Ireland continue their Rugby World Cup campaign with a match against Tonga this evening at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes.
Andy Farrell’s men demolished Romania last week in a 12-try mauling that saw them score 82 points in the scorching Bordeaux heat. Farrell made just four changes to his starting XV, meaning another bonus point win is expected here to put Ireland in a good position ahead of facing Cup holders South Africa of the world, and the unwavering Scotland.
Tonga, meanwhile, have never made it out of the group stage of the World Cup. They have struggled in their warm-up for this tournament and last beat a top team in 2016, when they beat Italy. George Moala is suspended for this match and the games with Scotland and South Africa but there are no fewer than four former All Blacks in their squad after a change in World Rugby’s eligibility rules. Can they pull off a surprising victory against the Irish today?
Follow all the action from Stade de la Beaujoire below. Get all the Rugby World Cup odds here and the last tips and odds for Ireland vs Tonga here.
Ireland 3-0 Tonga, 9 minutes
A strong run from Salesi Piutau sees him stopped in his tracks by James Ryan who hits him with a wraparound tackle around the waist. Tonga put the ball out of play but quickly regained it and targeted the Irish 22 with a resounding kick up the field.
He doesn’t quite reach the line before going into touch.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 8:13 p.m.
PENALTY! Ireland 3-0 Tonga (Johnny Sexton, 7 minutes)
Ireland wisely chose to take the penalty and Johnny Sexton came close to the ball. He’s tight on the clock but smokes it in the middle.
Tonga asks if he has exceeded the time limit, but the referee calmly explains that he has not, because a siren would have sounded. Ireland takes the lead.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 8:10 p.m.
Ireland 0-0 Tonga, 4 minutes
Tadhg Beirne wins the lineout but Tonga regain possession in the next ruck and look to put it away. A forward pass stops them in their tracks.
Ireland then moved up the field and won a penalty.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 8:08 p.m.
To start up! Ireland 0-0 Tonga
Tonga, playing their first match of the 2023 World Cup, kick off the match and run after the ball, immediately making their forward line known to Ireland with a few hard hits.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 8:04 p.m.
Ireland v Tonga
The national anthems are played just before kick-off in Nantes. Tonga will be tough opponents, but they will come up against the world’s No.1 team and Ireland have fielded a strong team.
This will not be an easy task for Pacific Islanders.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 7:57 p.m.
Ireland v Tonga
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell speaking to ITV: “The match is important for us. It’s a completely different type of match than last week.
“We respect the opposition because of the quality that is there, as a collective, individuals and coaches.
“We know they are a big team, not just big but a physical team that can play the game. They have a very good set piece and a good maul. They want to hit on defense so we have to move them around a little bit.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 7:53 p.m.
Lineups Ireland vs Tonga
Ireland XV: 15-Hugo Keenan, 14-Mack Hansen, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Bundee Aki, 11-James Lowe, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray, 1-Andrew Porter, 2-Ronan Kelleher, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 4-Tadhg Beirne, 5-James Ryan, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 7-Josh van der Flier, 8-Caelan Doris
Substitutes: 16-Rob Herring, 17-David Kilcoyne, 18-Finlay Bealham, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Ryan Baird, 21-Craig Casey, 22-Ross Byrne, 23-Robbie Henshaw
Tonga XV: 15-Salesi Piutau, 14-Afusipa Taumoepeau, 13-Malakai Fekitoa, 12-Pita Ahki, 11-Solomone Kata, 10-William Havili, 9-Augustine Pulu,1-Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 2-Paula Ngauamo, 3-Ben Tameifuna, 4-Sam Lousi, 5-Halaleva Fifita, 6-Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7-Sione Talitui, 8-Vaea Fifita.
Substitutions: 16-Sam Moli, 17-Tau Koloamatangi, 18-Sosefo Apikotoa, 19-Semisi Paea, 20-Solomone Funaki, 21-Sione Vailanu, 22-Sonatane Takulua, 23-Fine Inisi
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 7:48 p.m.
Ireland vs Tonga team news
Andy Farrell makes just four changes from the XV that beat Romania last time out. Ireland hooker Dan Sheehan is back in training after injuring his foot in preparation for the World Cup alongside Dave Kilcoyne and Robbie Henshaw, who both had hamstring problems. Jack Conan remains out with a foot problem.
Tonga have strengthened their squad with former All Blacks such as Charles Piutau, Vaea Fifita, George Moala and Malakai Fekitoa converting their allegiance thanks to World Rugby’s new eligibility laws. They are without injured duo Israel Folau and Telusa Veainu for the duration of the tournament while George Moala is suspended for the first three matches after a dangerous tackle in the warm-up match against Canada.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 7:42 p.m.
Ireland-Tonga talking points
Ireland will welcome a significant drop in temperature following the scorching conditions endured at the Stade de Bordeaux.
Farrell’s players defied 36 degrees Celsius heat to play 12 tries against Romania, as it was once again uncomfortably hot on Friday afternoon as they trained at the Stade de la Beaujoire.
The forecast for Saturday’s 9 p.m. local time kickoff is for a more manageable 22 degrees, with light winds, clear skies and a low chance of precipitation after possible thundery showers earlier in the daytime.
That said, the humidity is expected to be high and will add to the intensity as Ireland once again look to deliver under pressure.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 7:36 p.m.
Ireland-Tonga talking points
Tonga were drawn in the tournament’s trickiest pool, with the world’s top-ranked nation leading the way. Toutai Kefu’s team, who had a weekend off in the first round, are well aware of their underdog status.
“We have no illusions about the challenge we face,” assistant coach Tyler Bleyendaal said. Yet the ranks of Pacific Islanders have been significantly bolstered by a change in international eligibility rules.
Former All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa, 2015 World Cup winner, Charles Piutau, Augustine Pulu and Vaea Fifita are in their starting XV.
Bleyendaal anticipates a physical meeting. “We’re here to really take some shots,” said the former Munster player.
Mike JonesSeptember 16, 2023 7:29 p.m.