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Ireland v Russia: Joe Schmidt's team to respond after Japan upset

Shocked Ireland lost to hosts Japan
Ireland were stunned by Japan last weekend
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Simon Mail previews Ireland's game against Russia and expects a strong response from Joe Schmidt's team after their shock defeat to Japan...

"Ireland will have no problems winning this match although the handicap mark of 53 points could prove too much, considering they have not beaten a team by more than this amount since defeating Canada in 2008."

Ireland v Russia
Thursday, 11:15
Live on ITV

Ireland humbled by Japan shock

Ireland suffered a major setback in their World Cup challenge after a shock defeat to hosts Japan last weekend. Joe Schmidt's side opened up a 12-3 lead in Shizuoka but could not cope with the Brave Blossoms as Japan turned the match around to win 19-12. It was a fair outcome as Ireland looked leggy and lacked invention during a worrying defeat.

The result does not scupper their tournament hopes but makes life more difficult and could result in a quarter-final against New Zealand if they make it through. Two wins from their remaining pool games should be enough, leaving Japan to fight it out with Scotland, with Ireland expected to canter to a one-sided victory against Russia in Kobe.

Fly-half Johnny Sexton returns from injury to captain a much-changed side. Schmidt has made 11 alterations to his team with Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Keith Earls and Peter O'Mahony the only players to keep their place following the Japan defeat. Jordi Murphy is brought into the back row, having been promoted to the squad, after Jack Conan was ruled out of the tournament with a broken foot.

Russia were always expected to finish bottom of this group and nothing has changed after opening with two defeats. The Bears started promisingly in the World Cup curtain-raiser before losing 30-10 to Japan. Russia were also competitive in the first half against Samoa, leading 6-5, before falling away in the second half of their 34-9 defeat.

Ireland will have no problems winning this match although the handicap mark of 53 points could prove too much, considering they have not beaten a team by more than this amount since defeating Canada in 2008. Their two previous games against Russia have resulted in comfortable wins although 50 points is the biggest margin of victory. Schmidt's side should coast home with a bonus-point victory but Russia look the bet off a sizeable handicap advantage.

Georgia v Fiji
Thursday, 6:15
Live on ITV 4

Fiji must recover after Uruguay upset

Fiji were also the victims of a huge upset in their second match as Uruguay pulled off a stunning 30-27 victory. The team paid the price for complacency, after making wholesale changes, as they fell to their second defeat in the competition. Fiji gave Australia a scare in their opener but were beaten 39-21. Their chances of progressing look over already but third place should still be a realistic target.

Georgia go into the match above their opponents after a 33-7 victory against Uruguay. The South Americans were undoubtedly feeling the pace and Georgia pulled away in the second half to secure a bonus-point win. Georgia were comfortably beaten by pool leaders Wales in their opener but rebounded impressively against Uruguay.

Fiji were humbled by their defeat against Uruguay and a fierce reaction can be expected. Significantly, coach John McKee has restored his first-choice players to the team. Fiji have won two of the three previous clashes against Georgia and are worthy favourites but they are unlikely to have it all their own way against their physical opponents. Fiji's last two wins prior to the World Cup were by no more than ten points and it looks worth backing another narrow victory as they bid to kick-start their lacklustre campaign.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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