Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw has emerged as an injury doubt ahead of Saturday’s crucial Rugby World Cup showdown with Scotland in Paris.

The 30-year-old is struggling with a “niggle” and will be assessed ahead of head coach Andy Farrell naming his matchday 23 on Thursday afternoon.

Henshaw suffered a fitness setback at the start of the tournament when he was a late withdrawal from Ireland’s bench for the 82-8 win over Romania.

He subsequently came on as a replacement in the 59-16 success over Tonga and the 13-8 victory against reigning champions South Africa.

Ireland forwards coach Paul O’Connell said: “Everyone came through training, but Robbie has a bit of a niggle and we’re finding out about that today.

“I’m sure there will be some information on that tomorrow.”

Henshaw has been providing back-up for in-form midfield duo Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose.

Leinster team-mate Jimmy O’Brien, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey and Munster veteran Keith Earls are among the options to take his place in Farrell’s squad to face the Scots, if he is ruled out.

Pierre Schoeman is hellbent on extending his “miracle” World Cup beyond this weekend as he gears up for Saturday’s critical Paris showdown with Pool B rivals Ireland.

Just under two years after winning the first of his 25 caps, the South Africa-born prop is enjoying the time of his life in France as Gregor Townsend’s first-choice loosehead.

But Schoeman knows he would likely have missed out on playing for Scotland at the tournament if not for the fact the Covid-19 pandemic led to a delay in World Rugby changing the three-year residency rule to five years.

That meant the 29-year-old – who left Bulls in his homeland to join Edinburgh in 2018 – was able to make his debut in October 2021 as opposed to having to wait until this summer to become eligible, by which time it would probably have been too late for him to force his way into the World Cup squad.

“I can only say with gratitude that it is a miracle, to be honest,” he said. “It would have actually been five years but because of Covid, it was three years, so two years less.

“I would have only made my debut for Scotland now (this summer) if it wasn’t for Covid so there is always a blessing in disguise somewhere.”

Schoeman is savouring every moment of a tournament he described as the highlight of his career.

“It has been massive,” he said. “Representing Scotland at the World Cup is the best thing I have experienced in my rugby journey.

“I have been honoured and privileged to do it. And with the team we have, the management and the players are a really good group.

“It has been amazing. I have to give credit to our partners and our families for the sacrifices they have made but in the south of France, the passion they have for their rugby and having all the Scottish fans here as well, that’s massive.

“The amount of fans that came over makes you realise that you have to play a bit harder for them as well.

“It’s not just about you and the team, it’s about playing for the fans and the country you represent.

“Putting on the jersey for Scotland in a World Cup in the south of France gives you that extra fuel to prep. You want to do it 100 times.”

Schoeman and his Scotland colleagues know their World Cup adventure will end if they are not able to get a bonus-point win over Ireland on Saturday or deny their opponents a losing bonus.

The prop is unable to countenance the prospect of leaving France this weekend.

“I haven’t even thought about making plans for a holiday or time off or going back to play with my club,” he said. “It’s all this now, this week, this test, to get another three weeks or however long it is.

“We are confident, we are going to go for the win and we believe we can get the win. As a group, we are ready to go.”

Schoeman is braced for the biggest game of his career in Paris.

“There have been some big Six Nations games but this is a World Cup and we’re against the world’s best in Ireland,” he said.

“These are the games you want to play in. They are the games you want to measure yourself against, especially the set-piece battles.

“Being a prop, you want to go against the best. As a pack and as a team, we can’t wait.”

The UK and Ireland will host Euro 2028, subject to final approval from UEFA’s executive committee next week, after Turkey withdrew its interest.

The five-nation bid is now the only option on the table for the finals in five years’ time after Turkey pulled out of contention for the 2028 finals to focus on a joint bid with Italy for Euro 2032.

UEFA will formally announce the hosts for the two tournaments following a meeting of its executive committee in Switzerland next week.

UEFA issued a statement on Wednesday morning which read: “Further to the announcement on July 28 which revealed the desire of the Italian and Turkish FAs to submit a joint bid to stage UEFA EURO 2032, the UEFA administration has today written to both associations to confirm that their joint bid has been duly received and will go forward for assessment and consideration by the UEFA executive committee.

“As indicated by the FA of Türkiye with its submission of the request for a joint bid, their bid to stage UEFA EURO 2028 is consequently withdrawn.

“The award of both tournaments still requires the approval of the executive committee at its meeting in Nyon on October 10. The presentations at that meeting will be an important part of the process which will take due consideration of the content of the bid submissions before reaching a decision.”

The award of Euro 2028 to the UK and Ireland should though be little more than a formality now.

