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'There will be stories around what went on in the World Cup' – Simon Easterby

By PA
Bundee Aki and Peter O'Mahony - PA

Assistant coach Simon Easterby insists Ireland will not be thinking about the Rugby World Cup final that never was when they launch their Guinness Six Nations title defence.

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The reigning Grand Slam champions were heavily tipped to meet hosts France in the showpiece match of Test rugby’s leading tournament last autumn.

But Andy Farrell’s men, who then topped the world rankings, suffered an agonising 28-24 quarter-final loss to New Zealand on October 14, 24 hours before Les Bleus were beaten 29-28 by eventual winners South Africa.

The two sides will return to action for the first time since those premature exits in next Friday’s championship curtain-raiser in Marseille.

While defence coach Easterby can envisage the narrative around the match, he dismissed its significance.

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“It’s probably a game that people thought would have been fitting for a World Cup final – but it wasn’t,” he said.

“We get the second prize of going after each other in the first game.

“I think there will be that story line around what happened in the World Cup, the fact that neither of us got past the quarter-finals.

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“That’s really not a concern of ours. Our concern is trying to figure out a way to beat a very, very good team and that’s all we’ve prepared for across the last five or six days.

“There will be stories around what went on in the World Cup and does that kick on into the Six Nations and inevitably it is a story, but we have to focus on the here and now.

“It’s a great start for us to see where we’re at at the moment.”

Head coach Farrell started the week by saying he was “over” the World Cup.

A review of the last-eight defeat to the All Blacks began on Monday when Ireland’s squad reconvened for the first time since the tournament.

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“We probably didn’t fire enough shots and make the most of the opportunities in that game,” Easterby said of the painful loss in Paris.

“They probably didn’t have to work as hard for their scores as we would have liked.

“We were a hair’s breadth away from scoring at the end. And fine, fine margins.

Jack Conan
Jonathan Sexton and Jack Conan of Ireland after their side’s defeat in the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

“The maul was really effective, we destroyed them at times in that area. We got on the wrong side of some refereeing decisions.

“But at the end of the day, it was 28-24, very little in it.”

Ireland are fine tuning preparations for the Six Nations at a pre-tournament camp in southern Portugal.

Easterby revealed the full 34-man squad trained on Friday.

“We have to manage certain players because of recent or long-standing injuries,” he said.

“Guys will be carrying little bumps and niggles, that’s the nature of the game.

“But to a man they’ve come out, trained and put a shift in today. It was certainly a really sharp session and one that will give them a lot of confidence.”

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Comments

1 Comment
P
Pecos 138 days ago

Still pushing the “they didn’t have to work too hard for their scores” nonsense. You played against 14 men for 20 minutes ya git.

And crybabying the “we got on the wrong side of some refereeing decisions” rubbish. Porter turning one scrum penalty into three is the right side of dumbass.

And at no time were you a “hair’s breadth” away from scoring at the end. Go rewatch but wipe tears from eyes first for clear view.

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