Ireland became the world’s No.1 ranked team with a 19-10 victory over Wales on Saturday that felt a little more like a World Cup clash than the final warm-up before the tournament begins later this month.
With both sides close to full strength and the intensity dialled up a notch or two on Saturday, there was far more pressure on Ireland’s frontline men to perform after their disappointing Six Nations and record 57-15 warm-up rout by England two weeks ago.
However head coach Warren Gatland wasn’t impressed with Ireland’s strategy, implying they didn’t want to play rugby in the second half.
“Ireland went back to what they’re really good at,” Gatland told Channel 4. “85 per cent of that second half was just off nine, off nine, off nine…and that difficult to stop that when they’re doing that.”
“I’m pleased with the first half, we tried to play some rugby.”
"Ireland went back to what they're really good at…"@WelshRugbyUnion head coach Warren Gatland reflects on defeat in his side's final match before heading to the Rugby World Cup#C4rugby #IREvWAL pic.twitter.com/jWxlWX31W3
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) September 7, 2019
Such are the niceties of rugby’s ranking system, tries from Rob Kearney, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan mean Ireland will arrive in Japan as the top-ranked side for the first time. The encouraging performance, however, will mean more.
“Today was really, really important to make sure we took a step forward,” captain Rory Best, playing at home for the last time ahead of his post-World Cup retirement, said in a pitchside interview amid deafening roars.
A fresh injury concern for Wales after their World Cup warm-up campaign ends on a dud note.https://t.co/nC4lDC78VE
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 7, 2019
“There’s still a way to go but that was a very efficient performance against a quality side.”
The result also meant Warren Gatland was unable to deny Joe Schmidt a victorious farewell in his final game at the Aviva Stadium, as Schmidt had done to his fellow Kiwi in Cardiff last week with both coaches set to depart after the World Cup.
Ireland, who face a potentially tricky Pool A with Scotland and hosts Japan, begin their campaign against the Scots on September 22.
– AAP , additional reporting RugbyPass
The City of Oita plays host to teams such as New Zealand, Wales, Australia and Fiji and two World Cup quarter-finals.
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