Senior UEFA sources have stressed the importance of another tournament, following on from Euro 2024 in Germany, being held in an established football market to help rebuild the organisation’s reserves after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The five nations released a joint statement in response to Wednesday’s update, which read: “We are looking forward to presenting our bid to UEFA on October 10. These are exciting times, and we have a very compelling Euro 2028 proposal for UEFA.

“Our bid is ground-breaking for the men’s European Championships and will deliver lasting legacies across the whole of Ireland and the UK.

“We will share full details of the bid in Nyon next week and are confident that UEFA will approve our candidacy to host Euro 2028.”

The UK and Ireland bid dossier was formally submitted in April and features 10 stadia – six from England and one each in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The six English venues included in the bid are Wembley, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, St James’ Park, Everton’s new ground at Bramley-Moore Dock and Villa Park.

A redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast is also due to be used, along with the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

There are no guarantees that all five nations will qualify for the finals.

UEFA’s favoured plan is understood to be for all five nations to go through qualification, with two host nation places available for any that fail to qualify.

However, if more than two nations fail to qualify on merit, only the two best-performing countries would make it.

Should the UK and Ireland bid be given approval next week, Wembley would be widely expected to host its second men’s Euros final in less than a decade.

The 90,000-capacity stadium hosted a chaotic Euro 2020 final, where an independent review identified more than 20 “near-miss” incidents that could have resulted in serious injury or death.

The stadium’s next major international test will be staging this season’s Champions League final, and Football Association chair Debbie Hewitt said in June that plans to avoid a repeat of the Euro 2020 final would be “tested to destruction”.

Hewitt added: “One of the things I am absolutely convinced UEFA’s Exco will ask us is, ‘How can you assure us nobody will storm the turnstiles?’.

“We have to convince every one of those Exco members we have not only thought about it but that we have planned for it – that we know what we would do in what order and who is accountable.”

Ireland prop Finlay Bealham is determined to “make the minutes count” as he prepares for a crucial showdown with Scotland following a frustrating start to his maiden Rugby World Cup.

Australia-born Bealham made his first meaningful contribution of the competition by coming off the bench to help secure a statement 13-8 victory over defending champions South Africa in round three.

He had been left out of the matchday 23 for his country’s opener against Romania and was then forced off by a head knock just 10 minutes into a second-half cameo the following week against Tonga.

Bealham, who showed his quality with some fine performances in this year’s Six Nations Grand Slam triumph, has won most of his 34 Test caps as a replacement and is understudy to first-choice tighthead Tadhg Furlong.

But the 31-year-old is ready and raring to go when called upon as Andy Farrell’s men attempt to avoid a shock early exit at the hands of the Scots.

“From a mindset point of view, when I’m on the bench, I don’t care how many minutes I play,” said Bealham.

“It’s ‘make the minutes count’. I try my best to do that.

“Personally it was a frustrating start to the campaign but some of that stuff was out of my control.

“When I got my chance, I just tried to come on and make a positive impact. It was incredible to get that experience.

“I’m looking forward to the Scotland game.

“Obviously there’s no team been named yet and it’s just about focusing on what I can control, fixing up things from the South Africa game and then bringing my game on top of that.”

Three successive Pool B wins have put the world’s top-ranked nation on the cusp of the quarter-finals.

Yet Ireland’s progression is far from assured going into Saturday evening’s pivotal Paris appointment.

Bealham turns 32 next Monday and will celebrate his birthday either preparing for a last-eight clash with France, New Zealand or Italy, or reflecting on elimination.

The Connacht player is eager to extend the “surreal” experience of playing on the world’s biggest stage and continue representing his late Irish grandmother, whom he thinks about when singing Ireland’s Call.

“I moved over originally when I was 18, 19 years of age having a dream of playing professional rugby and I moved over because the dream seemed a bit harder where I was in Australia,” said Canberra-born Bealham.

“I had that Irish heritage through my mum’s side of the family.

“I was really tight with my nana at the time. She used to ring me every day when I was in Galway and I remember one time I forgot to bring my phone to training and she ended up calling me like 70 times, it was something crazy, you wouldn’t believe it.

“I suppose to represent my nana, who I was always close with growing up, representing all them, would I have thought I’d be here a good few years later at a World Cup? It’s pretty surreal.

“Every time I get to wear the jersey, every time I sing the anthem, I always think of my family and everyone who sacrificed for me to get to where I’m at.”

Courtney Lawes insists England have forged an identity based on self-sacrifice as the personalities of the World Cup heavyweights begin to emerge.

England have crushed Argentina, Japan and Chile to claim a quarter-final place as Pool D winners with a match to spare and their procession through the group phase will be completed against Samoa on Saturday.

Expectation is rising, even allowing for the fact they have been gifted the easiest route into the knockout phase, but the likes of Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand have been making greater waves.

