artemyev, 14 Denis Simplikevich, 13 Andrey Kuzin, 12 Sergey Trishin, 11 Vladimir Ostroushko, 10 Konstantin Rachkov, 9 Alexander Yanyushkin (c), 8 Victor Gresev, 7 Andrey Garbuzov, 6 Artem Fatakhov, 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Denis Antonov, 3 Alexander Khrokin, 2 Valery Tsnobiladze, 1 Sergey Popov.
Replacements: 16 Evgeny Matveev, 17 Ivan Prishchepenko, 18 Alexey Travkin, 19 Alexander Voytov, 20 Andrey Bykanov, 21 Mikhail Sidorov, 22 Mikhail Babaev.

By Alex Barlow-Smith