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Ireland v Tonga: Rugby World Cup Pool B – live

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.

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 easy games at the World Cup, particularly for Farrell’s trophy chasers. Kick-off is at 8pm (BST) in Nantes.

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