After the All Blacks’ 14-try rout of Italy on Friday, head coach Ian Foster made a pointed reference to the grinding nature of Ireland’s seismic victory over the Springboks.

“If you look at the South Africa-Ireland game, it was a different game of rugby,” Foster said.

“The ball was in play for 27 minutes throughout the whole game. It was a very stop-start game, very physical, very combative.

“You saw a different spectacle from us and at some point the world has got to decide which game it would rather watch.”

Lawes sees room for all playing styles and is satisfied with the traits developed by Steve Borthwick’s side.

“Our way is the England way. Doing it our way is doing it for each other,” the Northampton back row said.

“I like that it’s now really obvious what is every team’s DNA and what they’re trying to do. All the top teams have got really different genetics as a team, if you will – a team strategy.

“It’ll be interesting when they play each other how that is going to play off. I think that’s really good for us as players to see and be a part of.

“We’re a really strong defensive team. That’s our backbone. We’ve conceded one try in three games. We’re an aerial, kicking team and are very good at getting the ball back.

“We’re looking to build an attack off that, and hopefully by the time we get later on in the tournament that is where we want to be, and we will show a bit of a different side to us.

“Especially at the 2019 World Cup and this time, in terms of a team of players, we are so much more selfless.

“We want to play, we want to go out there and put our bodies on the line for each other and that is what really makes a difference when it hits the fan and you are under the cosh.

“You have got to want to get into it for each other or you get found out pretty quickly.

“We know what works, we want everybody to buy in, we do this for each other, not for ourselves.

“We hit a ruck and forego the glory so we can get the ball and someone else can score.

“Those are the things we pride ourselves on as a team and what we want to carry on into the future as well.”

Conor Murray believes Ireland are now far better at “flipping the page” following a big win as they bid to back up beating South Africa by securing a quarter-final spot when they face Scotland.

Experienced scrum-half Murray is playing at the fourth Rugby World Cup of his career and has been involved in some major Test victories across 110 caps.

Ireland’s displays have often dipped in the aftermath of previous momentous results but the 34-year-old Munster man does not expect that to be an issue moving towards Saturday’s crunch Paris clash with the Scots.

 

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“A good few years ago we’d get a good one-off win and then the next week we’d drop off performance-wise,” said Murray.

 

“I think we’ve started properly addressing it about being consistent and nowadays this team is really good at flipping the page and focusing on what’s next.

“People are talking about what’s down the line and knockout rugby and all that but genuinely within our four walls we’re talking about Scotland and that’s the next biggest challenge for us.

“We have a plan of where we want to go but it’s about doing the right thing now.

“That’s been one of our strengths over the last few seasons. It used to be an issue but we’re a better side nowadays on top of that and mentally we’re better equipped to go back to back in games.”

Andy Farrell’s men have won 16 matches in a row stretching back to defeat in the first Test of last summer’s series success in New Zealand.

Ireland have also dominated fixtures against Scotland across the past decade, winning 12 of 13 meetings.

Murray, who worked with Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour, insists his side will be not be underestimating their weekend opponents as they seek to avoid an early tournament exit.

“That record, I don’t think it counts for much, the same with our record, having been on a good run of form coming into the World Cup,” he said.

“All those games, especially in the last few years, they’ve been very tight fixtures.

“Some of the scoreboards might read a little bit differently but genuinely Scotland are a top side and pose a lot of threats across the board.

“Having worked with Gregor a couple of years ago, their attacking game will cause a lot of stress and it’ll make sure we prepare really well, as good if not better as we did for South Africa.

“It’s about turning the page now and realising we’re up against a top international side that have an awful lot to play for.”

Ireland will progress to the last eight with a win or draw, while a defeat could still be sufficient depending on bonus points gained and/or overall points difference.

“I expect them to really test us in every department,” continued Murray.

“That’s not just something we’re saying in the media. We’ve had huge battles with Scotland over the years, especially recently.

“We’re certainly not overlooking them. That might be the story outside but I can assure you it’s completely different here.”

Murray became a Test centurion against South Africa last November.

His Munster team-mate Peter O’Mahony is on course to become the 10th Irishman to join that club this weekend.

“We’ve shared the club journey and the international journey pretty much side by side,” said Murray.

“It’ll be great to get to that milestone and it’s a huge day for himself and his family. Hopefully it all goes to plan, because it’s a very special club.”

Ireland’s head of nutrition Emma Gardner believes “food is mood” as she attempts to fuel another World Cup triumph following her key role in England’s 2019 cricket success.

Gardner is tasked with managing the varied dietary requirements of Andy Farrell’s 33-man squad for their shot at glory in France.

The 37-year-old previously worked as a nutritionist for the England and Wales Cricket Board, a period which included Ben Stokes’ World Cup final heroics against New Zealand at Lord’s.

