Ireland must be adaptable and prepared to grind out an “ugly” win against reigning world champions South Africa, according to defence coach Simon Easterby.
Andy Farrell’s men head to Paris for the standout fixture in Pool B seeking to secure a spot in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a fixture to spare.
Ireland have won 27 of their last 29 Tests after beginning the tournament with thumping bonus-point victories over Romania and Tonga and have often entertained during that remarkable run of results.
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The world’s top-ranked nation will once again look to deliver their easy-on-the-eye style on Saturday evening at Stade de France.
Yet Easterby accepts that may not be possible for the full 80 minutes against a physical Springboks side sporting an intimidating seven-one split of forwards and backs among their replacements.
“We know that when we play well and we play a certain way that we’re going to be difficult to play against and difficult to beat,” he said.
“We’ll be looking to implement a lot of the stuff that you’ll have seen over the last couple of years in what we do on Saturday as we have tried to do in the Tonga and Romania games.
“We haven’t had to win ugly maybe too many times.
“It would be great if we could throw the ball around and score plenty of tries, but we know that we have to do things in the moment and make sure we’re adaptable and that might mean playing certain ways in certain parts of the game.”
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber made a statement of intent on Tuesday afternoon when announcing a stacked bench containing just one back, scrum-half Cobus Reinach.
Easterby admits the bold selection is a talking point, but does not change Ireland’s approach.
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“Every team has a particular strategy and it’s up to them to believe that that strategy is the right thing for each game,” he said.
“Obviously, they believe that’s the way they need to set themselves to beat us on Saturday, just like we’ll be playing the way we want to beat South Africa.
“Listen, it’s a talking point. I don’t think it changes anything for us, to be honest.
“What will determine it in the end is hindsight, which will allow everyone to say it was the right or wrong thing to do. It’s their strategy and not something that we can control.”
Every member of Ireland’s 33-man squad has trained this week at their base in Tours.
Hooker Dan Sheehan (foot) and prop Finlay Bealham (head injury assessment) are in contention to feature against the Springboks.
But number eight Jack Conan (foot) may have to wait until the Scotland game on October 7th for his first outing since August 5th.
“Everyone trained really well today,” said Easterby. “Probably Jack’s the only one that’s slightly behind in terms of being able to get himself right for this weekend.
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“He’s done incredibly well, as have the medics, conditioners to get him up to speed.
“He’s actually probably on track from where we thought he’d be, so he’s done really well, happy with his progress.
“Finlay and Dan both trained really well today, so they’re back in the mix.”