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Ireland v Tonga: Rugby World Cup Pool B – live | Rugby World Cup 2023

Key events

15 mins: From a swirling high kick upfield, Ronan Kelleher collects and turns to move upfield – but behind him, Peter O’Mahony is penalised for an obstruction. Tonga penalty – and they’re going for the posts from 47 metres!

13 mins: It’s been an attacking start from Ireland, with 78% of possession and bodies being thrown in at the breakdown. They aren’t really unsettling their opponents yet, though.

A fair assessment; getting the bonus point will be hard work, particularly given that Tonga have not played yet, and look fresh and very much up for the physical battle.

@niallmcveigh the bonus point win we want will be hard work,Tonga with lots of power & a few ballers in their XV won’t fear us. JS will get 60mins if he’s not injured before that. Heart & head say BP win but it’ll be physical carnage just hope no extra injuries ahead of The Boks

— John McEnerney (@MackerOnTheMed) September 16, 2023

12 mins: Ireland find a bit of width through James Lowe, who deftly hands off to Hugo Keenan – who is dumped unceremoniously into touch. The Tonga No 8, Fifita, is getting treatment after hurting himself in a collision with Sexton.

10 mins: After an exchange of clinical kicks, an Ireland lineout sets up another attack – but Tonga hold firm at the breakdown and wrestle back possession. Their defence has stood up well in this opening spell.

Ireland 3-0 Tonga (Sexton pen) Sexton does indeed convert the penalty, but takes his sweet time. Some Tonga players are unhappy, believing he went over the shot clock. Wayne Barnes assures them he didn’t, but accepts it was “really close”.

4 mins: Ireland advance into the Tongan 22 for the first time, led by Bundee Aki. They’re pushed back, but scrum-half Augustine Pulu – one of four former All Blacks starting for Tonga – gives away a penalty. Sexton will go for goal from 28 metres …

3 min: A first scrum – Tonga have a 60kg advantage in pack size – and Ireland are forced down. The crowd break into an impromptu rendition of La Marseillaise. Everyone’s up for this one.

1 min: Tonga steal possession and Solomone Kata is in space down the right – but there was a forward pass in the build-up. Kata doesn’t hear the whistle, and has to be bundled into touch by two men in white.


Tonga get the game under way amid a wall of noise. An early offside from Vaea Fifita will give Johnny Sexton the chance to kick downfield for territory.

Tonga perform the Sipi Tau. Photograph: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a big Irish contingent in Nantes tonight, and “Ireland’s Call” is belted out around the stadium. Then the Tonga players gather for the pre-game sipi tau, which is a thing of wonder. Let’s go!

The teams are out at the Stade de la Beaujoire – the venue where Fiji eliminated Wales back in 2007. Time for the anthems, with Tonga in red and Ireland in their white second strip.

Here’s Andy Farrell, and he brushes off any questions about the strength of his starting XV. “The game’s important to us. Completely different type of game to last week, we’re respecting the opposition and the competition. The start’s always important, [but] it’s an 80-minute game. They [Tonga] are a big side, they’ve got very good set pieces and maul.”

Some pre-game reading from Luke McLaughlin.

Here’s a window into another world: Ireland and Tonga’s only other World Cup meeting, in 1987 at a not-exactly-packed Ballymore in Brisbane. Ireland reached the quarter-finals in the inaugural tournament and it remains their joint-highest finish, matched in 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015 and 2019.

The teams

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Tonga: Charles Piutau, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Malakai Fekitoa, Pita Ahki, Solomone Kata, William Havili, Augustine Pulu; Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna (c), Sam Lousi, Halaleva Fifita, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Sione Talitui, Vaea Fifita.

Replacements: Sam Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Sosefo Apikotoa, Semisi Paea, Solomone Funaki, Sione Vailanu, Sonatane Takul, Fine Inisi.


In a tournament where the underdogs have caused plenty of problems, Ireland enjoyed an old-fashioned rout of Romania in their first game, conceding the first try but running in 12 of their own in retribution. It was a statement start for the world’s No 1 team, but the gradient from here is steep.

After tonight’s clash with Tonga – who are a tough proposition in their own right – it’s a Tier 1 battle royale for as long as Andy Farrell’s side can stay in the game. South Africa, then Scotland – and if they advance, either France or New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

It says something for the threat Tonga pose that despite the looming fixture list, Farrell has gone with a strong team tonight, not willing to run the risk of a slip-up. Like their island neighbours Samoa, Tonga are strengthened by former All Blacks, and have had to wait a full week to make their mark on this tournament.

Ireland need only look back to their narrow warm-up win over Samoa to recognise the danger Tonga will pose. There are no more easy games at the World Cup, particularly for Farrell’s trophy chasers. Kick-off is at 8pm (BST) in Nantes.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2023/sep/16/ireland-v-tonga-rugby-world-cup-pool-b-live Ireland v Tonga: Rugby World Cup Pool B – live | Rugby World Cup 2023

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