She clearly has a recipe for success, having also been involved with Great Britain Hockey when the women’s team clinched gold at the 2016 Olympics.

While diet plans are structured and relatively strict, Gardner, from Accrington, Lancashire, acknowledges there needs to be some leeway and feels “internet, food and sleep” are the main requirements for maintaining morale.

“I took a lot of learnings from both those environments, the Olympic Games and the Cricket World Cup,” she said.

“I’m used to the nature of the tournament, used to getting players ready for a match. Having to get them ready again is probably the main learning.

“It’s a long tournament. There’s a long time to concentrate and keep players focused. A big learning for me is ‘food is mood’, particularly in these campaigns.

“We obviously try to keep high quality all the time but there’ll be times where we go ‘let’s just calm it a bit’ and give them what they want and relax because that’s also important when you’re here for such a long time.

“Internet, food and sleep are the three things that tend to keep people happy.”

Ireland’s players have individual nutritional requirements based on position, body weight and expected playing time, with six eating windows per day.

Prop Andrew Porter, for example, can consume up to 600 grams of carbohydrates – a plate of pasta is around 80 grams – ahead of a game.

Gardner’s work involves devising bespoke plans and ensuring the squad are suitably replenished ready for the next fixture.

“In this squad, I actually haven’t had too many crazy requests,” she said.

“Other teams and other sports, I’ve had some very bizarre requests.

“You sometimes get people wanting steak for every single meal, as an example.

“But these guys are very straightforward, they love their food, they’re not fussy, my life is very simple in a way. They just like food and lots of it.”

Gardner, who started the job last October, began her career at Northampton Saints a decade ago when nutrition in rugby was “hugely” different.

A major challenge during the current tournament is that all but one of Ireland’s fixtures kick off at 9pm local time.

“There’s a psychology to a 9pm kick-off,” she said.

“Sometimes the challenge is overeating, feeling sluggish because the only thing you do is eat all day, so you have to tailor it.

“We’ve done a lot of work in that space with individuals, to make sure they feel good going into the game when it’s that late.

“It can feel like a very long day when you’re waiting around all day and eating is one of the only things to do.”

 

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Ireland’s squad often enjoy a post-match beer, while players were pictured drinking wine during their time off after beating reigning world champions South Africa.

 

Asked about alcohol consumption, Gardner said: “We don’t have rules, we have standards and the lads know those standards. They create those standards.

“They’re very professional, they also need to look after their own bodies.

“They know the time when they can slightly relax.

“They can do that with food, they can do that if they want to have a drink but they also understand what’s ahead of them.”

Darcy Graham insisted Scotland are ready to “go to a dark place” as they bid to defy recent history in their mouth-watering qualification shootout with Ireland in Paris.

The Scots secured the bonus-point win they required against Romania with a 12-try, 84-0 destruction of the eastern European minnows.

To progress to the last eight Gregor Townsend’s side must defeat Ireland in next Saturday’s final Pool B fixture, either with a bonus point or by denying the world’s top-ranked side a losing bonus.

The Scots have won only one of the last 13 meetings between the sides and have lost the last eight, but Graham is adamant his team – ranked fifth in the world – are ready to dig deep for what would be one of the biggest wins in their history.

“It’s winner takes all, we want to get out of the group and they want to get out of the group so both teams will be going for it,” said the prolific Scotland wing. “It’s going to be a hell of a game.

“It’s do or die now, it’s pretty much a World Cup final for us. We’ll take huge confidence from Romania and now we need to get our preparation right.

“We’re going to have to go to a dark place but the boys are up for it. It’s an exciting week. There’s going to be massive support from Scotland and Ireland fans so there’s going to be a real buzz going into this game.”

In their last meeting in the Six Nations in March, Scotland led briefly in the first half and were within a point of the Irish until Andy Farrell’s men pulled away to win 22-7 at Murrayfield.

Scotland have shown for long periods of their three matches against France this year that they can live with the top teams in the world.

“We’ve got the capabilities to beat any team in the world but we have to get things right not just for 40 minutes or 60 minutes, but for 80 minutes,” Graham said.

“We have to take our opportunities when they come. We might only get two or three opportunities and we have to nail them.”

Graham’s four-try haul against Romania elevated him from sixth to joint-second on Scotland’s all-time try-scoring list. He is now level with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger on 24 and just three shy of record-holder Stuart Hogg, who retired this year on 27.

“Yeah, I’m closing in on it but I’ll get there when I get there,” he said. “I’ve added four on to my tally so I’m happy.”

Grant Gilchrist – who captained the Scots against Romania – has no doubt his long-time Edinburgh club-mate will soon break the record.

“If I was a betting man, I’d say yes,” said the lock.

