PARIS (AP) — Top-ranked Ireland gambled on fielding its first team against Tonga at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday just a week out from a huge showdown with defending champion South Africa.
The Irish green machine — playing in white shirts for a change — made it pay off, putting eight tries past the Tongans in a clinical 59-16 mauling that has confidence sky-high ahead of the game of the pool stage on paper against the No. 2 Springboks next Saturday.
As a bonus, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton picked up a try between the posts in his 16 points and went past compatriot Ronan O’Gara and Wales’ Neil Jenkins into fourth on rugby’s all-time international points list. The 38-year-old Sexton is now Ireland’s record-holder.
Powerhouse center Bundee Aki burst through the Tongans for two tries on the night in Nantes, where everything fell into place perfectly for Ireland.
Crucially, there were no major injuries and Ireland looked as ready as it could be to meet the Springboks by extending its national record winning streak to 15 tests with its second-best World Cup victory. It came one week after the best, an 82-8 thumping of Romania to open a campaign that’s looking in
…. to be continued
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