September 7, 2019 / 4:57 PM / 14 days ago

Rugby-Ireland, Wales satisfied with preparations as World Cup beckons

DUBLIN, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Ireland and Wales are both satisfied with their World Cup preparations despite a mixed month of warm-up games, their coaches said on Saturday after Ireland got the better of the Six Nations champions for the second successive week.

For Ireland, the 19-10 win and performance meant more than a victory might have for Wales, after the disappointing defence of their 2018 Six Nations title and a brutal hammering by England last month that set alarm bells ringing.

“The lads last week put a bit of a marker down as to where we expect the physicality to be. We knew we needed to improve, take another step and that was another step today in the aspects that we pride ourselves on,” Ireland captain Rory Best told a news conference, referring to their 22-17 win in Cardiff.

“Certainly in Twickenham and in bits of the Six Nations, we didn’t feel we were good enough in (those aspects). We know we have a lot more in us and are going to have to produce a lot more but in terms of steps in the right direction, we can get on the plane on Wednesday with a bit of confidence.”

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said that with teams trying out different things and gearing up at different times, his side were not alone in suffering a setback along the way.

He noted that their opening World Cup opponents Scotland had also recovered from a heavy defeat of their own to France.

Wales coach Warren Gatland said there was nothing at all to worry about in losing three of their four pre-tournament games after they split two tests with England before the defeats to an Irish side they outclassed when it mattered in the Six Nations.

“It’s been good, we’ve tried to go out there and be positive. Generally, pretty pleased. We want to get into that fight a little bit in terms of that sort of game,” Gatland said of Ireland’s success with one-off runners.

“I think Ireland probably gave (opening World Cup opponents) Georgia a template of how to go and try to play against us, it’s difficult to stop a team playing that way when they’re dominating at the breakdown.”

Both coaches also saw their players emerge from the last outing before they travel to Japan largely unscathed, with Schmidt reporting that wing Keith Earls was walking around okay in the changing rooms after departing early with a knock to the quadriceps.

The victory pushed Ireland top of the world rankings for the first time, a fact that says more about how the placings are calculated than Ireland’s recent form. The elevation was also news to Schmidt.

“I didn’t realise that we were until I did an interview after the game, that’s how far away from our thoughts it has been. It’s a label, it’s a nice label to get but that label is not going to be relevant for anyone,” he said.

“We all know who the favourites are for the rugby World Cup and it’s not us.”

Reporting by Padraic Halpin Editing by Toby Davis

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