“He was outstanding against Romania. I’ve played a lot of games with him for Scotland and Edinburgh and you know exactly what you’re going to get with him week in, week out.

“Some of the tries he scored were world-class, and I’m sure he’ll keep doing that as long as he plays.”

Scotland scored six tries in each half against Romania in a match that saw them fall just five points short of their record World Cup victory, 89-0 against the Ivory Coast in 1995.

Gilchrist said: “We knew we needed five points but we needed more than that, we needed a performance that was a step forward for us as a group, and I think we got that.

“We know everybody will big up next weekend, it’s huge. Our preparation will reflect that and we’ll give absolutely everything.”

Gareth Bale will boost the bid from the UK and Ireland to host Euro 2028 by joining the Welsh delegation in Geneva next month.

Bale, the Wales men’s team’s most capped player and record goalscorer, retired from football in January after an illustrious career that saw him win five Champions League titles and three FIFA Club World Cups at Real Madrid.

The 34-year-old has now offered a helping hand for Wales to become a Euro 2028 co-host alongside England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Republic of Ireland.

Turkey are also in the running to stage the tournament, with the final decision to be made in Geneva on October 10 when Bale will be present.

Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney said: “We are hoping for a successful bid and Gareth is very much part of the FAW and what we do. He has been identified as one of the faces of the bid presentation.

“Gareth is globally famous. You can get into a taxi in Sydney or Peru and if you mention you are from Wales they will say ‘Gareth Bale’. It is an instant reaction.

“When I go home to the west of Ireland the first thing people say to me is ‘how is Gareth Bale?’

“Gareth is so good for us. We went to him and asked him if he would get involved in the Euro ’28 bid and he just said: ‘What can I do for Wales?’

“It was instant – ‘how can I help you get the bid over the line?'”

Ten stadia across the five nations would host matches if the Euro 2028 bid is successful – Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, Everton’s new Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium, Villa Park and St James’ Park being the venues in England.

A redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast, the Dublin Arena in the Republic, Hampden Park in Scotland and the Principality Stadium in Wales – the 74,500-capacity home of Welsh rugby – would also stage matches.

The Principality Stadium would be referred to as the Cardiff National Stadium during the tournament due to UEFA rules over sponsorship.

Wales hope to stage as many as six matches if the bid is successful, with Mooney having said last October that Cardiff could be in line to stage the opening game of the tournament.

Mooney said: “Six games for Wales has been mentioned before, but it is ultimately up to UEFA to decide on the division of games, qualification from the five host nations and things like that.

“We’re lucky in that we have a fantastic stadium to offer in a magnificent city. Cardiff hosted a very successful Champions League final in 2017 and UEFA were very happy with it.

“But we feel we can get more out of hosting a series of games than from a stand alone match.

“There were tens of thousands of Spanish and Italian fans in Cardiff for Real Madrid against Juventus, and they all had a great time. But they were gone the next day.

“What the 2016 Euros did for France as a brand, and 2024 will do for Germany, was fantastic.

“The Covid-hit Euros weren’t the same and the World Cup in Qatar was a different experience.”

Mooney is confident that work on upgrading the Principality Stadium to meet UEFA standards will be completed should the bid from the UK and Ireland prove successful.

He said: “Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government are backing the bid and are happy with the projected return on investment.

“Millions of pounds will need to be spent on the Principality Stadium to get it up to scratch. It needs new floodlights and a scoreboard.

“There are also issues over hospitality numbers and the TV compound. But these are all things that will be resolved.”

Hugo Keenan hopes Ireland’s statement win against South Africa has eased “lurking” pressure of playing at Stade de France as they prepare for up to four more crunch World Cup fixtures at the venue.

Full-back Keenan revealed his partner thought he looked ill due to nerves ahead of Saturday’s thrilling 13-8 success over the reigning champions.

The 27-year-old’s only other Test outings in Paris ended in costly Six Nations defeats to France in 2020 and 2022.

 

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But Andy Farrell’s men ended their hoodoo at the home of French rugby to take control of Pool B moving towards a pivotal group-stage finale against Scotland on October 7.

 

Ireland’s World Cup destiny will be decided in Saint-Denis – the showdown with the Scots will also be staged there – in addition to each of their potential knockout matches, including the final.

Tournament debutant Keenan was riddled with anxiety at the prospect of arguably the biggest match of his career before helping to snap his country’s Paris losing streak.

“God, I was nervous, I met my girlfriend briefly (beforehand) and she thought I looked sick,” he said of facing the Springboks.

“I felt good once I got out there; it’s a pressure environment.

“Stade de France hasn’t been kind to us in the past. There’s a pressure lurking that we were keen personally and as a team from that loss to France last year to learn from.

