Andy Farrell is not taking any chnces as he names a side close to what we will see run out against the Springboks next weekend. Tonga are making their RWC2023 bow this weekend and have a host of talented players that will test any side in test rugby.
Fixture: Ireland v Tonga
Venue: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Kickoff Time: 19:00 (GMT), 21:00 (Local)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Ireland Wins: 2
Tonga Wins: 0
Biggest winning margin:
Ireland 23 (32-9 on 3 June, 1987)
- Tonga have handed test debuts to more players at Rugby World Cups than any other nation (21)
- Ireland have the second-oldest squad at Rugby World Cup 2023 behind South Africa, with an average of 29 years and 149 days when the tournament kicked off.
Interesting RWC Facts:
- Ireland have a P9, W7, L2 record when it comes to their second match of a Rugby World Cup. Their two defeats at that stage of a tournament were 20 years apart, against Australia in 1999 (3-23) and Japan in 2019 (12-19)
- The win against Romania was Ireland’s largest at a Rugby World Cup and it was also the most points they have scored in a match in the tournament’s history (64-7 v Namibia in RWC 2003 was their previous best on both counts)
- Ireland have failed to make the last eight on two occasions – missing out to Argentina in the 1999 quarter-final play-offs and failing to get out of their pool in 2007 after defeats to France and Argentina.
- The narrow 17-13 win against Samoa in their final RWC 2023 warm-up match was the first time Ireland had trailed at half-time this year and the first time in 14 matches, dating back to the first test defeat to New Zealand in Auckland in July 2022.
- Five of Ireland’s 12 tries were scored on the counterattack.
- Tonga are the 20th and final team to play at RWC 2023, eight days into the tournament. ‘Ikale Tahi have had to be this patient in the past as they were the last team to enter the fray at RWC 2003.
- It took six attempts before they won their first Rugby World Cup match – 29-11 v Ivory Coast in their third and final pool match at RWC 1995.
- Tonga won their last Rugby World Cup match – 31-19 v USA in Higashiōsaka at RWC 2019 – having overturned a five-point half-time deficit.
- ‘Ikale Tahi have played Ireland fewer times (two) than any of the other Home Nations, with Wales being their most frequent opponent (nine defeats out of nine).
- Andy Farrell has made four changes of personnel and two positional switches to the run-on team that defeated Romania 82-8 in round one. Rather than going for a more inexperienced line-up, Farrell has selected a starting XV boasting 819 caps.
- Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton have 222 caps between them and start together for the 69th time, extending their Ireland record for most appearances as a half-back combination.
- Casey and three other replacements in prop Finlay Bealham, second-row Ryan Baird and Sexton’s understudy, Ross Byrne, will make their RWC debuts if called into action.
- The two changes of personnel in the pack come at hooker, with Rob Herring making way for Ronan Kelleher, while World Rugby Player of the Year 2022 Josh van der Flier returns to the openside role.
- Toutai Kefu has included four former All Blacks in Tonga’s starting XV in full-back Salesi Piutau, centre Malakai Fekitoa, scrum-half Augustine Pulu and number eight Vaea Fifita.
- Fekitoa is bidding to become only the second player after Frank Bunce (Samoa/New Zealand) to score for two different countries at a Rugby World Cup. The centre scored tries for New Zealand against Namibia and Georgia at RWC 2015.
- Tonga will be captained by another New Zealand international in tight-head, Ben Tameifuna. Tameifuna was never capped by the All Blacks.
- The 32-year-old has led Tonga three times before, all of them wins in last year’s November internationals, the prop scoring a try in the third of those tests against Uruguay