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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Kidney sweats on full squad fitness for Italy

IRELAND arrived in Dunedin today still unsure whether they will have a full squad to choose from for the final Pool C match against Italy.

Paul O'Connell, Gordon D'Arcy and Tommy Bowe were all rested for yesterday's 62-12 win over Russia to let them get over minor niggles, but team management will only have a clear idea about the trio's availability after a training session at Carisbrook tomorrow.

"They've had some rehab over the weekend but we won't really be able to give an update until after our run out tomorrow," team manager Paul McNaughton said. "It's too early to say. We're hopeful that everyone will be fit, so we're not ruling anyone out."

McNaughton said Sean O'Brien, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls should all be fine after sustaining knocks against Russia. O'Brien had a bruised arm, Kearney a jarred knee and Earls an injured leg.

Ireland are in pole position to win Pool C and secure a favourable quarter-final draw after beating Tri-Nations champion Australia, but McNaughton said the team's three straight wins had not changed anything regarding their approach to the last group match.

"We always knew we had to beat Italy," McNaughton said. "We're all very pleased to beat Australia but Italy was the game we had to win. The team has focused on each match, nobody is thinking about the draw or anything like that. Nobody is looking beyond this game."



Deflated Scotland plot victory over England

Shell-shocked Scotland today began to look towards tackling England in Saturday's win or bust World Cup Pool B clash in Auckland following the crushing loss to Argentina.

A 13-12 defeat to the Pumas in Wellington means Scotland must beat England by a margin of eight points or more to ensure their progress to the quarter-finals.

Scotland attack coach Gregor Townsend said: "The players are really disappointed. There was a lot of emotion last night in the changing room. To put in that huge effort, to be leading for most of the game and then lose, there's no worse feeling in sport. But we're still in this tournament."

Scotland lost 22-16 to England at Twickenham in March and drew 15-15 at Murrayfield in the Six Nations at Murrayfield in 2010.

And the rivals will meet at Eden Park on Saturday in the first match between the sides on neutral shores.

Townsend added: "We've got a goal -- we must win. The boys will be focused and there'll be a belief we can do it."

Scotland had to settle for a losing bonus point after Argentina overturned a six-point deficit to triumph, courtesy of a Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino try and Felipe Contepomi's conversion.

Scotland had an opportunity a minute from time to win, but under pressure from an apparently offside Argentina defence, Dan Parks' drop-goal attempt was off target.



Returning Lawes says he'll remain physical

England lock Courtney Lawes insisted he will not change his approach to the game, despite serving a two-match World Cup ban for striking Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma with his knee.

Lawes maintains the ban that ruled him out of England's victories over Georgia and Romania was "harsh" and that there was no malicious intent in the challenge.

Asked whether he would rein in his game against Scotland, Lawes said: "No. I am not going to. I played well, I am always a physical player and that is how I am going to be.

"I thought (the ban) was a bit harsh. There wasn't too much else I could do, I didn't try and do anything malicious.

"I am always physical, I don't aim to hurt people and that is part of my game. "The message (from Martin Johnson) is very much to keep doing what I am doing. I don't give away too many penalties or do stupid things, I just make big hits when I can."

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