“We’re just going to review this game and focus on Scotland; it’s the only thing we can control and we’re definitely not getting ahead of ourselves.”

Keenan’s second international cap was a 35-27 away loss to Les Bleus, which wiped Ireland out of title contention in the protracted 2020 Six Nations.

The Leinster player has been an almost ever-present since his Test debut and was part of the team ultimately denied a Grand Slam by a 30-24 defeat in the French capital in February last year.

While the second of those setbacks occurred in front of a partisan home crowd following a behind-closed-doors clash amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ireland were roared on to victory against the Springboks by tens of the thousands of travelling Irish fans.

“Jeez, that support was incredible,” said Keenan.

“The Irish crowd are amazing: the numbers, the amount of people who made the effort to get over here and support us – it made some difference.

“You need to harness it at the right times and I think the forwards did.

“I’m sure South Africa felt under the cosh at times when the 60-odd-thousand Irish fans are cheering for us, it does make a difference.

“There’s times you have to ignore it during play and just do your job, but you also have to embrace it and make the most of it.

“The walkaround after the game was incredibly special, I saw some familiar faces which makes it extra cool.”

First-choice Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan is raring to go for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup after declaring his body is in “perfect” condition.

Question marks initially surrounded Sheehan’s participation in the tournament after he limped off with a foot issue during his country’s warm-up win over England on August 19.

The 25-year-old sat out bonus-point wins over Romania and Tonga before making his World Cup debut as a second-half replacement during Saturday evening’s memorable Pool B triumph over South Africa in Paris.

 

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Fit-again Sheehan is targeting further action when Ireland return to Stade de France on October 7 seeking to secure progression to the knockout stages in a “massive” clash with Scotland.

“For a first experience of a World Cup game, it doesn’t get much better, I don’t think, especially in a crowd like that,” he said, after his side were backed by tens of thousands of Irish fans against the Springboks.

“It’s definitely the best atmosphere I’ve played in. We fed off that a good bit.

“My body’s perfect now. I had a few weeks there where the medical staff did a great job to get me back in this time but I’ve no complaints at all now so I’ll be looking to get back into the squad.”

Victory over South Africa put Ireland in control of Pool B and propelled them to the cusp of the quarter-finals.

Yet Andy Farrell’s men, who are due to reconvene on Wednesday following a few days off, still have work to do to prevent a pool-stage exit.

Asked how much pressure beating the reigning champions takes off the Scotland match, Sheehan replied: “None. The job’s not done.

“We have a bit of luxury now that we have two weeks to lead up into the Scotland game but we can’t afford to take the foot off the gas at all.

 

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“The Scotland game is going to be massive. That’s obviously a massive win for us but nothing’s guaranteed at all so all eyes on Scotland now.”

The world’s number one team have won 16 matches in a row and suffered just two defeats in their last 30 outings.

Sheehan believes the remarkable run of results have helped enhance the unity in Ireland’s camp but insists Farrell’s squad must remain grounded.

“I think all of these big games bring you closer,” said the Leinster player, who is competing with provincial team-mate Ronan Kelleher and Ulster’s Rob Herring for a starting spot. “They add to the trust within the group.

“It definitely brings you tighter but you need to make sure you don’t get ahead of yourself and there’s a job to be done now against Scotland.

“We’ve huge confidence in our game plan and our approach to the games is really good. Our week’s prep has been on point for every game that we’ve won.

“We just double down on what we’re good at. We’re in a good place now and we just need to keep going.”

Ireland fly-half Jack Crowley joked about spending his well-earned days off in Disneyland following the fairytale of sealing his country’s statement Rugby World Cup win against South Africa.

Test rookie Crowley capped a thrilling 13-8 victory over the reigning champions by calmly slotting a crucial late penalty after stepping off the bench to replace captain Johnny Sexton at Stade de France.

The 23-year-old was visiting Paris for the first time and had the chance to remain in the French capital for a brief escape from reality ahead of a turning his attention to a pivotal Pool B finale against Scotland on October 7.

Crowley, who expects the Scots to be “gunning” for Ireland, could not resist a light-hearted quip at the expense of his diminutive team-mate Craig Casey and some of the senior members of Andy Farrell’s squad, including 38-year-old Sexton, as he humorously imagined a group theme park visit.

“We have a few days off to recover because it has been a few intense weeks,” he said.

“(I’m going to) take it easy. Disneyland Paris! We have to get a pass for Craig though. There’s a few old-age pensioners as well. Yeah, maybe Disneyland, we’ll see.

“We go back in on Wednesday and the preparation begins for Scotland.

“I suppose they are going to grow throughout the competition, aren’t they?

“We have come against them in the Six Nations and they have been one the toughest competitors because of the way they play.

“Our eyes are firmly on them. I’m sure they will be gunning for us.”

