Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland play down Fukuoka pitch concerns for Samoa game

2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A: Ireland v Samoa
Venue: Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka Date: Saturday, 12 October Kick-off: 11:45 BST
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster; plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek says the side cannot be fixated by potential playing surface problems during their final Pool A fixture against Samoa.

The Fukuoka pitch was relaid after the last World Cup match at the venue between France and the USA, leading to concerns it may cut up on Saturday.

A BBC Sport NI clip from Irish training on Friday showed centre Chris Farrell able to bury a ball under the pitch.

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“We just try to back the players,” said the Ireland scrum coach.

“Trust the pitch will do its job and try and alleviate any concerns when we’re out there.”

Ireland require a bonus-point win to be assured of a quarter-final place before Japan take on Scotland on Sunday.

Schmidt’s close examination of pitch

The decision to re-turf the pitch was taken after heavy rainfall nearly two weeks ago contributed to a severely cut-up surface, which has hosted two matches at the tournament so far.

“While the look of the turf may not be perfect, as expected with a very recent installation, we are confident that the pitch will perform superbly,” said a World Rugby statement.

However, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt appeared concerned by the condition of the playing surface at Ireland’s captain’s run training session on Friday.

His mood is unlikely to have been improved by the sight of centre Farrell briefly hiding a rugby ball under the turf during the training session – although the players appeared to see the funny side of the incident.

The Ireland boss spent minutes examining problematic strips of turf, showing several areas to both scrum coach Feek and Ireland’s head of operations Ger Carmody.

When asked about Schmidt’s apparent concerns, Feek replied: “You guys are pretty smart individuals, and you would have seen the pitch yourselves.”

Johnny Sexton during Friday's captain's run in Fukuoka<!–

Ireland will seek fast start

A strong Irish side has been named in the hope that they can book their place in the last eight without having to rely on Sunday’s result in Yokohama between their two Pool A rivals to go in their favour.

With the pitch likely to significantly deteriorate as the game wears on, Ireland will seek a fast start with the knowledge that their World Cup future could hinge on scoring at least four tries.

“We want to try to make sure the scrums stay up,” added Feek.

“Not just for safety but also for the game itself.”

Schmidt has named an experienced side for the game, making 11 changes from the side that failed to dazzle against Russia last Thursday.

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Wing Keith Earls is one of the four players to retain his place, where he will act as the senior statesman in the back three alongside Jacob Stockdale and Jordan Larmour.

“[The pitch] doesn’t look great to be honest,” Earls.

“Actually out there it’s flat and quite firm, it doesn’t feel too bad to run on.

“I suppose it’s going to be the same for both teams and we’ve just got to go out there and get on with the job.”

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