Ireland led South Africa by just two points for the majority of a tense final quarter of Saturday’s epic encounter.

In front of massive Irish support, Crowley nailed a nerveless 77th-minute kick on the occasion of his eighth cap to alleviate mounting pressure before a heroic defensive effort secured success.

The Munster player revealed team-mate James Lowe was audibly counting down the seconds on the shot clock ahead of the conversion to eat into the time the Springboks would have to hit back.

He described the physicality of a bruising contest as “through the walls”, while playing down his “nice easy penalty” on an evening when the opposition’s wayward goal-kicking proved costly.

Speaking of his key contribution, which came four seconds inside the permitted time, Crowley said: “(It was) pretty special.

“When you’re sitting on the bench looking up at the clock as the time is dwindling away, you see the magnitude grow larger.

“It was a proper Test match. The physicality was through the walls.

“When you’re coming on you’ve got to know the magnitude of the game and the responsibility.

“I got a nice easy penalty in front of the posts. If I’d missed that I think you’d be saying a different story to me. But that’s the gig.”

While Ireland have a weekend off, South Africa face Tonga on Sunday with work to do.

Crowley suggested the world’s top two teams could meet again in the final at the end of next month.

“They’re a World Cup-winning side because they disrupt team’s plans,” he said.

“They play rugby the way they want to play and that’s how they won a World Cup just by doing that.

“We knew since we played them in November last year (a 19-16 win for Ireland) just what a challenge this was going to be.

“You’ve got to trust your plan and as a coaching staff and players we all bought into it and thankfully in the end we got the result but it’s not easy.

“And I’m sure we won’t see the last of them in the competition.”

Ireland emerged from a blockbuster win over South Africa with a clean bill of health but wary there are “big tests on the horizon” at the Rugby World Cup.

Andy Farrell’s men took control of Pool B with a stirring 13-8 defeat of the Springboks in Paris to put themselves on the brink of the quarter-finals.

Players will go their separate ways to enjoy a few days off following an unforgettable evening at a raucous Stade de France before reconvening to prepare to finish the job against Scotland on October 7.

Aside from some bruised bodies – and possibly a few sore heads – scrum coach John Fogarty confirmed the squad came through an intense contest relatively unscathed.

“We managed to come out of what was a really physical game with a full bill of health,” he said on Sunday.

“There’s medicals on now, but at this moment in time there’s no obvious injuries.”

Ireland saluted a phenomenal defensive effort with a lap of honour in front of tens of thousands of Irish fans in the French capital.

Asked about the subsequent celebrations, Fogarty said: “It is important to make sure we’re aware that that was a big win and we’re obviously delighted with it.

“We took time with each other, enjoyed company. Nothing too mad at all.

“The dressing room is generally the best craic, you’re there all together, there’s no outside distractions. We enjoyed that time together.

“It’s a late kick-off, we got back to the hotel around 1am so we didn’t do the dog on it, but we enjoyed each other’s company.”

Ireland backed up thumping bonus-point victories over Romania and Tonga by downing the defending champions to retain top spot in the world rankings.

But reaching the knockout stages and a probable showdown with either hosts France or three-time winners New Zealand is not yet guaranteed.

“We’re very proud of the result, we’re very proud of the performance,” continued Fogarty.

“But we’re very, very aware that that’s a pool game, we’ve got Scotland next and we’ve got big tests on the horizon.

“We’ve got a few days with family which is so important. I can’t wait to see my wife and kids. I’m sick of looking at the boys at this stage!

“We’ll certainly look at things we need to improve on but we need to get the recovery in now because Scotland are going to be coming.”

Back-rower Jack Conan, who suffered a foot injury in the warm-up win over Italy on August 5, versatile back Jimmy O’Brien and centre Stuart McCloskey are the only members of Farrell’s 33-man squad yet to feature in France.

The trio are in contention to take on Scotland.

“Jack had a brilliant week and took part in training,” said Fogarty.

“We’ve been very, very lucky with the health of the squad.

“Right now we look like we’ll be training with a full deck when we return, which is great.”

Johnny Sexton says beating defending champions South Africa is among Ireland’s best Rugby World Cup wins but insists his team must push on and “make it count”.

Andy Farrell’s men put one foot in the quarter-finals of the tournament by edging a classic Paris encounter 13-8 to register a 16th straight victory.

The world’s top-ranked team have a two-week break before returning to Stade de France to complete their Pool B fixtures against Scotland.

“I think we’ve had some big wins in pool stages before, that’s right up there,” said captain Sexton.

“When you play against the reigning world champions, it’s always going to be incredibly tough and it was.

“They didn’t let us down in terms of the physicality of the game but I thought we fronted up and gave some good stuff ourselves in that regard.

“Yeah, it’s right up there but we’ve got to make it count now.

“We’ve got some time off this week with the bye week, then we regroup and we’ve got to back it up against Scotland and make sure we do the business to get out of the pool.”

Mack Hansen’s first-half try, plus five points from the boot of Sexton and a late Jack Crowley penalty moved the Six Nations champions within touching distance of the knockout stages.

South Africa remained in contention until the final whistle through Cheslin Kolbe’s score and a Manie Libbok penalty but paid a heavy price for some wayward goal kicking.

Ireland were roared home by an estimated 30,000 Irish fans on an unforgettable evening in the French capital.

Veteran fly-half Sexton felt the “insane” support was a vital factor in securing a statement victory.

“We’ve had some big days before in terms of results in the pools but I’ve never ever seen a crowd like that,” said the 38-year-old.

“Someone said there was 30,000 fans but there was no way it was 30,000.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there was 60,000 and they were insane throughout. They gave us the lift that we needed.

“Honestly, it’s not lost on us. We talk about it a lot, about inspiring those people that put their hand in their pocket week after week.

“They probably saved for four years to come here and it’s something we refer to all the time and I mean that.

“We play for them and they gave us the edge, fair play to them.”

Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi urged his side not to dwell on the disappointing result as they seek to bounce back in a crucial clash with Tonga.

“The intensity of the game was exactly what we needed for a lot of players that have never played at such intensity,” said the flanker.

“The whole atmosphere was amazing on the field but we know exactly what we need to do as a group.

“We’ve got to lift our heads, we’ve got a big game coming and if we dwell too much on what happened, we will forget to perform next week.

“We need to get through that one and then we can start thinking about afterwards. Tonga is an important game.”

Ireland propelled themselves to the cusp of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a gripping 13-8 win over reigning champions South Africa on a raucous evening in Paris.

Mack Hansen’s try and five points from Johnny Sexton helped settle a thrilling clash between international rugby’s top two teams at a sold-out Stade de France.

Replacement fly-half Jack Crowley added a late penalty as Ireland stretched their winning run to 16 matches to take control of Pool B.

Andy Farrell’s men also retained top spot in the global rankings ahead of the defeated Springboks, who now have work to do against Tonga next week to avoid early elimination.

Cheslin Kolbe’s second-half try and a Manie Libbok penalty kept Jacques Nienaber’s side in contention before they ultimately fell short in a nail-biting finale.

Pre-match talk was dominated by South Africa’s bold call to name an imposing seven-one split of forwards and backs on their bench – a decision head coach Nienaber called a “calculated risk”.

Ireland impressively defused the so-called ‘Bomb Squad’ to bring the knock-out rounds within touching distance.

Both sides arrived in the French capital with back-to-back wins on the board.

An estimated 30,000 Irish fans were expected among a capacity crowd for one of the most eagerly-anticipated group-stage matches in World Cup history.

That approximate figure seemed on the low side amid deafening noise in Saint-Denis further fuelled by a frenetic start of big hits and end-to-end action.

Ireland initially began on the front foot but, following a bold decision to kick for the corner, failed to capitalise on a couple of promising line-outs before falling behind to a Libbok penalty.

The set-piece struggles persisted and only some dogged defensive work, including Bundee Aki’s crucial tackle on Jesse Kriel, stifled the Springboks.

Farrell’s men continued to show plenty of attacking enterprise and were rewarded in the 33rd minute when sustained pressure led to Hansen capping a sensational team move by crossing on the right.

Captain Sexton calmly slotted the extras to ensure the Six Nations champions ended a breathless opening period of ferocious physicality 7-3 ahead.

Ireland have had the upper hand in this fixture in recent times, including a 19-16 Dublin success in November, but South Africa – tournament winners in 1995, 2007 and 2019 – hold a vastly superior World Cup record.

The unrelenting pace resumed following the interval and, amid further line-out issues, Ireland’s deficit was almost cut to a single point when Faf de Klerk’s penalty from halfway struck a post.

Yet South Africa seized on the loose ball from that missed kick and penned back their opponents before Kolbe touched down on the left to put his side 8-7 in front.

Fly-half Libbok was off target with the conversion and Ireland snatched back the lead going into the final 20 minutes thanks to a Sexton penalty.

South Africa turned to their stacked bench, including introducing Jean Kleyn, who represented Ireland at the last World Cup, in a bid to make the difference.

Irish indiscipline was in danger of proving expensive, with those in green relieved to see Libbok and then De Klerk squander further penalties.

The Springboks enjoyed the better territory and possession in the second period.

But Ireland, helped over the line by three points from Crowley, doggedly hung on to make a major statement moving towards their Pool B finale against Scotland in a fortnight’s time, while leaving the title holders with plenty to ponder.

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